How the Prison Hospital hurts Stockton

I would like to say I can’t believe this Prison Hospital debate is still going on but that would be a lie. This kind of shit always happens in Stockton. Doug Wilhoit and the Chamber of Commerce keep telling us they’re fighting for Stockton but the longer this fight goes on, the more it hurts our future.

I’ve tackled the prison hospital subject before and my opinion hasn’t really changed much. People need jobs and the City needs the resulting tax dollars from their paychecks. The prison hospital, while not ideal, brings those jobs. With a double-digit unemployment rate we’re not really in a position to turn down those jobs. Yet here we are, the City and the Chamber have dug in and are prepared to fight despite having no leverage whatsoever and somehow negotiated their way to a stalemate.

Again, I’d love to say I’m surprised, but local politics kneecapping incoming businesses is old hat for Stockton and this prison hospital debacle is a great example of just how much of a pain in the ass it is to invest in Stockton. I know it doesn’t exactly match up with the plight of the local startup, the prison hospital has state and federal backing along with existing property to use, but the principles are the same so I’m going to run with it.

There’s an obvious stigma surrounding the prison hospital project because of the whole increasing the number of criminals in Stockton thing. Sure, they’re behind bars or strapped to a bed or whatever, but all it could take is one misplaced piece of laundry and we’d have the next Eric Hu on our hands. Only this time he’s hurt or mentally unstable! (Ok, well, unstabler.) People tend to forget that while prisons are generally viewed as a potential danger, it’s very rare for one to actually get Shawshanked. A prison might make other possible incoming businesses think twice before coming to Stockton, but as Paragary’s proved, maybe some businesses should take a second look at the market they’re investing in before setting up shop. And if the big ass prison doesn’t give them second thoughts, the absolute shakedown job going on right now sure as shit will.

Let’s face it, that’s what this is, a shakedown. Or as the City prefers to call it, “assurances”. Illegal assurances like dictating where construction contract bids go. This thing absolutely needs to be built by local contractors, but the federal government can’t explicitly promise that. So while the Chamber and the City may be saying they never said they didn’t want a prison hospital, asking for promises Kelso can’t legally give is effectively telling them to get the fuck out while saving face.

How does this effect future incoming businesses? The prison hospital is essentially a business. It stores and provides healthcare for thousands of people on the State’s dime. We don’t have to worry about it shutting down or going into foreclosure, there will always be a steady stream of infirmed inmates ready to fill that sucker up. Will it poach some medical professionals from SJ General? Probably, but they’d be doing 100 or so of those people a huge favor. Plus, Delta has nursing program that’s virtually guaranteed to have some sort of relationship to the hospital. Again, I have to use the qualifier “virtually” because the feds kind of frown upon the whole promising jobs to your friends thing, no matter how noble your intentions (Blame the mafia).

Like I said earlier, the state/feds/whomever aren’t out to give Stockton the shaft. To their credit, City leaders probably know that. They’re just hiding behind Stockton’s low self-esteem and positioning themselves as fighting against another outside entity trying to fuck us over and it’s total bullshit. The City just sees the incoming business of the prison hospital as an opportunity to make more money, which has always been Stockton’s problem.

They don’t want the business, they just want the money from the business. It’s why the City was all too eager to approve the demolition local landmarks like the Hoosier Inn in exchange for all the sweet sweet permit cheddar that surrounds such an undertaking. It’s why, in a February (well, printed in February at least) survey of local business owners, the top two concerns were how much of a pain in the ass it is to deal with the City. You know City Hall is a bitch to deal with when people are more concerned with their red tape than they are with crime.

Kelso and Co. are learning what local business owners have known for years, dealing with Stockton is a pain in the ass. They didn’t know that when they casually dropped these plans on us all those months ago, but they sure as shit know now. Depressingly, after this very public fight with the City, everybody’s going to know how difficult it is to open shop in Stockton. And that’s how the Prison Hospital is hurting Stockton, because the City won’t back down from a fight it can’t win.


~ by Slick Diaz on April 1, 2010.

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