Next stop, San Bernadino

Reuters does an insightful piece on San Bernadino. Where Stockton has, or had, the advantage over this car crash of a city is its determined, reformist council. As opposed to San Berdoo where the politics are called “toxic.”

One of Stockton’s strengths was a dominant diagnosis and prescription. San Bernardino can’t even agree what is causing it’s problems — though it’s not rocket science.

“Little by little, over many years, the salaries and retirement benefits of San Bernardino’s city workers — and especially its police and firemen — grew richer and richer, even as the city lost its major employers and gradually got poorer and poorer,” Reuters writes.

“Unions poured money into city council elections, and the city council poured money into union pay and pensions. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), which manages pension plans for San Bernardino and many other cities, encouraged ever-sweeter benefits. Investment bankers sold clever bond deals to pay for them. Meanwhile, state law made it impossible to raise local property taxes and difficult to boost any other kind.

“No single deal or decision involving benefits and wages over the years killed the city. But cumulatively, they built a pension-fueled financial time-bomb that finally exploded.”

The person who sent me this called the scenario “hauntingly familiar.” But moral compass of Stockton’s leaders — knowing the public trust had been betrayed, resolved to purge City Hall of its culture of entitlement — set this city apart. Now the agenda is being challenged by a segment of the electorate and special interests who blame instead the reformers and the city manager enacting the reforms. Next stop, San Bernardino.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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