Monday, August 12, 2013

Morgan Spurlock visits bankrupt Stockton CA as "Inside Man" and becomes a "Guardian Angel"

Sunday night, Aug. 11, 2013, CNN aired the latest episode of Morgan Spurlock’s “Inside Man” series, this one being “Inside Bankruptcy”, with alternate title “Stockton Guardian Angel”, link here.

That second title refers to Spurlock’s own volunteerism, as he steps up to become a neighborhood Guardian Angel in Stockton, CA, after it has lost police and fire to severe budget cuts after declaring bankruptcy.

Spurlock rides around with former mayor Ann Johnston, who explains how the housing crisis and price collapse wrecked the city, which had funded expansion on municipal bonds.  But it stopped paying, but dug itself further into risky investments.  A lot of controversy concerns the huge demands of police and fire unions, and Johnston says that she was surprised that some non-management people in police and fire made $200000 a year.

With weaker police and fire, residents face increasing crime, especially in areas with so many foreclosed properties.  Residents have to build social capital and learn to depend on one another, rather than institutional law enforcement.  That sounds like a pro-gun argument, too.

Spurlock also covers how other nearby bankruptcies have wrecked the pensions of former city employees, cutting them in one case by 90%.  It’s not clear what the PBGC can do in these cases; that would make a good topic to report on. 
Wikipedia attribution link for Stockton waterfront on San Joaquin River, 


As the episode starts, Spurlock is checking in to a stunning hotel with a room view of the river.

I drove through the Central Valley area last in Feb. 2002, visiting Bakersfield.    

Update: July 19. 2014

The violent bank robbery and taking of hostages near Stockton CA has been linked to gang activity but also to the past real estate and city bankruptcy, which could have undermined police protection (a fact which Spurlock mentioned)..  Associated Press has the story here.   Of course, state police and FBI wouldn't be affected by the bankruptcy.  This level of violence is rare, but hopefully is not a trend.  One ordinary consumer (Misty Holt-Singh) was kidnapped from the bank and died in the gunfire.  Jaime Ramos has been charged with armed robbery, kidnapping ,and may be charged with capital murder under special circumstances, enabling the death penalty (which has been struck down by a federal judge, a ruling that is appealed).     

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