Ho hum. Another day, another California city declares bankruptcy.
This time it is Southern California's San Bernardino, which last week became the nation's second-largest city to declare bankruptcy.
Of course, the largest to do so was Northern California's very own Stockton, which had chosen that route the week before. Vallejo was ahead of the curve as it exercised the option in 2008.
Unfortunately, we are supremely confident that these will not be the last two California cities to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. In fact, the more we delve into California's finances, the more we think it may be forced there itself someday.
Laying all of the blame on "the economy" or on "public-employee unions" is naive. Certainly, both contributed, but neither is solely responsible. In this case, there is plenty of shared blame.
We believe the public and the representatives it elects and, yes, those who cover them in the media, must share the responsibility.
While the economy has seen a prolonged slump, many other states and cities managed to survive the storm without bankruptcy.
Certainly, unreasonable public-employee demands have contributed as well. But the unions are just doing what they do. They are not the ones who agree to the terms. They are not the ones who commit the public's money to unsustainable contracts. No, that is the exclusive purview of elected officials. To be sure, unions flex their political muscle
The public itself is hardly blameless in this fiasco. Let's not forget it was voters who created much of this mess by passing term-limit legislation back in 1990. While accomplishing the initiative's rallying goal to "get (former Assembly Speaker) Willie Brown out of the Legislature," by doing so it created a political merry-go-round that is anathema to good long-term policy. Since an elected official only serves a given office for a short time, a short-term fix is all that is ever needed. At least until those officials suddenly realize the road they have been kicking the can down is a dead-end street. Oops.
We in the media can't escape, either. We have not properly listened to or vetted the complaints of those among us who for years have been warning of a financial reckoning.
Increased media scrutiny of fiscal issues and well-chronicled recent pension votes in San Jose and San Diego argue that both the press and the public are awake now and neither is likely to slump back into slumber anytime soon.
So, how do we get out? If history is any guide, the budding outrage is precursor to a nasty us-vs-them political fight that will bloody both us and them. Maybe we shouldn't do that this time. Here's a radical idea: Instead of dueling ballot measures and expensive public-relations campaigns and consultants, maybe this time we should try calm, rational discussion based on honest facts, mutual sacrifice and some fiscal discipline.
Hey, don't knock it until we try it.