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Forbes fighter says magazine wrongly snubs hometown

Stockton native and retired businessman, Gregory Basso says Forbes doesn't know the first thing about measuring a city's quality of life. He makes his argument in this video.

When Forbes magazine this month declared Stockton, Calif., the nation’s most miserable city for the second time in three years, lifelong resident Gregory Basso decided it was time to fight back.

Basso is a 69-year-old retiree who knows Stockton’s garbage – his former company collected it – as well as its gems, which he touts in YouTube video, “What Forbes Forgot.”

Basso won community accolades and was featured in local media and even in Forbes for saying Forbes “got it all wrong.”

The magazine focused on the area’s 14.3 percent unemployment rate, its housing market bust that saw home prices fall 58 percent in three years, its seventh-highest-in-the-U.S. foreclosure rate and its violent crime rate. In 2010, the magazine called Stockton the 10th most dangerous city in America, an improvement from its No. 5 ranking in 2009.

But Forbes forgot Stockton’s “quality of life,” Basso claims.


 

“I have to get up in the morning debating whether to wear my sunglasses or not in February,” he says in the video’s opening, which juxtaposes scenes of the snow-pummeled Northeast with sunny views of golfing, biking and boating available nearly year-round in Stockton, a city of 280,000 situated along the San Joaquin Delta waterways connecting San Francisco and Sacramento.

Basso spends about 4 minutes talking about area amenities and attractions, such as a marina, the University of the Pacific, the Stockton Symphony, a minor-league hockey team and attributes including the city’s port, rails and roads and 10-minute commute – if you live and work in the city.

Basso told msnbc.com he’s not ignoring suffering in his hometown by pointing out its good parts.

“I understand Stockton has problems; every city has problems,” he said. “At least we can live in an environment and we look at it and say ‘It’s not that bad out there.’ … You don’t need an ivory tower magazine saying you people are miserable.”

His goal for the video was not for the community to feel better about itself – although hundreds of emails to Basso and letters to the local newspaper said it did -- but possibly to lure a business owner somewhere to relocate to Stockton.

Not likely, said Ronald R. Pollina, president and founder of Chicago-based Pollina Corporate Real Estate, which, since 1981, has helped Fortune 500 clients find locations for corporate headquarters, factories and distribution centers.

“The board of directors, they could care less about the quality of life,” Pollina told msnbc.com “‘What’s it going to cost me to operate,’ that’s what they want to know.”

Pollina, like Forbes magazine, said Stockton has three major problems being located in California: taxes are high, it’s not a right-to-work state, and the state is overregulated.

These are cost-control problems that Pollina says he sees all over the country. They push jobs offshore and lower the standard of living for Americans, said the author of the recently published book “Selling Out a Superpower: How the U.S. Economy Went Wrong and How We Can Turn It Around.”

Mike Locke, Stockton’s deputy city manager, said Basso’s video “incrementally could be positive,” although it hadn’t spurred any inquiries when msnbc.com talked to him last week.

Locke, who formerly headed the San Joaquin Partnership, the area’s economic development organization agreed with Pollina that taxes, unions and regulations can put Stockton and California at a disadvantage.

“If you don’t need to be on the West Coast for its consumer base or access to the Pacific Rim, you don’t need to be in California,” Locke said.

But for a business that does need to be close to its consumer base, like the 6.7 million who live in the nearby San Francisco Bay Area, or have access to ports in Stockton or Oakland, Basso is right about the city’s advantages, he said.

The city’s problems also present opportunities, he said: The high unemployment rate means access to a ready workforce. The housing collapse means workers can afford homes more easily now.

The most recent company to take advantage, Locke said, was Springfield, Mo.-based O’Reilly Automotive. The 3500-store auto-parts chain leased a 520,000-square-foot  Stockton distribution center where last year it hired 600 workers.

As for Basso, he said he was satisfied with the video and that his 15 minutes of fame that came with its posting were just about over.

“Reuters and others quoted Forbes like it’s gospel truth,” he said.

He wanted some lasting way to answer back.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe a video is worth 10,000 words. It’s better than writing letters to the magazine that just end up in the shredder.”

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