It’s not just Stockton

Stockton and San Bernardino get all the notoriety for their bankruptcies, but the causes — pensions and a flat economy — are pushing most California cites closer to the cliff.

And closer. As Bee Columnist Dan Walters writes here, Los Angeles is looking at a $168.8 million deficit in fiscal 2016-17, a money hole about seven times bigger than the straw that broke the Stockton camel’s back. Oakland’s projected deficits are even bigger (!), though it has 1/10 the population of L.A.

In part the plight of cities is due to Gov. Jerry Brown. He allowed public employees to unionize during his first terms as governor. When public employees go behind closed doors to bargain with public managers over public money, the public is seldom well served.

Brown also runs California with the global good of the state put far ahead of the good of the cities within it. Some  would say he made the state’s fiscals tolerably healthy on the backs of cities.

In part the plight of cities is due to voters. They choked off property tax revenue with Prop. 13.

Etcetera. Of course, nobody forced Stockton leaders to grossly overcompensate public employees. Even though the political deck is stacked in labor’s favor, leaders played their hand terribly.

Whatever the causes, I doubt Stockton and San Berdoo will remain the only cites to wind up in the morgue of bankruptcy. And next door in the acute ward, many cities will be on sickbeds, gravely ill for years to come.

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  • Blog Author

    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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