How can the citizens of the Californian city of Stockton be surprised to learn that their city now holds the distinction of becoming the largest US city to suddenly declare bankruptcy?
Stockton is not a distant City. Stockton is a symptom that will consume us if we fail to expose it for what it is.
The river port city of 290,000 lies 90 miles (144km) east of San Francisco.
Mike Brooking, Stockton coffee shop owner said, ‘the housing boom was good to Stockton. Flush with property tax, the city developed its waterfront, with a new marina and sports complex, and negotiated generous pension and healthcare benefits for city employees.’
They eliminated a quarter of the city's police officers, one-third of the fire staff, and 40% of all other employees.
They also cut wages and medical benefits.
Stockton's unemployment and violent crime rates now rank among the top in the nation. One in every 195 Stockton homes filed for foreclosure in May, according to RealtyTrac.
More than 15% of the population of Stockton is unemployed - nearly double the national average.
City buildings have been repossessed and "Out of Business" signs are a common sight.
City Hall was due to move into a new building, but since Stockton has run out of money, the new building has been repossessed.
Mike Brooking, 50, a Stockton native and coffee shop owner, blames city officials. He says they paid people unreasonably generous pensions and medical benefits.
"They gave employees guaranteed healthcare when they're gone - and their families," Mr Brooking said. "To people who worked there for one month! They couldn't afford it then. They can't afford it now. No-one else has those guarantees.
Even City Hall buildings have been repossessed
"Wells Fargo Bank took over a few parking garages that the city owned," Mr Estrada says.
"Now they own the building City Hall is in. You might well call it Wells Fargo town."
During the housing boom, the city lavished money on its waterfront.
"We've seen a rise in violent crime here in Stockton," says police officer Joe Silva, a Stockton native and 16-year veteran of the force.
"Last year was a record setting 58 homicides and so far this year we've had 31. This time last year we had 17." Many blame the surge in violence on Stockton's economic woes. In 2008, the city had a budget for 441 police officers. Today they have 317.
Last year, the city was ranked the 11th most miserable. In 2010, Stockton was placed number one in terms of misery.
The citizens of Stockton were suddenly surprised predicated on the absence of concerned watchdog citizens and the failure of the local press to keep the taxpayer informed!
Answer: Yes it Could!