Judy Sly: Website exposes our area’s economic condition

11/02/2013 12:00 AM

11/02/2013 7:53 PM

Most of us don’t lack for information these days.

What can be hard to find is accurate, unbiased information, especially if you want it quickly.

Enter the California Business Roundtable, which has created a website, www.centerforjobs.org, with a bounty of economic information about our state, sortable by counties and by Assembly and state Senate districts. We’ve provided three screen snaps as examples.

The map shows something we already know – that the unemployment rate in the San Joaquin Valley counties is higher than it is in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. But take a look at the snapshots from the two Assembly districts for our county. While both have higher unemployment rates than the state, Kristin Olsen’s 12th District includes Stockton and is economically healthier than Adam Gray’s 21st District, which includes all of Merced County.

The Roundtable’s Center for Jobs and the Economy is supposed to provide a visual tool to let people know what’s happening in the state regarding wages and other data. Roundtable President Rob Lapsley said, in a conference call with journalists this past week, that the center will be doing some original research starting in 2014 and plans to add information from the Board of Equalization and other sources.

The website is aimed at politicians, journalists and others absorbed in these kinds of issues. But of course it’s also available to anyone who wants to look. Lapsley said the intent is to provide fully attributed information, “so you know where it comes from.” The center’s intent is not advocacy but information. How refreshing.

And it’s in sharp contrast to much of what we can find on the Internet or worse, in those frequently forwarded emails that arrive from so-called friends. My rule of thumb: The more times an email has been forwarded, the less likely it’s accurate. It’s fine for jokes and kitten pix, but not as a reliable source of accurate info.

In my Sept. 29 column, I was pretty hard on the Yes on X people for not using local vendors for designing and printing their campaign mailers and for robocalls. At that time, Yes on X had a perfect record of not using locals.

In the interest of fairness, I checked the latest expenditure reports to see whether they had started spending some of their money locally. The answer is yes. The campaign used a Modesto printer, a Modesto political consultant and two firms specializing in web and social media. And of course retired chief Mike Harden, a Modesto resident, is being paid for his campaign leadership. The Lew Edwards Group out of Oakland is still the primary political consultant, and the campaign used a San Francisco graphic artist.

A Modestan sent in an email asking why Measure X is listed on the ballot as a 1-cent tax increase when it is, of course, a proposed 1 percent increase in the sales tax, which would take the rate from the current 7.625 to 8.625 percent on each dollar spent in Modesto on a taxable item. “Is our City Council trying to fool the public into thinking we are only going to pay one cent sales tax?” she wrote. “One cent on what? ... this can’t be legal!”

In general conversation, the terms are interchangeable, and I think most people recognize 1 cent as 1 percent. But for the heck of it, I checked the ballot wording from a previous tax measure. In 2006, Stanislaus County voters turned down Measure K, which was a proposed half-a-percent increase in the sales tax to be used for transportation. Measure K was listed on the ballot as “a half-cent transportation sales tax.”

Stockton citizens are voting Tuesday on a proposed three-quarter-percent sales tax increase. And Measure A calls it “a three-quarter-cent” tax increase.

I’ve been wondering, as have others, whether former astronaut Jose Hernandez would run again in the 10th Congressional District or seek another office in 2014. The answer came in an announcement Friday that he has opened an aerospace consulting firm in Stockton. The news release said Hernandez “is not seeking public office this time; he is however willing to mentor young folks interested in running for public office.” Hernandez is launching the STARS PAC, which stands for Strategic Training And Responsible Solutions Political Action Committee.

To be respectful but honest here, Hernandez has an impressive personal story, but his political campaign didn’t get nearly as far as he did as an astronaut.

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