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How to Lose a City in Ten Steps, Part Ten: The Meltdown

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With economic support fading at a speedy clip, already record breaking crime rates skyrocket. The establishment of organized crime is all but destroyed, leaving ample room for gangs of illegals and their national or global affiliates to pour in. Racial minorities native to the city are facing unparalleled bigotry and physical violence as the new criminal ruling set either sees them as future competitors or innately inferior beings. The police have been outmanned and outgunned for so long that they are functionally irrelevant.

Public safety is also underfunded, along with the rest of city government. The mayor, one of the final holdovers of the old partisan machine, knows that reelection is improbable. So, the chief executive sits back and watches a frantic band of councillors squabble over this mess. Fearful of what the public sector unions will do to them if city employees are laid off and understanding that their constituents have been taxed out of their livelihoods, the councillors try to buy time.

After intense debate, they apply for a state bailout, which both houses of the legislature scoff at. Moving up the chain to Washington, DC, Congress plays its usual game of pass the hot potato and nothing is done. Exasperated, the councillors begin to have nightmares of declaring municipal bankruptcy. With nowhere else to turn, they resort to layoffs on such a scale that the factory heads who started off this downward spiral would initially judge too extreme.

The employees laid off are mostly police officers, firefighters, utilities workers, and pencil pushers of every variety. Those coveted social programs are left untouched for the time being, as they have become a political third rail. However, quality of life falls even further as gang members and a myriad of other violent criminals realize that there is no longer any law, let alone order. In many neighborhoods, gangs themselves act as community protectors, and an endless stream of anchor children represent the areas’ futures.

A small core of natives remain; they inhabit a distinct handful of blocks. The overwhelming majority are elderly, and opt to stay because they remember the city as it used to be and cannot imagine moving, and/or they just do not have the resources to go elsewhere. Local churches, centers of neighborhood social activity generations ago, have been dominated by fathers and preachers shilling a warped rendition of social justice that faithfully champions the interests of illegals. Alienated from their neighborhood houses of worship, the predominately blue collar seniors are learning the hard way that their city has little more to offer them.

Now in a dystopian setting, the city has walked each and every step save the last one.

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About Joseph F. Cotto