Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, come to armchair expert, this is a bonus episode in our continued effort to help with the many facets of Black Lives Matter. Today, we have an astounding person by the name of Michael Tub's. Now, if you want to learn a lot about Michael Tubbs, you should watch the HBO documentary Stockton On My Mind. This cat is incredible.
He became the mayor of Stockton, California, in twenty seventeen when he was 26 years old.
He's a wonder kid. He's a phenom. Michael became both Stockton's youngest mayor and the city's first African-American mayor.
Michael Tubbs has secured over 20 million in philanthropic capital to launch the Stockton Scholars, a place based scholarship that aims to triple the number of Stockton students entering and graduating from college. He has so many creative ideas, so many wonderful relationships.
And just to remind you, I'm Dan Shepard and of course, my beautiful co-host, Monica Miniature Padman.
So please enjoy the astounding, incredible, charming and fun Michael Tub's in our continued effort to promote black owned businesses.
I'd like to bring your attention to Brogo I Ojito.
Now, this is a very interesting story about Nancy twined. Now Nancy, who owns Brogo three years and do a stint on the commodities desk at Goldman Sachs.
Twins mother died in a car accident. The tragedy pushed her to reconsider her career path, inspired by her mother, a chemist who had developed a natural face cream, and her grandmother, who taught her how to make products with natural ingredients. She spent weekends and nights researching the beauty industry. In 2014, she launched natural hair care brand Biaggio that targets customers by hair texture, wavy, coyly dry or thin rather than ethnicity.
It was profitable from the start and the revenues quickly grew. It launched internationally in twenty eighteen and is now sold on Sephora shelves around the world as well as through online UK retailer Cult Beauty.
So if you are in the market for some face cream, I recommend you check out Brogo, our eye Ojito also. Thank you Forbes' for this great write-up.
So the business I'm going to promote today is Marcus Books M A, R, c, U.S.. That's right. Marcus Books. OK, it is a black owned bookstore founded in the sixties by doctors Ray and Julian Richardson. And it's one of the nation's may be the nation's oldest black owned bookstore. And I love reading. They've hosted readings by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou. This is a fancy bookstore now to purchase books from Marcus Books. You have to call it number it's five one zero six five two two three four four five one zero six five two two three four four.
Or you could go in person to thirty nine hundred. Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland, California.
That's right. And they also have a Go Fund Me, which is aiming to raise two hundred thousand dollars to help sustain the Oakland store and the communities that serve. So check out Marcus books.
He's in our chat. Where are you at? You're in a bedroom, it seems so we have a guest room. This is apparently a David. Oh, sure, yeah.
Yeah, I know that's where that's fancy to me, too. So we have to tape it and then I work from here as well.
How have your duties changed during this pandemic? What's your routine like now? It's interesting. I have a nine month old too. Oh wow. That's helpful because it gets me up early, so I'm always on top of everything. Oh, five, five thirty. It's me and him.
That's a positive spin. I'm going to be up early. Yeah, that's our real glass half full kind of attitude.
Biggest change, I think has been toggling between doing work here and work at City Hall and then also because we're going to have a nanny starting March 10th, which is like a week before we get to shelter in place. So from March 10th to now, me and my wife have been filling out schedules. So I empathize with parents that can't under schedules like I can by being home is not an option anyway. So that's been the biggest change is the remote work and then also having to be like a public health official.
Yeah, I think learning about viruses and spread and contagion's and certified in hospitals and all this stuff, I just had no idea I would ever want to learn but just have to learn.
Yeah, we had Carcetti on and he pointed out something really brilliant, which is he said, you know, of any occupation in government, mayors have to be pragmatist's above all, like whatever their party allegiances or their idealistic things, like they got to keep the city running. Right. Do you find that to be true, that it's like it's just a real rubber meets the road job?
A hundred percent. I'm the biggest pragmatist as heart with strong values, but I'm always looking for how do operationalize it, how do we get it done, particularly with the resources we have. And I think especially in Stockton, I mean, my city council was four Republicans and two Democrats. So everything we do has to be done and spoken about in ways that are super pragmatic and don't really tip off an ideology one way or the other for the most part.
And have you gotten like a Jedi about phrasing things in ways that you are conscious that won't trigger their identity?
Don't you find that once people's identity is being called into question, like they'll die over identity?
Yeah, identity. And also people don't want to feel like something can be bad, but they don't want to feel like they're bad because it's something that we're trying to change is bad. So I don't do it well all the time. I think on the big issues, when I have the time to think, I try to message in terms of like just values and just keep the conversation centered on that. We all believe that everyone should be treated equally.
Right. That in this instance, this particular group has been treated equally. What do you propose we do? I propose we do see and usually that gets at least the support of the other governing officials of yeah, it's in the conversation to community. Sometimes it's a little bit more difficult. But I found, just as you said, that speaking in terms of values and making it personal in terms of the harm, but in terms of the solution, like part of the solution vs.
you did this. And do you find on a city level that there's no appetite for growth? People nowadays are like if the pilot project isn't perfect, then we don't want to fuck with it. I realized that I built differently because for me, it's always starts with the status quo is horrible. So if the status quo is horrible, even if the solution isn't perfect, it's better than the status quo, which is a step in the right direction.
And that's kind of my entire governing frame. Like, when things are just terrible, we have to improve upon them. And it's not to perfect and it's maybe a little bit scary and might test us with our conventional wisdom. But I think part of the reason why we have the world we have now is that people are so afraid of trying for better that we are just stuck with a failing status quo with which we know is a failure we know is broken, which we know if it perpetuates and keeps going, that's more of a risk in trying to change it.
Yeah, and it's very much the you're going to miss one hundred percent of the shots. You don't take analogy. People have to have some appetite for like, yeah, we're going to try something. And actually it might turn out worse for a minute. So, OK. And then we'll have to reassess and we'll have to continue to work on this. Health care, to me seems to be the most obvious where it's like, oh, that that thing didn't run perfect.
The Affordable Care Act. If that didn't run perfect in all three hundred million people weren't satisfied, then it was a failure. And that just seems crazy to me that that we can't go forward in any direction if our bar is perfection.
The first time out, I tell my staff all the time that we have to be more vested and the problem being terrible than the solution being perfect and that we just have to realize this is a horrible problem. And if we do anything, even incrementally, one step better, that's a win. Because just from being married for the past couple of years, I've been shocked at how even the status quo, which everyone says they hate and everyone's upset about change, seems to be very scary and threatening.
And it causes all these weird feelings where folks will vote against their self-interest and vote against their own benefit because it's different than what they're used to, even though what they're used to is like killing them.
Yeah. What are some of the bigger battles you've won in your three years there, man?
I'm going to ask you to brag basically.
No, I think say the first one, it's just about reducing gun violence and homicides. My cousin was murdered in Stockton, which is why I decided to come back and run for office. So I am like a pit bull when it comes to kind of gun rights without seeing homicides. And we had a program we have been running up ceasefire program, which is an evidence based program that works, but we weren't seeing the results that we need to see.
And I waited two years on city council and then my first year as mayor, we went from forty nine to fifty four homicides and that was just unacceptable. So I remember calling the police chief on New Year's Eve and having an hour long meeting with him and saying we're going to do things differently this year. When we added another program called Advanced Peace, which is based off Richmond, and it caused some friction because it was a program very similar to the program we had.
So by bringing in it was an admission that what we're doing in and of itself isn't working. And I was surprised at how so many people were so adamant against that because they thought I was saying they weren't doing their job or they weren't they weren't sufficient and first got to decide where we're going to do it. So the program was very similar. And the only addition is that it actually pays the man that we identify as fellows who are most likely to be victims of violent crime.
It pays them a stipend as a job to kind of help keep the peace. But we've seen that 40 percent reduction each of the last three years because of both those programs working in tandem. So I'm very, very, very proud of that collapse. A real fight to change kind of conceptions around staff who's deserving. Do people deserve a second chance? Do we really want to spend time helping folks who we know are actively carrying weapons who may have shot somebody?
Do we really want to give them a second chance if that is what's required to make us safer? We want to keep complaining about homicides, keep complaining about gun violence. We're not doing anything to change it. And then also just the boring administrative legal stuff in terms of, oh, you're on my turf or you're saying I'm doing my job or because you can always find a reason for why something's broken. There's always a justifiable. You don't have this.
We don't have that. We don't have that. There's always a reason. There's some sometimes are very compelling, but at the end of the day, we had to make a move. So that's the first thing. The second battle I'm really proud of. And my staff staff's going to hate me for saying this, but I am is as I say, people know we declare bankruptcy. And I was looking at the budget and I realize we spent a lot of money subsidizing golf courses.
And I when we cut everything else, the golf subsidy kept going up. So we cut firefighters and police officers and closed libraries, golf clubs. We kept going up and those thousands of accounts. And I would always say during budget session, what's the plan to do with the golf subsidy?
Oh, golf was like the things I was I was the backbone of all good economies. What do you talk? The bathtub that was up, but but this is a crazy part. So then I become mayor. I'm like, OK, consultant, you are very ideologically diverse place. I said, let me appeal to my fiscal conservatives. So I said, well, hey, this gossip's is unsustainable. What's the plan? And there was no plan.
She's going to keep going up every year because it was deferred maintenance.
The Harpaz, it was just, oh, my God, this is a really funny I got to say it. So I just said, let's have a conversation about ending the Gulf subsidies in the city. And what's interesting is two golf courses in the city that the city runs. There's like eight in that ten mile radius, private courses, which are which were better by two, that the city where one was in a poor neighborhood and it was given to the city of Atlanta.
So we could only use it for recreation. But recreation I golf, it means recreation. And then the second was widening the more affluent area, which was surrounded actually by homes, nice homes, but they're all in the county. I mean, they don't pay all the city taxes that go to subsidizing the golf course that boosted property values. And then a lot of streets are named after Confederate generals and.
So there's a lot happening. There's a lot. But unbeknownst to me, my understanding of politics, I said, well, we just went through bankruptcy. That's continue these good habits. We have to end the golf subsidy and turned into World War Three. There were signs around the golf course saying stop marriage hubs in big black letters. There was all these conspiracies that Maritime's was trying to take over the golf course and sell it to low income housing there.
That, mayor, is a sweetheart deal with Oprah. It was just like all these crazy. Yeah, it sounds crazy, but a lot of people believed it. So I spent all of twenty eighteen in meetings, learned a lot about golf, which I'm thankful for and talking about for these poor people.
And I realized to the point earlier, for a lot of people, they felt that their identity was being targeted, particularly as a young black mayor coming in and saying we can't afford golf. I think for some people they thought it was like, oh, we're not poor anymore. He the value what we care about will really for me, it wasn't even a cultural argument. It was really that we could close libraries. We should be able to close our golf course.
Only three thousand people in the whole city use the golf course over the course of year. Long story short, we got to a solution. And now the city doesn't subsidize the golf course. But to the community's credit, in listening to them, we found an operator privately who will run the golf course as a golf course so the city won't sell it. The city won't do anything with it. It's going to be green space and it's going to be a golf course.
And then in five years, if the private operator breaks more than even the city gets 10 percent of revenue, meaning what was a losing asset is now a money making one. And I'm super proud of that. I started everyone thought I was going to be recalled. Everyone thought this wouldn't be a big egg on my face.
You can't take on golf courses, which is crazy to me still, because I'm sick of firefighters like I know heroes, but people are still upset about that.
But I'm very proud that we have a solution. So those two things are some of the proudest achievements, I would say, as mayor.
What's it like we haven't gotten into because I know it's triggering for you as it would have been for me, but you're young as fuck like I held off as long as I could.
You I think you just great.
That's something to be proud of. Oh, big time.
But I know from his movie that, like, it's the first topic every time.
It's kind of like when I say like, oh, you're married to Chris Cimbalom. Yes, I know. Everyone knows.
Yes, I am. So anyways, you're young as hell. I think you were. What were you, twenty six or seven when you took office as the mayor. Twenty six.
Twenty six. And then prior to that you were twenty three I guess when you became a councilman. Twenty, twenty two.
Look at this. Look I'm, I'm trying to pad this a twenty two and twenty six. So as I think of all these gifts that are intrinsically related to your age, I've grown less and less idealistic my whole life. I think that's a pretty natural progression, more adverse to change than I was when I was young.
All these different things, but also to see signs with your name on it planted in the ground at twenty six.
I just feel like at forty five I might be able to handle that. But just now. So what is that like for you. I mean you can tell yourself like, oh I'm in politics, I know what to expect, blah blah blah. But when you see oh someone took time to hammer a sign that basically says I hate this person.
What's that like?
What love is serving as our city council. So I've had a lot of time because that a great city and that diverse city. But I mean, any time is our first anything in twenty twenty that suggests that there's been some problems with with bias at some point in the history. So even on city council, I would have as a young person on council during council comment to be fifty comments just saying how terrible I am or. Oh boy. Oh boy.
My first. Meaning, as a council member was with a group of folks from a part of my council district who told me they were going to secede from the city and they had a whole plan for success, the word succession. Yeah, yeah. My first meeting as an elected official. So I think I received a lot of practice in terms of dealing with things like that and also understanding that politics is just such a weird thing in this country that a lot of the attacks feel personal, but they're not personal.
I represent something to folks. So whether it's something people are excited and inspired by or something that may be scary, like it's not me, it's whatever this young black mayor, what he stands for represents for people some sort of reaction. I was fine with it, but my people around me, my staff, my friends, family, other people were they were like, oh, my gosh, are you OK? And I keep telling people this is the only profession where an F is a passing grade.
You need fifty point one percent, which means forty nine point nine percent of people could hate your guts. Have signs that say stop recall, but you need fifty point, which sucks because I tried to work for 100 percent always.
Well, he got 70. Can I tell you that he won the mayoral campaign with 70 percent of the vote? Is that like a record that's high, right?
Yeah, right. Some more. Come on. Brag, brag, brag, brag.
That was pretty high. But then I mean, but that's not how fickle politics is. A year and a half later, same bear person and all these a recall campaign and stop there. And so. Yeah. So that's your question. I think a lot of it comes from my upbringing is just realizing that it's not always about you, good or bad.
When people assassinate your character, it's really hard not to defend yourself. Like people go like, oh, if you didn't do it, why are you so hung up on.
It's like, well, I've been accused of some things publicly that it drives me bonkers and then people believe it. And that's the thing. This is where cash means you could say, OK, bye. Michelle said when they go low, you go high. But why you're going high. There's a still a vote there for you even if you don't say anything because of me. Yes, I responded to and that's how rumors and stuff grow, particularly in an age of misinformation.
So that's one of the things I'm trying to improve is like how do we communicate the truth to people in a way that's not responsive to craziness, but gives people facts or some response?
The one that was to me the most insane when I was like, what is this guy going to do? Was the birther movement right? So you've got Obama. Imagine just anyone who was listening. Someone out of nowhere starts saying you weren't born in the USA. It's like it's so stupid and you so clearly know you were that it doesn't feel like it deserves a comment. But then you just see this thing gaining momentum and momentum. And finally you're like, oh, I'm actually have to do this.
I'm actually going to prove I was fucking born here and just wrestling with like. Yes, you don't want to give those idiots what they're what they want, which is engagement. But at the same time, wow, if 30 percent of the countries believe in this, I guess now it is on my plate. I got to dispel this.
Even locally, there's like Mayor Tub's doesn't live in Stockton, but how can you be the mayor? And I live and say, how can you be the mayor? And you like you have to legally. Where do you live? The Bay Area.
I live in New York. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard a Roaf yesterday. Oh, my gosh.
OK, let me ask you, I would imagine when people hear about any town in California or any city, if you're in the rest of the country, I assume you're picturing L.A. or San Francisco or you believe the whole kind of state is like the coast is.
And I think it's really misleading for folks who've not driven around central California. And I was just in your neighborhood for the last seven days. I was in Sacramento and then I was in Stockton. Then I was at a racetrack filming man, I'm walking around Sacramento and I'm like, this reminds me of a downtown town, you know, Sacramento.
And that's even more cosmopolitan than Stockton. Right? I mean, the downtowns like cowboy themed, right?
Oh, Sacramento. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then you look at the demographic and it very much reminds me of like Gary, Indiana, or some of the suburbs of Detroit where it's like pretty high, disproportionately high, or at least anecdotally it seems high black population and then kind of rural country boys.
It's a weird mix. It's not L.A. Can you speak to the demographic of Stockton?
Stockton's the most diverse city in the country, so we have about 40 percent next vote. We have about 30 percent white people, 20 percent Asian people and 10 percent African-American.
Oh, so it's not that's not disproportionately high. My anecdote was wrong, but but it's a weird sort of kind of melting pot of cultures in the most beautiful way. Like the oldest Sikh temple in Wisconsin is in South stop in. Oh, wow. I love. That fact, Stockton is 10 percent black, it's also 10 percent Filipino, at one point we had the largest Filipino population in the world outside the Philippines, in Stockton. Did they bring ghosts with them?
I know it's an area I worked a lot of Filipinos and they all believe in ghosts and I loved it. And they all have a great ghost stories.
And they have like a thriving part of our downtown called Little Manila, which was like the thriving place of commerce for everyone ran by the Filipino community. It's a super diverse. But to your point, I was describing someone yesterday saying it's a mix of urban and rural. Yeah, my family came from Texarkana, Arkansas, in Jackson, Mississippi, and they migrated to Southern California, my grandmothers from Bakersfield. And I think a lot of the African-American families in Stockton come from the South and and a lot of that white folks in Stockton come from the Dust Bowl and from Oklahoma, and they're also refugees from Greece and other places.
So you have this weird mix of like Old Town feel. Yeah. In this like very urban city, though, it's strange. Fifteen thousand people that has real big city issues. It's just a fascinating place to be.
Did originate being like gold mining support town. Is that what it's from.
Yeah. Gold Rush town because we're on the waterways. So, uh, in fact we're in the final four. The capital is between us, Sacramento, San Francisco, actually the oldest college west of the Mississippi is in Stockton University of the Pacific. Even today, the transportation of goods and services, the waterways are our main economic drivers, but it stems from sort of the gold rush. And that's also why it's so diverse, because so many people came or were forced to come to help work on the gold rush stuff.
So you growing up, mom was very young when she had you, right? She was sixteen or something. She was 16 when she was pregnant. Yep. And then Dad went to prison. Is currently still in prison. Yeah. I don't know anything about the crime he committed, but when I just read that it was kidnapping, drug possession and robbery, all bad stuff. But I also was like really life sentence. I don't feel like a white guy gets a life sentence for that.
Growing up, find out your dad's in prison for twenty five to life. You automatically think, oh, they murdered somebody.
That's what I thought. I thought, oh, he either had five kilos or he murdered somebody.
So I was always petrified and terrified of actually asking why he did. So I, I didn't find out actually what happened until this documentary, to be honest. Oh, shit. Yeah. Because growing up I didn't want to know because that I say about me, aha. Well people judge me so I'm actually like, who likes where my dad was.
I was like, oh I don't know. Or he's either out or he lives in a different city and stuff like I would never tell anyone he was in prison.
But I think to your people is for Green Bay because always in Wisconsin. But but I've been to your point, what's been interesting now as a policymaker is realizing that all that internalized I don't want to be a bad person, I'm going to be super good. I was happy, as I'm sure that I realize that is also policy. So he's in jail for 25 to life because of the terrible three strikes law. Oh, the have third strike is 25 to life.
There's circumstances, at least he claims, for his arrest, which I found out in watching the documentary, was that I had a half sister who was born with some birth defects and died young. He had just been released, but he was responsible for Barry. He was just released and have money. So he had three thousand dollars. So he didn't rob somebody's grandmother or even go to someone's house. He robbed a drug dealer he knew from being in the streets.
We knew he would have money thinking that person wouldn't tell because it's kind of street called street rules. And I didn't realize that taking him to the bank was kidnapping.
It was like, I've got to go to the bank that took the money.
The guy had to get busted for something else as part of his plea deal, but ahead and shared some other folks, you know, who are involved. And that's sort of from his rendition, but also just from some other folks is what happened for thirty three thousand dollars to bury his daughter. So I think from him, it's the stuff about basic income, stuff about criminal justice now just makes even more sense because I'm thinking like, wow, thirty years ago, things may have been different if some of these things have been in place, no guarantees, but at least for me, it's interesting kind of game to play.
Well, what I imagine for you and again now I'm projecting because I had issues with my dad, he didn't end up in prison. But, you know, for Delys, he split it and paid child support. I had a lot of issues with him.
And then I found compassion over the years and realized, oh, he was so much a victim of his circumstance. And now I've had kids of my own. I recognize the struggles I've married as he was. And I'm recognized, you know, and I guess the older I get, I just grow more and more compassionate for his story and step out of my own egotistical evaluation of him. And I just wonder if you've been on a journey similar to that a hundred percent.
I think as a child, most child, you're very self-centered. Yeah, I never even considered how he felt being locked up. I never thought about this. He missed me. It's just hard for him to like in my mind, it was like he's having some vacation in prison away from his son and he's enjoying it. And he chose that over you. Like, there was a clear decision at one point and said, you want to see Michael or you want to go hang in jail.
He said, let's go to jail. Yeah. And then I thought about all these people would judge me because of him. I had nothing to do with him. And then he watched my mom struggle. And so even if they weren't together, she had some help. Maybe she'd be less stress, less anger seems to be different or little things like on father's name, like, man, I wish I could make a Father's Day card for a father, but I just make it to my mother.
And I think a lot of this fueled me. Probably pretty unhealthy actually, as a child. Just be a super overachiever. I just like, cry when I miss one word on spelling tests, like a lot of pressure of like an eight nine year old to not be a stereotype, to be perfect. I'm not going to be like that. Right. And as I got older, I realized not really until I went to college and started reading about kind of policies and started reading about kind of structures and started realizing that individual choices matter.
But they happen in the context of an environment that people don't choose. And I can't think of a country where a decision that someone makes versus someone else by radically different consequences based off their race, based on where they live. So that caused me to really think and wonder. And as I've gotten older, I just realized that, oh, no, but he actually may not be this horrible person. He actually may have made some terrible decisions. But the totality and then I think having a son has been the kicker.
If I'm gone for three days for a business trip when we could travel, I feel horrible. But I mean, what am I missing? Is he OK? What's called I'm a fat. And then I might well imagine doing that. For twenty five years.
I had that exact same thing where I had this baby and all of a sudden the whole paradigm flip where I was like, oh, I always thought I was the victim. But now when I see how much I miss this child, I know I miss his child more than I ever miss my parent. I finally was like, oh, he was the victim. I wasn't the victim. He missed something. You can't get back.
And I felt terrible because I could have. But it's not like he went away and I'm not going to talk to you again. He would write and I would write back and he always want me to visit. I just did not enjoy the process that I go to prisons all the time by visiting a loved one in prison. I just felt very sad about it. Some only did it two times and I felt terrible about that. And then on this documentary, I was I didn't know who's going to be in it.
So I saw the first draft and he was in it. My first instinct was revealed back to fifteen year old Michael and say no. Why is he in this? Take this out. No. And then I realized to your point, I would hate for my son for the only representation of me to be just what my son thinks. Particularly we had to have a good relationship or if he didn't know me. So it was all based off what he thought, what he felt insisted on him.
I said he deserves the chance to be a full person, to be up there and to tell his story because there wasn't here. When I thinks I'm the mayor, I have the platform. I am free, I get to speak. Yeah. So and then watching it and seeing people's reactions, I'm like, that was the right choice. And I'm happy at this point of forgiveness. I'm excited. I can't wait for him to be released for him.
And my son will have a different relationship. I just feel bad for all I may have lost. I'm just being afraid to figure out what happened and also just being very angry as a kid.
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So in Haiti, my father and making him this archetype and then made my mother a different archetype, just a saint, the perfect human being who I'd lay down in front of railroad tracks any day of the week for I think I was trying to be the husband she deserved.
I was like that dad, he shit the bed on this, but I'm going to be the guy that she deserved.
And I just wonder how much yours was motivated out of, like, giving mom something that you think she deserved from the get go.
I realized I think those kids are smart. So growing up, living in a certain neighborhood, seeing our teachers look at you or talk to you or talk to your peers, you realize that there are certain judgments or perceptions. And also seeing just how hard my mom but my grandmother worked. I think I also had a very strong drive to make them proud, to make them right, to make their sacrifices worth it. Always going to feel like, no, all the stuff you're doing is going to pay off, you know, always just going to, like, make sure they were providing for you have everything.
So it was pretty good. My mom was so young. Yeah. I love my mom would do anything for our relationship and has had some of influence of growing up as an adult since I met my 13, 14 years old with a moody teenager trying to figure out who I am as well.
Yeah, you're doing this at twenty nine and it's hard, right? You're doing it with twenty nine with a spouse and you're going to have help and it's fucking hard and that's it.
I think to answer this question, the last one part of the process is also getting older. So I remember my twenty third birthday when my now wife then girlfriend are like it's nice dinner and we're eating and I just got really emotional. She's like, what's wrong? I was like at twenty three my mom had a seven year old and my dad was like in jail and I'm like on this boat eating this amazing meal with this beautiful person like wow, how much of their life they not have.
And that was also a big wake up call for me too. Like, no, they were he's been in jail since he was 17 by the last 13 years. And 17 have been amazing. I really are with them. I can imagine some of my high school being the peak. Right. But that's a question about my mom, I think. Absolutely. Definitely a strong desire to prove her right, a strong desire to make her look good.
But what's funny is that she's most proud of my son, like. That's right.
Yeah. He hadn't done shit either. My birthday is Sunday. She was like, oh, on Sunday I went to see my grandson.
I'm like, it's my birthday. Like, you just going back to your your dad. I just want to place some emphasis on the point that I think we all want so badly to make people in prison and criminals inhumane. We want to categorize them as not real people so that it's easy for us to live with the fact that we know that they're a bunch of people in a building, a box cages. Yes. And so I think our brains try to justify it by saying, like, well, they deserve it and they're not real.
They don't have empathy. And so it's really good to hear an account of someone who's there was like, no, I'm a they didn't stop being human.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's hard it's hard to reconcile that. That's our best option in twenty twenty is like literally throw people in the trash can and then let them out twenty years later.
I mean like good luck particularly now when the big I just tweeted something earlier, the biggest super spreading places of covid-19 our presence. I was talking to my wife a couple of months ago and I said, hey, at a point now Robertshaw, I'm ready to have a real relationship. I want my son to be his grandfather for my father to get covid-19.
Yeah. Yeah. The last laugh of the same. It's like that. It's just terrible. That's how many folks in prison have covid-19 and how no one seems to care because I'm sure they don't have a bunch of ventilator's in prisons. I'm sure they don't have enough ICU beds and prison hospitals.
Oh you've seen the video. There's like a guy, his cellmate is like dying in front of him and he's videoing it like, get me out of this room. Can you imagine being stuck in a six foot box with someone dying of covid? Yeah. OK, let's argue about some stuff. You are a proponent of universal basic income. I'm on the fence about it. I have some reservation and I think it might be the premise that I'm bumping against and maybe not the actual policy, but I'd love for you to tell me why you believe in that and what do you think it can do?
Yeah, well, I came in as a skeptic, honestly. I came in thinking what sucks is poverty and economic insecurity. So that's terrible. So let's figure out what options do we have to address in. My staff came up with a basic income that the economic security project told them we were working on, that we decided to partner into a pilot and what we. Is that particular stuff, that small five million dollars a month, it's not enough to replace work, that's enough to allow work to go further.
Gene Sperling has an amazing book about economic dignity. It's enough to ensure that everyone has the dignity to be able to bury their daughter like my father was able to to be able to take time off work if they're sick, particularly because if you look at the jobs in our country, so many people work in jobs without union protections, without paid time off, without paid sick leave. And there's a conversation to be had about doing those things as well.
But we know that we don't have them. So I think I don't think it makes sense. And so that was the first thing. The second thing was realizing that there's so much work that's being done, particularly by women, that's not compensated as work by folks who stay at home and the domestic worker caregiving, if they did it next door, never get paid. But because again at home they don't. And for so many women, staying home is a smart economic choice because retail jobs, minimum wage jobs don't pay enough for childcare.
So that's been eye opening. And the number three that the issue is that I thought going in that people worked. They should be fine. People shouldn't work out what people might say that worked. But then I realized that the vast majority of people in our country who can work actually do work. Those who don't work are children, the highest group of people in poverty, not working or children. We got child poverty laws, but also may have a disability are our formerly incarcerated folks who can't find work and that all the jobs available actually are good jobs.
And we see that so clearly now when folks are really going to work contracting covid getting their whole family sick and still can't pay for rent and still can't pay for the utilities. I think of I know you mentioned your mom and her work at nine, Sajad, and I think of my mom and how hard she worked, worked herself to death.
And by the way, we just got lucky. Like, at any point, had there been a medical thing, had there been my mom got sick and couldn't work at any point, like there was never 40 cents more in the monthly budget than what was being spent. So we just got lucky for, you know, 18 years. And that's what's crazy to me.
People are literally living life as a game of Russian roulette and chance, like one in two people can afford to wait five, one hour emergency. And then I really became a believer, just looking at what happened the past 18 months and stopped. And all the data says people spend money on how we spend money, and that's pretty intuitive. But the story says one man, Thomas, who told me that the five dollars a month, that's what you do with it.
He said, Oh, I interviewed. I got a job. I said, would you pay? Paradoxically, the interview people said we were have use the money. This is. Oh, my gosh. And he laughed at me. They said, No, man, I work retail, so I didn't have paid time off. So for me to interview for a job, I may be qualified for what I mean, I have to take time off work.
And that's not pay, which means two hundred twenty dollars on my paycheck with no guarantee that I'll get the new job. And I can't do that. I have two kids who live paycheck to paycheck, he said, but that was enough for a cushion for me to take a bet on myself. Luckily for him, he got the job, but I've never realized that wow, an income floor or something. That's enough for people to take a risk to to do the things necessary to better themselves, that you can actually get trapped.
You can get trapped in the situation now without my Babitsky the check cashing place because she always had enough money in the month. But bills are due at different times. So in her paycheck and the bills weren't always online. So she would need to pay this bill on the first. She gets paid the eight, but she's too short on the first, so she'll have to go borrow money against her check on the eight weeks to pay the 20 percent of it.
So I know how happy she was. I'll never forget that twelve year old when she paid her last thing at the check cashing place and said, I'm never coming back to this place again. You must never go back. She may upset the most evil, wicked thing she said this place right here never go to. And so that's why I'm so passionate. Let me say one more story, actually. So another non economic story. This one lady said that the five dollars a month was enough for her to smile, so.
Well, yeah, everyone likes money. Give me five dollars. I smile, smile well for a minute or two up.
But she said no matter what she was saying is that she was told she needed dentures two years ago, but she could never afford that.
She could never get the money to get the dentures.
So she just didn't smile for two years but with the basic income. So I think it's the stuff like that that shows like, wow, we live in a society with so much and we're not saying give people everything. We're just saying we can afford to give people a floor. And what people do with that floor is up to them. But to have people stressed, anxious, unemployed people are evicted in terms of eviction, I thought people were evicted because they paid no rent.
Yeah, but no people are evicted because there are two hundred dollars. Three hundred dollars for just short of rent. It's like they're not paying rent. And I think just this trope I had a. The folks who are struggling are people who are just freeloading or who are working hard or who have no motivation. It's actually the exact opposite, that folks are working incredibly hard. But the economy isn't working for them. There's not enough they don't have enough for basic necessities, not luxuries like rent, food.
That clearly is awesome. My two fears are, I believe, strongly and incentives. Right. I believe in sense that humans do what they're incentivized to do. I don't think you can get around that. So I worry that when we on the left create these policies that are always well-intentioned, sometimes they end up incentivizing things that were unforeseen. The classic example of right is our welfare policy in the eighties and that we ended up incentivizing, not getting married, which was, you know, regrettable.
That was an oversight on the left. And so we're capable of those oversights, that's for sure.
So I have that little bit of fear that my second thing is the premise is I've been told is and this is probably mostly coming from Andrew Yang, is that our future is automation. We are on this collision course with nobody working and that we're going to have to figure out how to support those people. And I kind of bought into that for a while. But then I you look historically in this predictions been made ten times. When we leave from the horse to steam power, we think 80 percent of the world's going to be unemployed.
And then we go from steam powered to the assembly line. And that's going to cause this thing. And then the computer revolution.
All this, by the way, we always figure out how to work.
So part of me feels like it's a little bit defeatist to say we're not going to figure out how to work.
So we got to figure out how to pay people to survive.
I appreciate folks who have the automation frame in terms of those this technological disruption that happened that many displaced people may not like every other technological displacement that's happened in the history of mankind. But I think for me, I come from basic income differently than I learned in studying Dr. King and Dr. King was talking about this nineteen sixty seven at a time when the country was nearly on fire again because of civil unrest. And he talked about how as a moral argument, it was an argument about public good is is that doesn't make sense for us to allow poverty when we have the means to abolish it, particularly at a time when Jeff Bezos has made 13 billion dollars in one day, right?
No, no, not he or Jeff Bezos. Good for you. I would love to make 30 billion dollars. Not sure what to do with that. But if we can do that, there's a way to have a social contract to do that. This allows for no problem. And I hear you on the incentives point as well. But starting with your father's last month, we found that that has not been enough to tell people that enough is enough if it's a little slow.
And I think that's part of the trick. Right. It's like you almost got to find the exact dollar amount before which people go, oh, fuck it, I'm not going to go to work. And I agree. I don't think anybody gets a check for five hundred dollars for the entire month. Like, I'm good, you know, so that seems like a great number. I just wonder it must be variable. Pacetti Obviously to live certain places requires a certain amount of floor.
Now how did you funded. I feel like I interpreted that maybe you just went out and raised the money for this fund.
Yeah, I was able to work with the Economic Security Project partner with them and said, hey, let's test this idea in Stockton and let's I'm happy to take the heat. I'm happy to use the data. I mean, if it works, I'm happy to speak about it, but speak about it in a way that elevates human dignity and it's about agency. So I think the automation just robs us of agency of like the future is going to happen to us.
We're hopeless to shape it. And I'm like, no. Yeah. Basic income gives folks the agency to make choices about how to spend money, but also to prepare themselves for if something happens that they have a raft or a way to persist through those times that I too I hate defeatism. I wouldn't be mayor if I ascribe to that. And then the last thing I would say on incentives is that I think this infrastructure is wrong. We have people working again long hours and still can't pay for necessities.
I think that actually, if that was me, I don't see why I would want to work. Why? Why is it not worth it?
You're totally right. I agree with that. What we even found ourselves growing up in that weird middle ground where my mom made enough that we didn't qualify for free insurance and yet we didn't have it, you know, like so there's a lot of rungs where you can kind of get fucked.
It's not just when you're poor, it's not just when you're this or that.
And I think that's what the guaranteed income is so important. And I realize this in talking to folks in Stockton, is that there's a lot of people who think they're middle class who actually aren't. They're actually like lower middle class or working poor. But even still, they don't qualify. They may just above what's necessary for all the programs we have, but they don't have. Amount of assets, they know they make a hundred dollars, 200, a thousand dollars more, and they're still struggling and then have a lot of resentment towards people who actually qualify for existing program.
So that's why I'm also a big proponent, because I found this starting. We have people making 50, 60, 70 K who are saying, no, this five dollars is helpful for saving for kids college or paying off debt or paying off the stupid credit card. It's just that so many people in our society struggle economically and could use just a little bit of help. Last thing I'll say, I realize that money is a function of time and the more money you have, the more you own your time.
And I think as a parent, I realize that the function of government should be to allow parents, no matter who they are, how funds are configured, spent some time with your child. And the way to do that is to give people the ability to own their time in something like an income floor. Makes it so I don't have to work two jobs after work this terrible job.
OK, now I want to get into an area that I will probably not lay out in the best way. I don't really know the perfect way to state it, but I want to get into this topic of you. Going to Stamford, that must have been some cultural shock or I guess what I'm trying to broach is, is there a route by which a young black man can do what you did without going and getting the upper class white toolkit?
No, that makes sense. I think what I'm hearing is that, like, OK, does it require you to hit the lottery?
And that's what I'm getting at. Yes, because you're clearly bright as fuck.
And certainly Stanford played a role in that. But also you were bright as fuck before you went to Stanford. And it's just interesting that, like, when we evaluate these systems, the systemic issues that we're trying to dismantle are, of course, correct on.
You know, how much of it are we still embroiled in in that aspect of it?
So the first thing I remember about Stanford and being in class went back to my dorm and texted my friends and saying, look, these people here are smart, but no one here is smarter than me or you like.
I really thought going to Stanford is like all these people have a monopoly on intelligent, a different species, like a different species of animal, you know, and that's why I tell people all the time in Stockton that talent and intellect are universal or at least widely distributed. But the resources opportunities are. And I think to your point, I tell people all the time that it's actually nonsensical and not sustainable to persist, that a black kid has to be born in a country with a history of racism, have a mom at 16, have a father incarcerated, has to have three moms who work incredibly hard or super strict, has to have had access to preschool and books and things of that sort has to do almost perfectly in school, despite being kicked out of class and despite having teachers who are racist, who have to save lunch money to buy SAT prep books to teach themselves to prepare for the SAT.
I do want to see how they meet a woman online to help them as applications gets lucky that you picked a staffer and then that person can lead. That's just ridiculous.
And I think people like you and Obama are both weirdly help and hurt. Right? Like there is this like, oh, good. So tub's prove that the system is full of opportunity and Obama proved that the system's full of opportunity. But if you just look at the percentages you're talking, you know, less than any one percent. Sure. With all those things you just listed. Yes. Someone can transcend that.
And it's funny because in high school, I really believed in this idea of exceptionalism. And now I'm like even a word exceptionalism conveys that we understand it's not sustainable or it's exceptional. It's way beyond the norm. It's not as expected. That's why I the way people by talk about structure so much in talking about it, despite what I've been able to achieve with a lot of help, despite all that and all these things are still wrong with all these things still need to change.
And even the systems I've benefited from, like the fact that I lost my wife, we're talking about this now, like it will be terrible for my son to have a leg up at admission that Stanford, just because both his parents went to Stanford, then then Michael Tubbs and Stockton and my son gets the spot that that's that's terrible. That's just not OK. And I think it annoys people, but it's so real we can get distracted from, like, oh, wow, there's one story, but how many people in this country have people and parents incarcerated?
I'm unique in that I have a mayor with someone I was incarcerated. This country incarcerates more people than every other country in the world combined. So there's a whole millions and millions of folk that parents incarcerated. So the fact that one of us.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I work my ass off to get in the U.S. like I did not get there out of high school. Let's just say that. And so part of it's like, oh shit, my girls can maybe go to UCLA, like they could have a little just a little 10 percent that I killed myself to get them. That's pretty tempting. I want to taste that. And I guess what I'm asking is, can you a little bit see how the system perpetuates itself?
Like once you're on the inside of the party, you're very incentivized to keep that door closed because the party is nice.
I met my wife. I it's a nice party. I get in, I got some real time. I get why people wanna live in nice neighborhoods. I get it. I get why people are going to good schools. I met my wife at Stanford, all my best friends at Stanford. I nearly only the mayor of Stockton because I went to there's no way folks in Stockton we have like a twenty five year old black guy who didn't go. It was still a stretch for me.
So I get it. I can remind myself that some real things are survivors guilt. And I realized that, no, you have to just put purpose to your privilege and and understand that there's enough for everyone so you don't have to hoard I. That's the shift, it's kind of like you're operating with a zero sum notion, right? So it's like once you're inside the party, you're like, if I'm going to lose these privileges by letting everyone else in, then again, I'm dis incentivized to let everyone else in.
But if we have an ethos in this country, words like, no, no, everyone can do it all. There is enough for everyone and we can all have this great thing I'm now experiencing at the party, open up the gates and let everyone into the party. Right. That's the goal.
I think part of it is, though, I do think a lot of people like being special. I think a lot of people like me. Oh, yeah. The only one, though, I think for some people it's so alluring that they close the door. And I think that's why I'm so open to the first thing I did in college was create a program to help kids apply to college and have Stanford students help them with applications, essays to say, look, let's get as many people here as possible understanding that best scarcely benefits nobody.
And I think particularly understanding that all the party I'm able to enjoy is because someone else was at the party and thought like, hey, let me go outside for a little bit to make sure Michael could into it. Just realization, like I didn't do this like this. People like John Lewis early in the party got beat up outside the party. Bread for the party. I get all these things was inside to go back outside. They make sure everyone gets inside.
Now you have to I think part of it being a Christian, understanding that it's to hoard, to not give is antithetical to what you say you believe.
Yeah. Yeah. You probably hate this question, but I must ask you, what kind of aspirations do you have? How long can you be mayor? There's our term limits.
Yeah. Yeah, it's term limits. I'm running for re-election now, OK? I'm re-elected in November. I did four more years maximum.
Do you think you will want to go into some private world? Do you think you'll be more effective there? Do you think you want to become the governor of this enormous state, the eighth biggest economy in the world? What do you want to do?
Yeah, I think it's a good question. It's coming up more and more now. Well, first, I'll say in twenty twenty four, I would have spent 12 years at local government and most of those years are spent talking to cool people on podcasts or watching HBO that doesn't like point zero one percent of the twelve years experience. And a lot of it's just not sexy. A lot of it's actually very annoying and draining, but some of it's great we actually get stuff done.
So I think after twenty, twenty four of my I'll be thirty for my wife and I would just have to have a conversation about some of the sacrifices we're making in terms of my time, her time, profile, etc.. Are we actually making enough change to justify it? Because for me it's not about being in office, it's about the office isn't the end. It's a means to the end. The end being how we kind of create a more fair and equitable opportunity structure in this country.
So to say that, say, in 2024, if there's a political office that makes sense and we feel like, OK, we'll be able to actually do something that makes us proud of what we're giving up to do it. Absolutely. But being a politician and going to buy chicken dinners, that's not actually something like, oh gosh, you do some things in fix. Yeah, yeah. But I also know I spend a lot of my time talking to folks in the private sector, folks who employ lots of people, folks who invest a lot of companies, foundations that give a lot of money, folks who are advocating and pushing for better.
And I've seen how each of them also have a role to play. So I think for me, I'll be just taking stock and figuring out what's the best way to actually make the changes and to have the influence of the things I care about. It's going to be either in government or in media or in the private sector or in philanthropy or in some weird mix of all four that usually we try to pool to kind of get the stuff we're doing and stop and try to make it happen.
OK, so a friend of mine brought this up yesterday. I saw a lot of validity in his argument. He was venting about having watched some of the proceedings with all the tech guys on Capitol Hill right now getting kind of grilled. And he said in particular, he's watching this one congressman just grilling Jeff Bezos, right. Just calling them every name under the book and just insulting him in all ways.
And my friend said, you know, here's one guy who is fucking shined in this pandemic.
Right? You couldn't have done better than Amazon did. Right. They have mobilized in a way there. It's so successful. They're meeting the needs of every consumer in America.
And you have this fucking overweight asshole representing government as if they're doing something spectacularly right. What have you guys did with covid? Great job. You know, how the fuck how dare someone that's so ineffective be yelling at someone who's so effective? The irony of that a little bit like we have income inequality and that's horrendous. And that's an issue that needs to be solved. But to put all your ire about that, until this person who's just really operating at an incredibly high level, no one can argue that and make.
That person, the enemy, also just again, looking at Bill Gates and going, yeah, OK, he assembled this thing and guess what? He's giving it all back. He's also going to to do things that the government can't do that other people can't do. He is he has made himself an island, one that can weather the barrage of insults and second guessing. And he can make some hard decisions with that war chest he has. So I guess I see the value in some of these billionaires, and I'm a little nervous of the left just kind of labeling billionaires as the bad guys.
Now, there are some fucking bad guy billionaires, no question. But I don't know about having a class of people we hate because they've succeeded. What do you think about all that? I think that the issue isn't with a person or individual success. I think we should celebrate success of the issues with the system. And they are operating within that framework of rules that we've all agreed to by virtue of being part of this government. So if there's an issue, the center should be mad, sit by like, yeah, why don't you have the right guardrails to create the boundaries with which folks could be entrepreneurs?
Well, I think I don't want tech people to be policy makers like they should be making the policy that can help inform, they can help advocate. But the fact that we expect them to do the government's job virtually. Yeah, that's and that's why I mentioned job because I said no hates Jeff Bezos. He's a smart guy. Right. But if we could find a way to make Jeff Bezos 13 billion dollars in one day, we have to be able to find policies and laws that make it so 30 million people are hungry.
Yeah, yeah. My issue is not with Jeff Bezos. Evan Spiegel, who's a dear friend of mine, like a brother to me. Do your thing, man. That was a great idea. You work incredibly hard. I've seen it since college. But let's just have a conversation about how do you make more stories like yours possible and how do you make sure your success. That's why we felt by all the people who helped make you successful.
But I don't get when they're grilling these people about their regulator, like you said, the regulation.
Yeah, not one of them has broken the law then. No one's accusing them of breaking any laws yet. They're on trial right now.
It's weird because I like what I know what I'm playing pickup basketball. I'm starting to win. I'm I'm. Yes, but the referee should be mad at the players.
The referees should be mad at the referees and say, hey, this game has got out of hand. Let's make sure we enforce the other bills, make sure we're forcing fouls. But instead, the referees, whether I yell at the players, the players are like, I'm just playing the game. You know, I think that. Yeah, but refereeing is hard to make some people mad. Like, again, if you're used to playing a game with no rules and there's rules, maybe you can do ten billion in a day and a thirteen million that may enjoy you.
But I think as policymakers, you have to have a little bit of courage. But I'm also worried I don't live in the country where people success is demonized, where you are a bad guy because you are successful. You went to school, you had a good idea. Good.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you're wonderful. You're a very exciting for us to keep an eye on. In addition to doing a great job up there. You're just a really fun story to watch. Are you? As much as you hated every conversation was about your age. You realize pretty soon I was going to give a shit about that. So I turned 30 on the second.
So I was telling someone yesterday, I said, you know, I used to always complain like young this young.
I was like, I missed that because now, you know, my father's rough. Go a little bit when there's like someone younger Shah, like a beating up.
I was this young person, the young person. So I actually I'm going to miss him. I think luckily for me, as of right now, my career is politics. And everyone's like, wait, like I'll be young for the next 20 years. But yeah, yeah, yeah, that's true. Fifty years old. Let the young man from Stockton. Yeah, yeah. I was like Intec or something. I would be like an OG.
They made gently talking about how to put you out to pasture with some golden parachute.
I think he says he's lost the step. He doesn't have the same hunger. He has a family. So.
So I do think my age has been such a gift lately because it's allowed me to work with all types of people, makes it like safecracking to work with me for people.
All right. Well, I hope we talk to you again, because it's a great resource for us to have to kind of check in with these innovative policies you're trying out.
Absolutely. This is like therapy, so I appreciate that. Oh, good, good, good, good. We'll talk more about Mom.
Yeah, I need a whole two hours. Mom, seriously, thanks again so much for your time and I can't wait to talk to you again.
Sounds good, brother. Thank you guys for having me. All right. We got.