We're starting to settle into the bankruptcy that has enveloped Stockton.
It's been almost three weeks since the council meeting in which the vote was a formality that capped five hours and several months of tension.
What has happened since? The street sweeper was out on my block the other day. The libraries remain open. There's softball being played in Louis Park. City Hall is open and people come and go, continuing to do their business.
Firefighters are answering calls and fighting fires. The police, unfortunately, are coping with murder after murder.
Daily life and business go on.
Meanwhile, we now have company:
The Sierra resort community of Mammoth Lakes quickly followed Stockton's bankruptcy declaration with one of its own.
The Pennsylvania city of Scranton most recently known as the fictional site of the paper company in the hit television series "The Office" played hardball with city employees. Scranton's mayor cut city employees including police and fire to minimum wage ($7.25 an hour).
The Southern California city of San Bernardino reportedly had only $150,000 in its coffers as it raced down the Bankruptcy Expressway.
In Stockton, a bankruptcy judge has been appointed, battle lines are being formed. One sentence in a (Stockton Record) story about a recent hearing struck me: "Approximately three dozen lawyers were in the federal courtroom." Lawyers for the city. Lawyers for creditors. Lawyers, lawyers everywhere presumably with the meter running.
Through it all, bankruptcy is basically turning out to be a series of showdowns between the city (the council and City Manager Bob Deis) and city employees and retirees.
Dwane Milnes, the city manager for much of the 1990s, is leading an association of retirees who have asked a judge to force the city to continue to pay for their health insurance.
The city is transitioning off the so-called "health benefits for life" for some retirees. It's not surprising that former staffers who gave years to the city are upset with the decision and with what they see as a lack of adequate notice.
"For some retirees, it's decision between medicine and rent or medicine and food," Milnes said. "I am not exaggerating." Deis, claiming that mismanagement by Milnes and others caused this mess, counters with a damning comment: "That's kind of like the arsonist complaining how the fire department is performing." A person who only identified herself as a city retiree recently posed a question to me: "How would you feel if the Record did to your benefits what the city has done to ours?" Therein lies a problem: the demand that others understand your plight when you maybe don't understand what others are or have been dealing with.
My response to her:
Record employees started paying a portion of their health care costs about 22 years ago. The costs for employees have gone up virtually every year, and sometimes health care plan options have been cut back.
Our company's pension plan ended about a decade ago, at a time when many private employers were halting pension contributions.
Lifetime health insurance for retirees has never been there. Frankly, it isn't for most people who work for a living.
This is in no way a shot at my employer. The Record has made financial moves similar to many private and public entities over the years. They've been dictated by the economy.
Granted, I've never dodged a bullet or gone into a burning building like some Stockton retirees. But I'm pretty sure Dwane Milnes and many other members of the Association of Retired Employees of the City of Stockton haven't either.
It's too bad that city retirees can't keep their lifetime health benefits. It would also be great if there was a health care system in which everyone regardless of employer could have that benefit.
Instead, what we have is reality. And bankruptcy.
Klocke is editor of the Record of Stockton.