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home : opinions : opinions July 22, 2014

7/24/2013 6:00:00 AM
COLUMN: Who will go next?
Bob Weete
Bob Weete
Bob Weete

Detroit - the latest American city to fall. The biggest city, if that's anything to be proud of. Of course, we have had San Bernardino, Vallejo, and a number of other lesser-known victims.

"Victims"? Everybody is made a "victim" lately, as though it's the current fad. Or at least it is the current excuse. Yes, I think in this case, "victim" is probably on target. But if we have a victim, doesn't that imply a "perpetrator", too?

Now, I don't have all the "facts" in all these bankruptcies, but I would suspect that at least one of the pure facts is simply rampant greed. Yep, simple, little old destructive greed. When a city of some 2,000,000 thriving, industrious people is now down to a mere 700,000 souls, something happened. Oh, there are a number of detailed "reasons", but sadly, most "reasons" turn out to be mere excuses.

America has been noted as the "land of opportunity", quite a compliment. And that description has been the drawing card for millions of people from around the world who were just seeking a chance to have the opportunity to seek their future by their own hard work, diligence and creativity.

What a dream! What eagerness they had! In their homelands, which they loved, they did not have the opportunities afforded them in this great land of liberty. And they had a dream, and the dream could actually be realized. If they didn't mind working, scrimping, getting education and all those things American.

"Let me at it!" they said. "I'm willing, I am able, and I want to be an American," they said. They knew their ancestry and their roots were in another country, and they could hold on to their past, but they were putting new roots down; they were proud to do so.

And they succeeded each according to their skills, their attitudes, and their drive. Oh, they didn't all become rich millionaires, but their dreams did not include "getting rich". The freedom to become whoever and whatever they were meant to be. That was the drawing card. And great cities grew and prospered because of the drive and perseverance of these great people.

Detroit was one of those. "Where'd your car come from?" More often than not, the answer was "from Detroit". And those legal immigrants were there to work.

Then, somewhere along the line, the opportunities seemed to switch from the notion of "I'll earn my way," to something like, "I'll get it in whatever manner I can."

Now, all this did not happen only in Detroit; it spread throughout the land. The pictures many of you have seen of the Detroit blight can be seen in almost any American city or small town. Dreams have become nightmares.

Along with this "progress", our leaders from the national level down to even the small municipalities, caught on to the concept of "what's in it for me?" And whenever and however they could find a way to financially and politically advance themselves, they sought those opportunities.

According to my dad, "no politician is worth a damn". Now, I don't exactly agree with him, but my eyes are a bit more opened from all these years of observation. The decent ones are now more of a rarity, but still we must assume there are "some" of them who are dedicated to their task as they have pledged themselves to be.

A politician, sadly, whether at the national level or all the way down to the local level, if we really watch their actions, is Satan-tempted to regale over his/her "high" position. More and more, it seems to me, positions of power tend to bring out the worst in some people. You all have seen it - they are above the law, exempt from any normal rules, they have the gift of gab, able to convince almost everybody their intentions are only for the good of the people. You know the kind. Oh, yes, when they are busted for some infraction, they howl like wolves.

The point is, though, that their greed and loss of soul leads to corruption (only if they get caught), and in the case of Detroit, a great city and its people is lost, down the tubes. Even small towns like Blythe are subject to death at the hands of corruption.

For example, I have never understood why we elect five people to the city council, but they turn around and are basically controlled by one person, a city manager. The hospital, too, has five elected board members, yet one doctor runs the whole show.

It just seems more reasonable that five brains that are there for the right reasons, unencumbered by any special "loyalty" to one employee, are better than one person (well over-paid, mind you). And if that one person cares more about his/her own special supporters than for the well-being of the entire constituency, it is more than likely for us to follow in the steps of Detroit, et.al.

There is too much potential for Blythe to allow that.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013
Article comment by: @Booger Picker

Better stick with your major profession of picking. You chose to miss the real point, and that, I think, was to show what greed has done and is doing in this country. Weete, as I read it was just pointing out the real reason for America's success was due to selflessness. The impending demise of this once-great country, he's pointing out is that greed and selfishness is sucking the blood out. Too bad you missed that. Go back to sticking your finger up your nose. Have a good day.

Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013
Article comment by: hope and change is here simple math

You cannot pay a person 50k a year for 25 to 30 years of service, and then pay that same person 30k or more a year to stay home for 25 to 30 years.

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2013
Article comment by: Booger Picker

Right in mid-pick it dawned on me that there was something amiss with this column! Something missing. I tried to get a glimpse to see if there was an Alien Pod attached to Bobs neck, like in "The Body Snatchers", but couldn't get a good look. Then it hit me! Somehow it had slipped by Bob that Detroits Bankruptcy was Obamas fault! Ripped my world apart. Rush would be appalled!

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Palermo

Bob Arp: I agree the public sector has painted itself into a corner over the last several decades. It is almost poetic justice, in California around 1976, it was Jerry Brown that encouraged the collective bargaining by State, County and City employee "bargaining" units. Now that Jerry is in charge once again, he now has to reap what he has sown. The dog and pony show to watch is the filing for bankruptcy by the city of Stockton, CA. If the bankruptcy court allows Stockton's proposal to pay 18 cents on the dollar for bonds sold to shore up the City's 165 million debt to the retirement system CalPERS, it will be chilling to see the dominoes fall. If this is allowed to happen, it is logical that other cities struggling with employee benefit debt will file for bankruptcy, CalPERS and perhaps CalSTRS will take a hit and everyone retired, to retire and future retirees will suffer.

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

There are many stories out there on the web about many people in City Government that are not receiving their pensions due bankruptcy. Right now it's City by City going down. State employees are safe for now. For how long?

My guess is if any state is going to file for bankruptcy it will here. California is my first guess.

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Article comment by: California Is next

Detroit Is just the beginning. It's good that government employees get pensions but when the value of those pensions outpaces the average income of the citizenry those government workers served, it is not sustainable in the long term. How is it that any government official can get more than $100,000 a year in retiirement when the average household income is less than half that. So cities and counties will continue to fail as their economies continue to struggle, burdened by excessive pensions and other long term debt these city officials committed the citizens to for decades to come. It's going to be a long and painful process for this to be corrected. If you a government employee, better have a backup plan because 10 or 20 years from now the promises that we're made to you may not be able to be kept. There just isn't enough money in the system.

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Article comment by: Bob Arp

Bob, when you say greed to whom are you referencing? I think the common denominator with most of these municipal insolvencies has been the drain on the city coffers for the payout of benefits and pensions of unionized public servants. I live outside Pennsylvania's Capital city of Harrisburg which is in bankruptcy. It is hard to balance the budget when raises and benefits promised years earlier suddenly come due and there is no longer the tax base to support it. In some cases the benefits were promised years earlier but with the aging of the workforce are now being paid out. This is very true for the many small school districts in my area that even if they hold current expenses in check, they have increased liability for additional benefits amounting to millions of dollars. While i am not judging what or is not fair, most of these attempts are aimed at breaking the prior agreements with public employee unions which is no different than what we have seen the courts allow in private industry including the airlines and auto manufacturers. Although, you were never my teacher, I did try to ay attention in class.

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