In my Wall Street Journal op-ed on Stockton last Saturday, I observed that the city's current officials have admitted that Stockton got into its problems by making promises to employees that nobody bothered to add up at the time they were made, and by cutting deals for compensation that often hid the true cost of employee pay.
Stockton admitted that its biggest problem has been a lack of transparency resulting in a host of "hidden costs" in labor agreements for "obligations that are often difficult for citizens to identify or understand."
Much of what is in Stockton's current budget documents and fiscal audits is revealing and has not appeared in the press. They are worth a read by anyone who wants to understand how politicians and public unions conspire to drive costs higher and hide them from the public. Here is the link to the city's budget documents. I would urge reading the 'staff report,' an audit performed by new city manager Bob Deis and his staff, as well as the 2011-2012 budget, which outlines an agenda for reform. The average citizen, reading that agenda for reform, will wonder that any government in America doesn't already operate in this way. But sadly even the basics of good government as outlined in Stockton's agenda for reform are not regularly practiced in America today, which is why so many cities, towns and school districts are in trouble.