On the Ground Across America: How Is the Next Generation of Innovators Making an Impact?

Episode 03 - June 25, 2020

In these unprecedented times, we’re learning just how valuable creativity and innovation can be. Folks everywhere are having to think outside the box when faced with these new challenges. Whether it is a local restaurant shifting to contactless take-out orders and deliveries, or our families adjusting to a new normal of homebound activities — it truly is a time for creative problem solving and innovation. This week on Onward On-Air, host Jake Soberal chats with Ollen Douglass, Managing Director at Motley Fool Ventures, Sukhi Samra, Director of SEED Program in Stockton, and Tomas Vargas Jr., SEED Participant, to hear how these local innovators are finding unique ways to make an impact during the COVID19 pandemic.

Panelists


  • Ollen Douglass, Managing Director, Motley Fool Ventures

    Managing Director, Motley Fool Ventures

  • Sukhi Samra, Director of the SEED Program

    Director of the SEED Program

  • Tomas Vargas, Jr., SEED Participant

    SEED Participant

Transcript

OOA Ep3

[00:00:00] Jake Soberal: [00:00:00] Welcome to onward on air. My name is Jake Soberal. And I'm your host. If you're joining us by video, you can see that we're filming again from my home office. You've shifted here from our downtown set out of concerns for the spread of COVID in our immediate community. Nonetheless, we're glad you're here.
[00:00:29] One of the things we're going to dig in today is this issue of false choice. It seems that the world around us wants us to believe that we have to choose public health or the economy that we have to choose public safety or justice. I think we all know that the issues are far more nuanced than that.
[00:00:45] And we're really looking forward to digging into just that with our guests today, we'll be joined by Ollen Douglas, the managing director of Motley fool ventures, and a close friend of Bitwise. We'll also be joined by Suki Samra, the director of Stockton seed program that may sound familiar from a prior episode where we spoke to mayor Michael Tubbs, whose leadership caused the creation of the program.
[00:01:07] Suki is today leading one of the nation's first. Citywide basic income programs in Stockton seed program and not to stop too short. We're also going to visit with Tomas Vargas jr. A program participant in seed. We think these are really important conversations and we're excited that you're here to join us.
[00:01:26] Let's get started. So I'm, I'm in Fresno, California. You're in Virginia today? Yes.
[00:01:33] Ollen Douglass: [00:01:33] Yeah. Outside of Washington, DC. Yeah.
[00:01:35] Jake Soberal: [00:01:35] So just outside of Washington, D C. So our realities may be different, but as it relates to COVID, as it relates to this idea of reopening and whatever this next stage of work looks like.
[00:01:45] What's your read on the world right now? What do you see and where do you see us in this whole process? Acknowledging you're not a medical doctor, but, but you've got a lot of people whose day to day activities you influence.
[00:01:55] Ollen Douglass: [00:01:55] Exactly. I'm not a medical doctor, but it's scary to me, Jake, when we think about [00:02:00] the pandemic, nothing has changed.
[00:02:02] The virus is still, there is just as aggressive as it was before. It seems to be effecting larger groups of people. We don't have an anecdote and yet somehow think that that's. We get more and more concentrations of people with the reopenings that we're going to get a different outcome. And it's just nothing that suggests that the outcome would be different.
[00:02:21] I think we have some measures where wearing masks and social distancing, but we can see how people just are not subscribing to that. It worries me.
[00:02:30] Jake Soberal: [00:02:30] I feel the same. I mean, we, in Fresno, we had been humming along at somewhere between 20 and 50 cases a day until last week and we go. Up over 150 cases a day.
[00:02:41] So that's happening the same weekend that we reopening churches. My church did the same and I'm sitting here thinking like, we can't go back to church. What are we thinking? And it feels as though we are in this spot where we, we fall into this trap of, we say something out loud. For instance, in California's beginning, we kind of talked about may as we're reopened in may, we'll reopen in may and there were yes, these medical and the availability of PPE, the availability of contact tracing and testing that were these guidelines that we said, yes, those are attached, but we kind of started saying Mae out loud so much that.
[00:03:11] That took on its own meaning. And I think now we're in this same spot of, we said, you know, maybe mid month we'll open up churches. And that took on some, some sense of meaning. When in fact medically it's got no meaning at all, uh, nothing has changed as you say, how are you guys dealing with it at the Motley fool?
[00:03:27] I think I'm interested in the pragmatic, but I'm also interested in tying it to something that you said before that Thanksgiving, you sent people home and you wanted them to have a sense of peace about their job. Gotta to manage that same emotion as it relates to sense of peace around their, their public health
[00:03:43] Ollen Douglass: [00:03:43] or get to that Jake.
[00:03:43] But one of the things you said, maybe me being outside of DCU being in Fresno, like I'm not familiar with Fresno. I know as I sit here now I have three hospitals within two miles of me and I have. Probably 10 within 10 miles, we had an abundance of [00:04:00] medical support. I mean, there are many people in the country that have one hospital, 30 miles away and they have, I mean, they're surely under-resourced to deal with this.
[00:04:11] It's not as much worried about. The reason we have plenty of resources here, but what about the most of the country where they don't have that situation? And as far as Vermont, our CEO, Tom Gardner, he's been very much someone who has been focused on this, and I'm really, really concerned about how it's going to affect employees and when it comes back and I wasn't involved directly in these decisions.
[00:04:30] But what I understand, you know, one of the biggest concerns was childcare. Like how can you have. Parents coming back to work if it's not childcare. So, you know, until the schools opened up, it doesn't really make sense to ask parents to come back because what are they going to do with their kids do out of school?
[00:04:45] I think our plan is to start a gradual opening in September in phases and talk about how the Motley fool does things. They're going to be multiple phases and every three or four, the company basically asks people to self-select. What phase they want to be. And then there's a process that has to go through to kind of leveling the load.
[00:05:04] But for the most part, you're going to try to accommodate employees on their own terms. There's some people who are. Super anxious to get back to work because they just set up just doesn't quite work right there. Others that have realized that working remotely works really well for them. You know, I haven't anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour commute each way back and forth to work.
[00:05:24] I'm not in the first group of people raising their hand to go back to them, you know? And so that's one of the things that we have done is really. Think about the spectrum of employees and the situations they're in. And instead of trying to figure out every one saying here's some solutions. Think about your situation and just select yourself into the one that works best for you.
[00:05:44] Jake Soberal: [00:05:44] I'm interested in sort of a sub thread to that. And that is that most venture firms have some sort of an investing thesis and you all do too, but there are these categories forming up and a newer one of them is this idea of social impact. And that is a company that has both out-sized [00:06:00] commercial and outside.
[00:06:00] Impact returns and that that's not squarely your thesis. I don't think that most people would say Motley fool ventures is an impact investing fund. Nonetheless, you wind up investing in a lot of impact companies, which I think would be different than expectation for, you know, what people understand of the Motley fool.
[00:06:19] How did that happen and how does what you're focused on wind up intersecting with causing good in the world. In addition to financial returns,
[00:06:27] Ollen Douglass: [00:06:27] Yeah, that's a great question, Jay, can we get that often? Like, are you an impact investor? And this starts where we talk about are our overall North stars there, make your portfolio reflect your best vision for our future.
[00:06:37] And people say, am I, it sounds really nice. Are you an impact fund? And he would say, well, no, but I think every fund is an impact fund. The only difference is how much they care about what they're doing about the down, you know, about the implications of what they're doing. And so if you, if you want to take a.
[00:06:52] Exclusive impact on profits without caring about what impact it has on the world. And you are an impact investor, probably a negative impact investor. You have to have one. And so for us, we believe that the path to greatest returns. Comes from being founder friendly, comes from having a stakeholder approach where it's more of a win, win, where you care about your customers, your co-investors and your portfolio companies, where you're trying to create a winning environment for everyone.
[00:07:22] And it's a longterm view that, that idea of the future being, you know, your best vision for our future. Well, when I think about the future, I want you there, Jake. I want to be there. I want women to be there when people of color to be there. There's all kinds of elements that kind of come into that naturally.
[00:07:38] So we don't have to call ourselves impact and we're not trying to be cute about it. It's just that we're approaching it as if it's the norm. You know, think about what we say to ourselves is let's pretend we're good at venture capital, right. Just for a bit, but then we're good at it. And we have this situation, we could just go out investing in companies.
[00:07:58] And at some point had to [00:08:00] sit back and say, Oh my God, what did we fund? You know, it's like, I can't believe we actually did that. Or you can ask yourself that question upfront. And avoid it in the end and that's kind of what we're doing. It's like we want to invest in companies where we can support them to help, to create the world that we think we want to live in.
[00:08:17] And we want our children and our grandchildren, and that's our focus. And everybody, technically it's a tech enabled company. We are looking to invest in companies that. Drive scale efficiency over say access and those companies, a lot of times, particularly, um, in the scale and access categories tend to bring in some of the more traditional impact type companies that we invest in.
[00:08:38] But we're, we are fairly broad and that's intentionally, I mean, we, we call it the Motley fool. We kind of. We need to flag that we're not going to be the same, right, right. In the name. So,
[00:08:49] Jake Soberal: [00:08:49] yeah, I remember the first meeting I had with Lawrence Greenburg from your team. And he referred to his colleagues at the Motley fool as morons and I, I was kind of taken aback, but it was, I learned later a very affectionate use of the word moron.
[00:09:04] Ollen Douglass: [00:09:04] Well, I think it's fools. I mean, we laugh at Lyons cause he calls us cause we are more Ryan's compared to him, but, but fools, we call people fools. But the capital app is very, it's a term of endearment.
[00:09:16] Jake Soberal: [00:09:16] I don't know if I've ever shared with you. The first time we met with Lawrence, we were in, we had started here in Fresno and an investor in, in Boston that we'd been trying to get a meeting with.
[00:09:27] I said, I can meet with you in the morning at 10:00 AM. And it was a physical meeting. And in that moment, a couple of things became clear. One that investor did not know where we lived. And two, we needed to find an overnight flight to Boston. Uh, so we found an overnight flight to Boston. We show up at his office at 10:00 AM.
[00:09:44] I literally did not go well, but we'd flown overnight and we're there. And the thing that didn't go well is not that the person wasn't fine, they were fine, except for the fact that didn't invest, but he only had 20 minutes. He didn't ever say that. And so we're sitting there 20 minutes and we're leave and it's like, Oh [00:10:00] man, this is, this might not have been our best decision.
[00:10:02] And in the meeting is when he learned that we'd flown from Fresno. I get an email back after that meeting from Lawrence, who we'd been going back and forth. And he's like, we'd love to schedule a trip for you guys to get out here. But we know it's a big imposition. We'd just love to meet in person. And I emailed Lawrence back.
[00:10:17] I said, how about tonight? I figured we're on the East coast. We got to make one of these meetings work. And so we, we flew down to, uh, to DC and met Lawrence of all things for Boba tea. Uh, uh, like eight o'clock at night.
[00:10:32] Ollen Douglass: [00:10:32] And,
[00:10:34] Jake Soberal: [00:10:34] uh, it was pretty immediate that, that from the jump there, there was an emotional connection.
[00:10:38] Uh, and that was what we found to be the most important thing with investors that fit or didn't fit with us and have been deeply thankful for that connection ever since. And where that I think translated to. To you because you weren't in that first meeting is, is I think that one of the things that resonated for you about Bitwise, if I'm right, is the love of Fresno.
[00:10:59] And not because you, you had any particular affection for Fresno, but because it was relatable to you in the way of your love for, for Baltimore, where did that come from for you? What, what is the connection point to Baltimore? Uh, and I want to use Baltimore as a lens here in our last little bit of some things going on in the world, but, but how'd, you fall in love with that city.
[00:11:17] Ollen Douglass: [00:11:17] I was born in Baltimore, you know, and it's always been, it's an interesting city. It's much more complex than the division of it externally. Um, it's, it's been a very warm and nurturing place for me. Uh, it has its challenges like lots of big cities had, but I've been able to see, you know, all kind of all sides of it.
[00:11:35] And it kind of always feels like home. So those folks who have an affinity for smaller towns and really. Want to get a chance to, um, to make a difference there that that kind of resonates with me. And then when you were doing in midwives and the way that you were approaching a problem, the way I looked at it, wherever is the real estate side.
[00:11:54] Where was the training side? Where was the, the job side? I mean, those are things that lots of people were trying [00:12:00] to. Tackle independently, but you always ran into a lot of friction when you tried to put the pieces together, you know, the real estate side, trying to find a tenant, you know, you know, you have the tenants, having them find a performance.
[00:12:12] If they employee it's always a friction. What we liked about midwives is although it is complicated, you were trying to solve an ecosystem problem, not just an element of it. And I found that fascinating. And Jake, I would say for you, I don't know if I know another company that's been more successful in.
[00:12:29] Cold calling BCS. That's how we met you. I think airman just dropped us a note and we were like, Oh, okay.
[00:12:37] Jake Soberal: [00:12:37] I think that's exactly right. It's also how we met the lead of our series, a rich Dennis, and a lot of other people in the round for us, the traditional, the textbook answer has rarely worked. Uh, but just sort of being a bull in a China shop about getting to people has worked.
[00:12:52] All right. It worked out well here. I think. With that, with that Baltimore lens. One of the things that we're experiencing in Fresno, that I wonder if you're seeing in Baltimore or you're seeing in DC or elsewhere, is there appears to be in this moment, a false choice being put in front of people. And that is that you can choose good public health, or you can choose to have the economy work.
[00:13:13] You don't give both. And that feels. Really off to me. And I wonder if you're seeing that same thing and what your reaction to it is.
[00:13:22] Ollen Douglass: [00:13:22] Yeah. I agree with you, Jake. I do not agree that it's an either or I think that, you know, public health is foundational for a good economy. And again, it's that timing difference that we talked about report people.
[00:13:34] You may not be able to immediately connect the dots, but they are absolutely connected. There is no sustainable economic activity without a foundation of good public health. The people who are on the public health side are your customers that you have future employees, the people who make that community vibrant.
[00:13:52] If you don't have good public health, your economic, your ability to generate sustainable economic activity is just not there
[00:13:58] Jake Soberal: [00:13:58] for me. And you talk about the [00:14:00] sandwich shop earlier. We think in Fresno of, of the restaurants we love, and even if it is a wonderful restaurant line out the door every day for lunch and or dinner, That restaurant was having a hard time keeping his door's open before COVID.
[00:14:11] Now you're talking about reopening it at half capacity, perhaps more staff to make it work. It feels as though we're rushing back to something that isn't there any longer and that piece of it, what we're risking doesn't feel worth the inferior dining experience.
[00:14:29] Ollen Douglass: [00:14:29] No. It's like, I mean, your typical restaurant structurally is not set up who work in a post COVID world where you're still dealing with kind of a social separation.
[00:14:42] It's, it's more than just a table. As I was watching a story this weekend about the restaurant owner who opened and then closed again, because while he was able to separate the guests, the guests would come in with mass, they would take them off. Cause you have to take them off to eat and they would not put them back on the whole evening.
[00:14:56] He was costly sending his workers into that environment to serve those folks. And then they'd go back into a kitchen, which is not designed for spacious activity. Tons of people jammed into a kitchen to prepare the foods. It's like everything about a restaurant. Is kind of contrary to this world that we're in and he ended up closing it back down for the safety of his employees, because that's social again, that, that direct time and the economics of a half full restaurant where the danger is still at a hundred percent for the workers that are coming in.
[00:15:29] And to your point, if you need more workers, that's the worst thing you want to do is to cram more people. Into the back of a restaurant. We're not talking about the eating area. It's about all the activity that you don't see. That's crammed into this small space. There's going to have to be significant changes in how things are, how things are done
[00:15:44] Jake Soberal: [00:15:44] now that, that seems right.
[00:15:46] Do you think that the economy culture in general actually has the resilience to tolerate a, what seems likely a reopening reclosing reopening reclosing how damaging is [00:16:00] that?
[00:16:01] Ollen Douglass: [00:16:01] Unfortunately, uh, you know, I think it will be very much and, you know, not to involve for me, honestly, every conversation ends up going here, but it will be similar to the George Floyd situation.
[00:16:11] There's, there's something horrible that's happening that. People are able to ignore for whatever reason and the same, similar to George, would you see him get a, see a public execution? It becomes hard to ignore it. This latter phase, this latter stage of phase one, or if you want to call it phase two of Kobe, if we don't get a hold of it, there will be prominent people that start to die from it.
[00:16:32] And then when it becomes too big to ignore, then we will have another approach. I think people are crossing their fingers for a vaccine and for something that antibody is something that really helps us too. To deal with it. And I think that's really going to be the trigger for when there's a chance of things going back to normal when there's a real cure for it.
[00:16:52] But until then, I'm afraid that there's going to be a greater death toll.
[00:16:55] Jake Soberal: [00:16:55] I want to pick up on the thread of George Floyd. I'm obviously not of the black community, but been fortunate to be surrounded by. Really thoughtful wise people from that community, yourself included. I'm, I'm interested to hear just how that's hit you and how you're internalizing that.
[00:17:14] How, how is the world doing and reacting to it? Just generally your thoughts?
[00:17:19] Ollen Douglass: [00:17:19] It's just a wide range of emotions that I feel all the time, uh, from the beginning, seeing it in to seeing the heart and everyone sees, but also as a black person, you, you spend so much time. Police brutality has been part of.
[00:17:35] Yeah. Being black person for as long as I've known and, you know, but it was almost like this open secret, and people could always say that it wasn't there. And then that does it, despite the statistics and other things, it's always easy to kind of ignore it and do something about the combination of COVID and this happening made it something that couldn't be ignored.
[00:17:54] And then once people were open to the idea that. That this type of brutality and [00:18:00] injustice was possible. It became a lot easier to see how widespread it is. So there's this, it's weird putting a little bit of a catharsis in a census. No, I'm not crazy. You know, I knew he had a conversation inside demolish.
[00:18:13] We were saying. I asked the question and someone else in a white, a white counterpart, they hit the same question about, and I can't, it wasn't, it wasn't the George Ford killer, but it was kind of these negative interactions with the police. And the question was, is this common? And I was like, Yeah, this is common, right?
[00:18:31] And she was like, this isn't common. Right. You know, because you don't really, you're not exposed. So you don't really know how often it happens. And, you know, you tend to think that you tend to try to convince you just because you want it to be true, that this isn't all about racism and institutional inequities, but, um, that's not necessarily the case, you know?
[00:18:51] So it's, it's, it's been a lot of time thinking about it, how to affect change. I think a lot of people now are. Hopeful with all the attention that there can be some substantive change. There've been a lot of people coming out, showing support in multiple ways. I think there's a general sense now of anxiety.
[00:19:09] And to see if these promises for change are actually going to be. Followed through some people have done some things that have been very oppressive. Some other people have done things that felt just the word of the day, performative if you will. So it remains, it remains to see how much change, but it's a very complicated problem.
[00:19:29] Jake Soberal: [00:19:29] And you have, you have children? Yes. I
[00:19:31] Ollen Douglass: [00:19:31] have three sons.
[00:19:32] Jake Soberal: [00:19:32] How old are they today?
[00:19:33] Ollen Douglass: [00:19:33] One is 24, 21 in 19. Repad talks about how to deal with police starting when they were. 17 starting at the time when they were going out without their parents is a time you teach your kids about how to deal with the police. I mean, it's just part of growing up before it's, before I talked to him about sex, I talked to him about police, you know,
[00:19:56] Jake Soberal: [00:19:56] and it's so foreign to the sort of just societal [00:20:00] privilege that my skin color allowed me to grow up in.
[00:20:02] What does that look like? What are you telling your sons?
[00:20:04] Ollen Douglass: [00:20:04] I guess the basic theme is that it's not the world that you live in in a general way. You can't talk back to the police, right? You can't, you have to be careful what you do. You have to don't give them any reason to be aggressive towards you.
[00:20:21] Answer their questions. You don't do anything. If you get nervous, you call me. It's a weird dynamic to be able to teach your child that if. The police arrive. I need to give you someone to call. Who's not the police, like the people that you should be able to call. Exactly the people that you can call because you're looking for protection from them.
[00:20:40] And it's interesting. I think, I don't know of any black male who doesn't have. Stories that they can tell, have run ins with the police that didn't necessarily, obviously they don't end up in the type of brutality we've seen over the last few weeks. And that's if it happened forever, but it's not obvious, but yeah.
[00:20:57] They make you nervous, you know? Yeah.
[00:20:59] Jake Soberal: [00:20:59] Yeah. I can imagine zooming to the other end of the story, running a venture fund, being the CFO of the Motley fool, a major corporation with huge successes and being a black man is not common. How do we open those doors? How do we do better in bridging that gap?
[00:21:16] Ollen Douglass: [00:21:16] It's interesting question.
[00:21:17] And I think about it. Um, I would say there are not a lot of black VCs, and if you look at my journey to being it, there's nothing that would have suggested a lots of venture capital. It's very much a clubby. I didn't go to the right school. I don't have the right parents and or connections, you know, it's, I'm not in the right even industry, if you will.
[00:21:38] What allowed me to get to where I was is just the thing that we're trying to do as a venture fund is to look past some of those superficial markers that are used in venture capital, where you live, when you're in the Bay area or not what school you graduated from and look beyond those superficial markers, to the qualities that underline those.
[00:21:57] And once you separate them from the markers, you can [00:22:00] find becomes easier. To find the kind of people that you're looking for from a diverse group of people. And that's one of the reasons why our venture fund is different. The Motley fool was their very first fund. So first time fun family, you know, this is our first fund is going to be the managing director is going to be a first time venture capitalist.
[00:22:17] Oh. And he's a black male, right. It's I guess a lot of, uh, that's a lot of new right. And so we decided that, you know, when a lot of people are, have to be creative, you think about what your assets are, what your skills are, what your advantages are, and you just have to lean into those. And so we launched a fund where the investors came from the Motley fool university.
[00:22:39] We don't have any, we don't have any institutional investors in our fund. And it's not that we didn't want any. There was just nothing about the institutional market that would suggest that they would have any interest in this fund at all. And so why not talk to the people who have understood the Motley fool's philosophy, who understood Tom and Dave's talent in picking good people and finding folks who could do things well, and let's see what we can do with our, within our community.
[00:23:05] And I think some of the larger answers to what's going on. I think there's a similar thread where it's, it's gotta be. You got to find our community and that's not just racial. And it's like, who would, or people who really believe in equity and justice and are willing to take a chance only by being first.
[00:23:26] But if you look through it and not really taking that much of a chance, but we need to find our tribe and. Move forward.
[00:23:32] Jake Soberal: [00:23:32] Yeah, I think that's so good. Or when I, I could talk to you for another hour. I know you said you were in to end, first of all, thank you. And this conversation has been so good. I always appreciate you vote with your wisdom.
[00:23:43] And then the smile always makes my day. Uh, but just thanks for making the time this morning.
[00:23:47] Ollen Douglass: [00:23:47] And Jake, thank you very much for inviting me. I've really enjoyed this and we should do it more often.
[00:23:52] Jake Soberal: [00:23:52] I am constantly appreciative of the measured wisdom that I get from my friend Olin Douglas. Most convicting piece of that conversation was hearing the [00:24:00] very different sorts of conversations he has to have with his young boys as compared to the sorts of things that my dad needed to share with me.
[00:24:07] Nonetheless, I think it highlights the very different sorts and versions of America that Olin and his boys are experiencing as compared to what so many of us grow up in. And I think it highlights also the work left to be done around racial equity in our country. We're going to turn for the next portion of our time together to a conversation that we got to have with Suki Samra, who leads the seed program in Stockton, as I shared at the top, you might remember the name of that program because we talked about it first with mayor Michael Tubbs.
[00:24:37] In our second episode, now we're going to take a deeper dive and hear from Suki about the nuances of creating that program, executing it and what she hopes he can accomplish. Maybe in a next iteration, let's get started with Suki.
[00:24:53] Economic empowerment demonstration. Yes. So tell me just to, to start off what that is.
[00:25:00] Sukhi Samra: [00:25:00] Okay. So seed is the nation's first male led guaranteed income demonstration. In February of 2019, we started giving 125 randomly selected stock Tonia and $500 a month for 24 months. So ending in January of 2021.
[00:25:14] Unconditional cash, no strings attached, no work requirements.
[00:25:17] Jake Soberal: [00:25:17] If you would, because most people that are watching this will have never been to Stockton, perhaps their picture of it as an exciting mayor, perhaps their picture of it is on their way someplace else, which are all of the ways that we sort of get lumped in here in Fresno.
[00:25:29] Also, if you would paint a picture of, of Stockton for us.
[00:25:32] Sukhi Samra: [00:25:32] Sure. So we still like to say the stock is a microcosm of America and of the rest of the country. We are the most diverse city in the country. We majority minority city. We were at one point at the largest Filipino population outfit in the Philippines, we have the oldest Sikh temple in North America.
[00:25:48] We are about an hour and a half away from Silicon Valley, but a world of difference in terms of just like employment and income. We are historically a city that's really struggled. Um, in 2009, hit really, really [00:26:00] hard by the recession and the housing crisis. The first city, before Detroit to declare bankruptcy today, things are recovering and we're starting to leverage our assets, including our diversity, including our port and including our.
[00:26:11] Our ability to be an agricultural hub, but in terms of the economy, we're still really struggling about one in four of our residents live in poverty. National median income was at 46,000. This was before coven, which is about 20 cable of the state's median income agents in the nation for child poverty.
[00:26:27] So really just still reeling and recovering. From the effects of the last recession. And obviously these factors will continue to play out as we're recovering from the pandemic.
[00:26:36] Jake Soberal: [00:26:36] Yeah. And with no requirement that it be tied to two world saving endeavors at all, what do you love about Stockton?
[00:26:43] Sukhi Samra: [00:26:43] The diversity?
[00:26:43] I think just being able to walk through the streets and seeing folks of all different, not only all different races and ethnicities, but also different ages, the food is really good because of the diversity. Yeah. I think just the fact that we are a microcosm of America in terms of our people just makes you feel very at home there.
[00:27:01] Jake Soberal: [00:27:01] Yeah. And so I want to dig into your immediate work. You, when you think about seed, which is at its core, a basic income program, that is a four. Most of my lifetime been viewed as a, as a pretty far of center idea. And of course the moment has changed that, but that wasn't necessarily the case when you guys launched seed.
[00:27:22] And certainly if you were asking yourself where in America might we try basic income absent Michael Tubbs. You're not thinking about Stockton. Tell me about how the origin stories of the program, some of the challenges and early motivations.
[00:27:36] Sukhi Samra: [00:27:36] Sure. So, as you said, when we first launched seed, we definitely did not expect for guaranteed income to gain as much traction as it has.
[00:27:42] We launched back in October of 2017. And at that moment we were like, maybe we'll be lucky if we get one or two pieces of media coverage. And obviously that's, hasn't been the case over the past. Um, almost two years now. We've, you know, we've been lucky to gain so much national attention. In terms of sort of the Genesis of the idea.
[00:27:59] It [00:28:00] really, we at Cedar really rooted in the civil rights history and the social justice history of the idea. So recognizing that, yes, the idea is, is the oldest, the nation itself, but also in the 1960s, it was being, Cedar was being called upon by dr. Martin Luther King by the black Panthers, by the national welfare rights organization, as a tool for racial equity and racial and economic equity.
[00:28:20] So when mayor Tubbs was inaugurated in 2017, He knew that he wanted to address poverty and he knew that guaranteed income was one way to do so. And we were really lucky to then cross to just meet the economic security project, which is a network of thinkers who are really dedicated to remaking the economy for the middle class.
[00:28:38] And we're looking for a city to pilot, a guaranteed income in. So this combination of mayor Tubbs being the super charismatic leader, as well as the fact that again, thoughts and really is a microcosm of America. So, if something can work here, it can work anywhere. Um, just the combination of those factors, ESP decided to invest a million dollars.
[00:28:55] That was the initial seed investment for the program. We were able to fundraise some more and then February, 2019, we started giving out our disbursements.
[00:29:02] Jake Soberal: [00:29:02] That's outstanding. And I think you guys have been super thoughtful in the way that you went about selecting people and sort of designing the program.
[00:29:10] Would you share a little bit about how it works and beginning with how folks get into the program and then how they experience it?
[00:29:16] Sukhi Samra: [00:29:16] Yeah. So our entire recipient selection and our program design is heavily rooted in community engagement. I think, especially when you look at communities like Stockton, like Fresno that have a history of being disinvested in and of people being Guinea pigs, we really wanted to reverse that and make sure that seed as a project with the community, not on the community.
[00:29:34] So we launched in October of 2017 and then we immediately went into a nine month community design process. During which we held town halls. We met with residents, we met with elected officials and we asked them the questions of how do you want people to be selected? Who do you think should be eligible from there?
[00:29:50] We heard sort of common design themes and ideals around seeds, recipient, selection, process being fair. It maximizing our ability to learn, and it captained the [00:30:00] diversity of Stockton. So the way that we operationalize that was that it was going to be a random selection. So we, our research studies, we're also doing RCT at the same time.
[00:30:08] And that folks, there was only two eligibility criteria. People had to be 18 years of age or older and live in a neighborhood at or below Stockton's median household income of $46,000. From there, our research team identified 4,200 qualifying neighborhoods or qualifying addresses. And then we sent them letters of the people who responded to those letters.
[00:30:28] 125 were selected, randomly selected to receive the $5 a month. And then the rest are put in our control group
[00:30:34] Jake Soberal: [00:30:34] in that work now. So you are some period of years. Into it. Tell us some of the stories that stand out as most descriptive, most encouraging, perhaps most problematic from the program.
[00:30:45] Sukhi Samra: [00:30:45] Sure. Yeah.
[00:30:46] So whereabouts we're almost 18 months into our disbursement. We were originally scheduled to end in July. Now we'll be ending in January of 2021. I think the number one thing for us that we've heard anecdotally in terms of stories is just the space that people have, the breathing room that people have to be able to be better parents, better children, better spouses, and just show up the way that folks who don't experience financial security are able to the interview with Tomas.
[00:31:11] Tomas is one of the folks that we, a historian is one that we share very often before COVID-19 happened. You had leveraged seed to be able to get a new job at the airport that was going to provide him with benefits. And that would. Allow him to spend more time with his children. He cites that as one of the best things that's happened to him over the past 18 months is just being able to be a better father.
[00:31:31] We have another recipient sonnei who, when she at the very beginning of seed was unemployed, was participating in the gig economy as a. Driving for door dash, um, driving for Uber. And then she was able to leprosy to get full time employment at Tesla. And now it has, you know, the full time salary as well as benefits.
[00:31:50] And in addition to that talks about having, because of speed being able to restore her relationship with her children. Because there's less financial stress. She has a better marriage and that's, you know, those are the things that [00:32:00] we hear over and over again, people being able to buy dentures for the first time and finally feeling confident in their smiles, people being able to pay, to take their children to prom, which is not something that they would have been able to do before people getting into children, braces, just, you know, all of these things that I think a lot of us take for granted are recipients.
[00:32:17] Finally having the first opportunity to do that because of something as small as $500,
[00:32:21] Jake Soberal: [00:32:21] the things of poverty that become these blockers to enjoying your fullest life and getting to your fullest self, some of them are big, but many of them are small and there are just so many of them. And one of the things I was struck by in the conversation with Tomas was he defies a lot of our.
[00:32:38] Traditional notions of poverty. Here is an individual who is, uh, yes. Participating in the seed program. He had worked to the point of getting a job that he was very excited about and then was sort of like, Just completely leveled off of the spot by a pandemic. And he was not hopeless. He was not resigned to going back to a lesser job.
[00:32:59] What are the things in that you've seen and encountered in seed that would be two most surprising about humans living in poverty.
[00:33:08] Sukhi Samra: [00:33:08] It's exactly what you're saying. Tomas defies the image of poverty because he was working. I think we have this. Stereotype in our country that if you're poor, it's because you're lazy.
[00:33:17] If you're poor it's because you're not working, you're not willing to find a job. And that's just not true. Our data and our stories tell a completely different story, which is that for the most part, people are working. It's the economy that isn't Tomas was even before he was able to leverage. The seed money to get a new job for himself.
[00:33:35] He talks about hustling and doing every single side job that he could to try and make ends meet. In addition to the part time job that he was working, that case is true for a number of our recipients. If you look at our employment data, about 43% of people are working full or part time, 11% of folks are working as caregivers.
[00:33:51] Those who aren't working. It's because they can't, they're tired or they're disabled. And then about 11% are unemployed, but looking for work. And again, just really countering [00:34:00] the narrative that people aren't poor because they're lazy people aren't making ends meet because jobs just aren't paying enough because we have, you know, prioritized corporate protections over work it protections.
[00:34:11] And that's really the story of our economy over the past couple of decades. So how do we reverse that? So that we're really putting people first. And then I think too, the number one thing that we're trying to do at seed is not only advance the case for guaranteed income, but also to really force us to think critically about the stereotypes that we hold about those who live in poverty, especially the gender stereotypes and the racialized stereotypes.
[00:34:31] And so for us, it's really about lifting up the stories of that. All of the diversity of Stockton. Just showing them no one race is more inclined to be poor, to be lazy. It's poverty is something that affects everyone. It's a very American issue. It's not something that any one race is more likely to experience because of their race.
[00:34:51] Jake Soberal: [00:34:51] I think as people listen to this, they'll be deeply interested, not just in the stories, but, but also whether it's working. You shared some of the stories of creating space for people to be their fullest self, but from an economic standpoint, I assume that there is something, some baked in goals around folks achieving higher levels of economic attainment.
[00:35:12] What is the data telling you? Is it telling us anything yet around whether seed is moving folks up, any economic ladder?
[00:35:19] Sukhi Samra: [00:35:19] Sure. So it's not telling us that yet. So as I said, we are a research study with our key questions being around. How does it. Receiving guaranteed income impact income volatility, which is defined as the amount of income fluctuation month per month, that American households are facing, which we know has increased over the past couple of decades because of a decrease in worker protections because of a rise in the gig economy.
[00:35:41] Um, so looking at how does getting five hours a month stabilize that income volatility. And then how does that in turn impact your physical wellbeing and your emotional wellbeing? Does it make you happier, less stressed, less anxious? And then within that also looking at the ways in which income changes, because people are able to get new jobs.
[00:35:58] So we will have answers to [00:36:00] those questions once at the end of seed. Which again, dispersements end January, 2021.
[00:36:04] Jake Soberal: [00:36:04] Yeah. Certainly looking forward to that is this, this program, this bit of light, a something uniquely possible in Stockton, or what does the, what might this look like at scale? Is this something that we could imagine a federal rollout does?
[00:36:20] Sukhi Samra: [00:36:20] So seed is meant to be just a sort of proof of concept. We recognize that in 2017, the country wasn't there yet. Wasn't ready to implement a guaranteed income. But I think the pandemic has really accelerated the moment for a guaranteed income. And it's definitely something that can now be implemented, has always been able to be implemented federally.
[00:36:39] But I think now more and more folks are starting to imagine it and sort of accept it as something that could happen. And there's a couple of pieces of legislation that are currently being, that have been proposed including most recently, Senator Harris's that she put forward a proposal with ed Markey.
[00:36:54] Senator Markey as well as Senator standards that would provide folks $2,000 a month until the end of the crisis. So it's more increasingly so entering the federal conversation. And our goal at seed is to continue to push that so that we realize that the pilot works and soften pending what the research says, but it's really a conversation that we should be having nationally, especially given the fact that the pandemic has revealed that so many Americans are just one.
[00:37:20] Pandemic away from complete financial ruin and that if we're spending so much to bail out corporations, we should be doing just the same for the folks who are actually working in the economy.
[00:37:29] Jake Soberal: [00:37:29] I think what you all are doing is, is so important, not just to Stockton, but for all of us stepping back, you're trying something that's really hard.
[00:37:37] It hasn't been done in quite this way before. It's not considered the norm in American society and you're experiencing success and notoriety. And I know that at least for my part, having a ride at at least that spot with Bitwise, I begin to see and become fixated more on the, what we're missing. And be deeply frustrated by that.
[00:37:58] And whether that's the [00:38:00] primary focus for you or not. I wonder what do you, what frustrates you about the program? What do you wish you could do better or would you do differently where you just start over?
[00:38:07] Sukhi Samra: [00:38:07] My biggest frustration with the program is that is our size. We're only 125 recipients. And then the city of 315,000, that's heartbreaking because anytime there's a new media piece, anytime, you know, mayor sends out a new tweet, our inbox starts flooding with folks who could really use the $500 a month.
[00:38:25] And so for us, I think the next logical step is really pushing us and amplifying our advocacy efforts and making sure that we're pushing our state and national leaders to recognize that. A guaranteed income and income floor is it just has to be part of our new social contract. It has to be part of the promise that we make to each other.
[00:38:45] And it has to be embedded in our social fabric as we recover from the pandemic, because just the current financial situation that most Americans are in just isn't reasonable, it's not acceptable, and we need to do better as a country. So I think just knowing that we're such a small pilot, but that we have the funding to scale this at a federal level.
[00:39:02] And that it hasn't been done yet. It's definitely the most frustrating aspect, but that's, again, we're going to continue to push through our stories and our data, and then by leveraging mayor Tubbs his position for this to happen.
[00:39:13] Jake Soberal: [00:39:13] Yeah. I think that's really well said. I, when I think of Stockton and this is heavily owed to you and to mayor Tubbs, I don't think of a city that's getting it.
[00:39:22] Perfect. I don't think of a city that is done or, or close to it in its process, but I think of just such wonderful political courage and that is, uh, as you know, all too unique. So I want to thank you for taking the time to visit with us today.
[00:39:36] Sukhi Samra: [00:39:36] Thank you for featuring feet on your work.
[00:39:38] Jake Soberal: [00:39:38] I so admire what's going on with the seed program in Stockton and hearing about it from Suki and last week, mayor Tubbs is a really, really interesting perspective.
[00:39:47] But as important, if not more important is visiting with folks who are experiencing the program, benefiting from it, struggling through the realities that leads to them participating in that program. So we took the time to dig in with Tomas Vargas, [00:40:00] jr. Tomasa is a father he's an aspiring professional, and he's somebody dealing with the very difficult realities of COVID-19.
[00:40:08] Let's join our conversation with Tomas now.
[00:40:15] So tell me a little bit about you. You grew up, you said you went to Franklin there in Stockton. Tell me a little about where you've been, where you're going,
[00:40:20] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:40:20] where I've been in Stockton. I've been working on trying to get a good stable career basically, but after this whole COVID-19 and it kind of like stopped me in my tracks.
[00:40:30] I was, uh, originally was supposed to be starting a new job, right. When this happened. And is that the airline? So it kind of like, pause me.
[00:40:36] Jake Soberal: [00:40:36] So tell me about the job at the airline. What, what was the job? What did you have to do to be ready for it?
[00:40:40] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:40:40] And while I was, uh, I was going to be a supervisor at the, um, WFS I supposed to be a supervisor for their cargo late.
[00:40:47] I was supposed to get my orientation the day before we heard about COVID. And then, uh, I haven't heard from anybody since
[00:40:54] Jake Soberal: [00:40:54] that's the airport for those that don't know in Stockton. Yes. Yes. Yes. And, and, and what did you have to do to prepare for that job? What was the skill set? What would that have looked like?
[00:41:02] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:41:02] Had, well, to get prepared, to get the job, I had to do the whole background check. I had to do the TSA background check and everything, and I had to go through their orientation while that's I was supposed to be starting to get set up for it. I just had to have the background, like the experience. I got that experience.
[00:41:16] Luckily working at ups, I was supervisor there also. So I was trying to change this in from one logistics and other cargo logistics. It was like an upgrade and you're working in Stockton.
[00:41:26] Jake Soberal: [00:41:26] Got it. So there's a lot of talk about what's going on with the economy and jobs and tends to be at like 30,000 feet.
[00:41:32] We're talking about, you know, things that in the hundreds of thousands of workers and what's happening in a city, What's it feel like on the ground. I mean, you are, you've got a family and you don't have the job that you thought you'd have. How are you dealing with that? What's it feel like? What do you see next?
[00:41:46] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:41:46] Luckily, I was able to get into unemployment when I could, even though I didn't want to use my unemployment, I'd rather be working and everything with the whole, like. Testing and COVID going around. Uh, don't really see it. Like it's they say it on the news. I watch the news everyday. Try to get [00:42:00] a grasp on what they're saying.
[00:42:01] That's supposed to be happening. Don't see testing. I don't see a real like safety measures being taken. That's the only reason I haven't really stepped back into the field. What's going to be happening for me is hopefully when I see more testing or better testing, I can sit there and make that choice when it happens.
[00:42:14] Right now I don't see it. So I'm just thinking back.
[00:42:16] Jake Soberal: [00:42:16] Yeah. And I think you're saying something that resonates with me is, is it doesn't matter sort of what people are saying. I don't feel super safe going back to the supermarket or going to the store or going to work. Um, what's that like to be in a spot where you want to get back to work, but you don't feel like it's the right decision from a health standpoint.
[00:42:32] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:42:32] It's kinda scary. Um, it's kinda scary in the sense that, uh, the reason why. I'm in the position is because of other people's I guess, responsibilities. They're not taking for being safe and everything. And you don't know if the next man's going to be doing it, or, you know, like with the kids, I don't know if the parent's going to take care of their kid.
[00:42:48] Like I do my kids and the whole mask and how they're going to be. It's about the same as work area.
[00:42:54] Jake Soberal: [00:42:54] Yeah. I know that I was, uh, I shared that I have three kids and I was explaining to my middle daughter trying and trying to explain what's a pandemic. Like all of a sudden for her a pandemic is this boogeyman in the closet.
[00:43:05] And I, and is it going to get me? What, how are you talking to your kids about it?
[00:43:09] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:43:09] My year old daughter, my seven year old son, they actually checking the road. They're hanging out with tasers. They know where their face masks, they wash their hands. They have hand sanitizer. Every time they go in out of the car or wherever they're at social distancing, they kind of get it, but don't get it.
[00:43:22] They're kind of like, they'd rather be around their friends and be playing with their friends instead of just like staying away from each other. They know what dependent mic is. I broke it down to them. What it was. I showed them the, uh, What happened with SARS then what happened with the other pandemics?
[00:43:35] So they, uh, my kids are real, like quick to understand things. It's not that hard to explain
[00:43:40] Jake Soberal: [00:43:40] it. So amidst all of this, you're in this spot of, of wanting to time going back to work to a spot when it's healthy, wanting to be in a job, where are you turning? Where are you looking for resources to find what might be next and how you get through this moment?
[00:43:53] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:43:53] It actually, I mean, because I was already ready for this other job and I was already prepared to go into this other job. The resources I'm looking or [00:44:00] like online, uh, recruiting places like ZipRecruiter and stuff like that. But, um, the fields aren't looking good, the pay is not there anymore. Like the, uh, the jobs that they're having that are open they're low pay and they're not worth anything like there, you're going to go there just to be a test dummy, basically.
[00:44:16] I mean, uh, you, you don't know if they're going to be safe. You don't know if they're going to take the right measures just to keep you safe. And then you have to take that back home to your kids. That's not worth it
[00:44:24] Jake Soberal: [00:44:24] when you're looking at these jobs. I mean, I think I know the answer to this question, but.
[00:44:29] Are you looking for a job that's going to be a big step up. Are you looking at jobs that would be a reduction in earnings to what you're accustomed to? Where, where, what sort of band are you expecting to be in?
[00:44:38] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:44:38] I'm like, I'm looking right in the middle of it really. Cause I mean, I don't want to pay underpay for a job that I'm doing, but then again, I don't want to step back what I already achieved because I mean, it's Stockton to become a warehouse men, a forklift operator, and then become a supervisor.
[00:44:52] I mean, I stood in that field and I've been. Jumping back and forth from supervisors, uh, positions. I want to stay in management, but there's openings in management. Really. Everything's pretty much check or they're cutting short of what they need. It
[00:45:04] Jake Soberal: [00:45:04] sounds like you're staying pretty engaged and around what's going on in the news.
[00:45:08] Who are you looking to locally and maybe regionally or nationally for information as a leader? I mean, is it the mayor, is that the governor is the president.
[00:45:17] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:45:17] Lisa, I need some has been doing pretty good with his, uh, Openly speaking, I guess I haven't really seen him lately on the news, but I mean, he was given a lot of advice, but the condemn Dick was really strong.
[00:45:27] NBC CNN, uh, anything that's online that I could catch up day to day, uh, the notifications from them. Uh, and just try to take my own aspect of what I think they're trying to say, read between the lines because I'm, can't really trust the news. I don't think. There's so many different back and forth. And then just like the Senate, I mean, the thing that's going on in the Senate and everything, and then the president that's, that's crazy.
[00:45:45] Jake Soberal: [00:45:45] Yeah. It feels confusing. Uh, and it doesn't feel like more information is, is making it less confusing in Stockton. You guys have had some, some forward thinking leadership. I'm not getting back sort of pre pandemic that has launched, tried to launch some programs that [00:46:00] have felt really, uh, um, radical elsewhere.
[00:46:03] Uh, and one of those is the seed program. Do you have any interaction with that program? Anything you can tell us about it,
[00:46:08] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:46:08] uh, before the pandemic and everything, I mean, seeds has been a big change in my life seeds, uh, helped me out and got me from out of the dirt just to have the $500, knowing that I knew I had that I was able to make different choices and make decisions that I wouldn't have made without it like changing my job title, going or into a different job when I wouldn't really ever tried to, again, like if I didn't have it a seed also.
[00:46:30] If I need help or do I need to know a certain information? They give me the information they're more helpful than just the $500 every month with the mayor doing all the different programs that he's doing. A lot of people say the radical, but if you look at it, a lot of them are using them now, like how I see it as the UBI.
[00:46:45] And then now they're talking about with us a stimulus check. It's not a UBI, but it's similar. And. There's the seed program gives you $500, this $1,200. I mean, they could've just kept it. That was the case. I mean, so many people haven't got it. It took so long to get it. Somebody who are behind on rent and other bills, it kind of puts them in a hard spot because then they think they're going to get that money.
[00:47:04] And then it's not coming on time.
[00:47:05] Jake Soberal: [00:47:05] Yeah. This has not been my story, but my grandmother came here illegally from Mexico. And so my father grew up very, very poor. And I think that one thing that is missed is the. The difference in life between having $500 that, you know, you can count on and not having that $500.
[00:47:22] How did that create a baseline that you felt like you could build on in a way that you wouldn't be able to, without it,
[00:47:27] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:47:27] I knew I had something that was backing me up, uh, that was for sure, like not having that, having that insecurity of not having, or you're not sure how many hours you're gonna get or what you're, if you're going to have a job, like now you don't even know if you're gonna have your job the next day, knowing I have $500, but it's going to be ending soon.
[00:47:41] I built a backing, like a dividend every month. To make sure I had something coming after this program. And then just speaking out to you guys and being able to have these kind of conversations and stuff, I never would have done it before. It helped me with being more on a one on one basis when it comes to interviews, uh, I'm able to speak more about myself than I would've ever [00:48:00] before.
[00:48:00] There's little things that I took from the program that helped me out a lot.
[00:48:03] Jake Soberal: [00:48:03] Yeah. And so let's imagine that you're the mayor or the governor and you've experienced this. Uh, what about it? Would you continue and expand? What about it? Would you change or eliminate?
[00:48:13] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:48:13] I would try to get more to happen more of the working class.
[00:48:15] Like first responders. They need a lot more help. I mean, the PPE and stuff like that, that, that should have been our main guard is our main focus. But I mean, a lot of places are saying they still don't have it California. Like I said, nuisance did a pretty good job. He's a been on top of everything really, but as for like the work.
[00:48:29] There's no pay raises going up for anybody that are already essential. There's nothing that's going for. Surely tell them that. Oh, this is for sure. You have this for working for basically putting your life on the line. The tax write off and stuff like that. And then money every once a while that's not worth, nobody's like, I'd rather, I'd rather not work at all, then do that.
[00:48:47] Jake Soberal: [00:48:47] Uh, so it sounds like the seed program, uh, gave you a sense of security and then pre pandemic, you're a part of the seed program. What did you do with that sense of security and, and perhaps that traces directly to the conversation around the job that you had at the airport?
[00:49:01] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:49:01] Yeah. Yeah. Well, actually, that's, that's what the outcome was of it before pandemic.
[00:49:04] I was aiming for that job. That job was like, I was setting myself up to get to that job because it was a better paying job, better hours. It had a, um, it didn't fit my schedule. It fit my kids' schedule. Everything was perfect. It was in line up. Perfect. And then, but then dynamic I've been, but I mean seed how maybe, cause I would've made that choice.
[00:49:20] I was stood where I was at part time, uh, stressed out. Not really like sociable or not even really caring, tired all the time. Trying to get another hustle just to keep my bills paid. If I would've, I would've been the same person, negative person. Now it's more, I'm still positive right now with this whole pandemic.
[00:49:34] I'm still positive about things. I'm not really stressing anything because I know things are gonna come out. All right.
[00:49:38] Jake Soberal: [00:49:38] And if you would tell me more about that outlook. What do you see next for you and what, what sort of supports are you looking for to get there? What do you need? What would be helpful,
[00:49:47] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:49:47] Donna?
[00:49:48] What would really be helpful for me? I mean, uh, I've been through like a lot of bad things, especially with this, this COVID. I just buried my godmom the other last week. I'm so sorry. I mean, sustained positive is like the best thing [00:50:00] that anybody can do is I, I think that's the only thing that can help yourself out, uh, with help from anybody else.
[00:50:05] I really don't try to rely on that besides the seed program, since it's close to home. But like, as for like government and all that stuff that I really don't trust any of that, I really don't try to depend on it. It sounds, it sounds all good. But then in reality, they're all out for their own. I mean, just like we have to eat, so we have to work.
[00:50:20] So we have to depend for our own there's nobody else going to help yourself. So you might as well just say positive about stuff. Don't, don't live a negative women.
[00:50:27] Jake Soberal: [00:50:27] Yeah. Uh, and I'm so sorry for your loss, as you think about what's next for you and your family, uh, what activities are you taking? What steps are you taking to, to be ready to go back to normal or some semblance of it?
[00:50:40] When we get there,
[00:50:41] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:50:41] I I'm preparing my kids and everything in the same way that like, uh, adulthood, uh, making sure they know when they walk out and sign the size, doesn't matter, matter of face mask, making sure that they know how important it is, what the social distance, uh, six feet is. What they need to be doing if they touch anything, if they're talking to people or just trying to keep my kids prepared.
[00:50:57] Cause then it'll prepare me better. Also, as long as I know, I'm, I'm staying on top of it because every day is going to be something new or like we didn't know about the kids getting sick until recently. And now that's another thing on top of it. I mean, just depend, dammit. I think that knowing that is where should ends up in the pandemic, that kid that gets gonna get that's the most scariest part.
[00:51:15] After I found out that kids were dying from it. That's what kind of threw me back and we're trying to. Learn as much as we can to sit there and prepare for.
[00:51:23] Jake Soberal: [00:51:23] Yeah, absolutely. Um, I, I want to ask you too, there's another resource and I wonder if you've heard of it. It's called onward ca.org. Um, have you had a chance to play with that at all?
[00:51:32] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:51:32] No.
[00:51:32] Jake Soberal: [00:51:32] Uh, well just something to flag as being out there, it's a site that helps folks connect to resources and jobs and like what mayor Tubbs has done. It's just some, a group of individuals that are endeavoring to help in this moment. It's something that we got to contribute to, but, uh, might be relevant on your end.
[00:51:46] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:51:46] Oh, yeah. I'll tell, I'll take a look at it. As soon as we get done with the interview. Cause I mean, I'm looking for, I'm looking forward to get back into the work that I really do want to sit there and make sure I have something established. I'm not getting any younger. So, I mean, I gotta sit there and get back in the field where I could keep a job to keep that like [00:52:00] if retirement, we even have retirement, but later on or whatever else.
[00:52:04] Just keeps something stable, this unemployment thing isn't really going to last forever.
[00:52:07] Jake Soberal: [00:52:07] Yeah. Well, Tomas, I just want to, uh, I know this is a hard moment, but I think that you're an example of why seed is so important, getting ready to be back on your feet and back in the workforce, know that we're rooting for you and we see a next step to we're all with you and waiting for what that will be and when it will be.
[00:52:24] But.
[00:52:25] Tomas Vargas Jr.: [00:52:25] Uh, like I said, I stay positive on, uh, in the future. I'm gonna have something or something better. I don't like going backwards. So I'm not the type to put my back against the wall. Just quit. So,
[00:52:34] Jake Soberal: [00:52:34] yeah. Well, thank you for sharing your story here and really, really appreciate the time
[00:52:43] throughout our conversation with Tomas. What was most apparent to me was the grit and determination of the individual on the other end of the camera. I can relate to him as a father, but his economic reality and life story are so different from my own. I'm appreciative for him taking the time to share it with us today in today's program, we got to visit with some people that I really admire, but I think more important than that is we heard from Olin Douglas, an individual with insights into the highest levels of the public market.
[00:53:11] That our choice is not public health or the economy, but there's a nuanced way back that needs to pay attention to public health, to racial justice and to how we want to build and design for tomorrow. Then we get to visit with Suki. The things that they're trying and Stockton are not easy. There is no playbook.
[00:53:30] But they're trying them anyway, knowing that they might fail, that they might get several parts of it wrong, but we need to begin that process of trying something different. If we want to experience a different results, those are exactly the sorts of conversations that we're hoping to convene here on onward on air.
[00:53:48] And we're glad that you chose to join us today until next time we hope that you'll share the show with your friends and family. You can find us@onwardonair.com. You can also find us wherever you get your podcasts. [00:54:00] We'll see you. Next time.
[00:54:03] Ollen Douglass: [00:54:03] Onward on
[00:54:03] Jake Soberal: [00:54:03] air with Jake's overall was produced by Bitwise industries.
[00:54:07] In association with studio to beat
[00:54:09] Sukhi Samra: [00:54:09] this
[00:54:10] Jake Soberal: [00:54:10] episode was directed by Gordon Howell and produced by Randy Garrett.
[00:54:14] Ollen Douglass: [00:54:14] The associate producer
[00:54:15] Jake Soberal: [00:54:15] was Rico Aguilar. The executive producer is walking over audit. This podcast is edited by Chloe Ben.