originally published on mattbeckwith.com
Last night, our city council took the first step toward bankruptcy. By the end of the week, Stockton will be the largest US city to file for bankruptcy protection.
All of a sudden, being labeled "America's Most Miserable City" a couple of times by some magazine doesn't sound so bad.
We ran out of money.
There are many reasons why. Our city leaders made poor decisions during the economic boom. Unscrupulous mortgage lending practices flooded the central valley with home buyers leading to increased property values which swelled the city with the sweet nectar of property tax revenue. We banked on this gravy train continuing forever.
Then of course, it did not.
Now, Stockton's favorite pastime is the blame-game. So many of us want to point the finger at someone.
The police and fire unions, previous mayors and council members, former city manager Mr. Milne, and even city employees themselves have all been the target of someone's blame.
We need to stop blaming. We've already diagnosed what happened so we can be pretty sure it won't happen again, blaming people isn't going to solve anything.
We certainly cannot blame city employees. They did exactly what we would all do. Well, I'll speak for myself here. I would have done the same thing. Even the double dipping. Given an opportunity to advance economically, in a way that seems completely healthy at the time, we'd all do it! Plus, most city employees are hard working people that care deeply about our city.
As are the members of our city council and our Mayor. If you don't like what they're doing, vote for someone else. Otherwise, find a productive way to help. Our council members have a difficult task; I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would want that job. I am grateful that some people choose to do it and I appreciate their strength in the face of such adversity.
Facing a budget shortfall of $26 million, and ballooning debt in the hundreds of millions, it seems the city made the best choice.
Now, it's time to get on with making Stockton great. Do we have an uphill battle? Oh hell yes. The likes of which most of us could have never imagined. But we can do it.
We can overcome this.
We know there are many great things about Stockton. Let's keep our cool and not let the stigma of bankruptcy distract us from making our city a place we can be proud of. We need to continue to shop locally and do our part to make our neighborhoods safer and stronger.
Most of all, we need to get involved. Talk to our neighbors. Talk to our council members. Attend council meetings, or watch online. Ask questions. If we spent the last 20 years watching our local leaders as much as we have during the last few months, we likely wouldn't have been in such a mess.
Let's make it great, Stockton! The future of our city depends on it.
With all of the emotion of the last couple of days, this made me laugh: