Image: mostly trueStatement: “We’re already at what, 12 percent unemployment statewide? A lot of our areas are well over 20 percent,” National City Mayor Ron Morrison said Jan. 12 on the KPBS program These Days.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: Morrison joined a KPBS panel last month to discuss Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies, which use property taxes to improve blighted areas.

By eliminating redevelopment, the proposal would channel more money to schools and other government agencies, relieving pressure on the state budget, which is ultimately responsible for funding schools. But National City would end up getting less money.

On KPBS, Morrison said redevelopment agencies act like local pots of stimulus money, advancing new construction projects, creating jobs and improving the economy. With the current economic slump, he said eliminating them is the wrong idea. Here’s the full context of his statement:

The state of California is saying now let’s pull back away from jobs and infrastructure. We’re already at what, 12 percent unemployment statewide? A lot of our areas are well over 20 percent. This will only exacerbate that situation.

When we asked Morrison about the meaning of “our areas,” he said he was referring to unemployment in neighborhoods around National City. The state, which releases official unemployment estimates, doesn’t release information for neighborhoods. The smallest area is an entire municipality.

As of December, the official unemployment rate was 12.3 percent statewide and 19.1 percent in National City. As unemployment skyrocketed during the recession, National City was the only municipality in the county to exceed 20 percent. It reached the mark in six months last year, peaking at 20.9 percent in January 2010, the highest in the county.

The graphic below compares five local municipalities having the highest unemployment rates with the countywide rate and Del Mar, which has the lowest. Notice how each line shows similar peaks and valleys during the last decade.

The lines change similarly because the unemployment rate for each city is tied to the countywide figure. When the countywide rate increased, state officials estimated a similar increase for each city based on benchmark data collected during the 2000 census.

Morrison said his assertion about the unemployment rate in neighborhoods around National City relies on a similar assumption. In 2000, some neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego and northern Chula Vista had higher rates of employment than National City. If unemployment in National City hovers around 20 percent today, Morrison said, those neighborhoods would presumably be “well over 20 percent.”

While we can’t verify Morrison’s exact assertion since official estimates for neighborhoods don’t exist, his logic is sound. Neighborhoods around National City had higher unemployment rates in 2000. If you follow the formula used by state officials to calculate recent estimates for cities, those neighborhoods would have stayed higher than National City, which peaked slightly above 20 percent.

Our definition for Mostly True says the statement is accurate but contains an important nuance. Morrison statement fits that definition since it’s rooted in similar logic as state estimates, which put National City near 20 percent in December, and his estimates for the surrounding areas today are unofficial.

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