No one need remind us really that we find ourselves in the midst of tough times. Especially hard hit has been the public sector. Even in relatively prosperous states like Texas with comparatively low unemployment, local and state governments face huge budget deficits. Elected officials struggle to balance budgets while embroiled in ideological battles of public policy and spending.
In my view, we cut some things to our own peril. Being penny wise and pound foolish will eventually catch up with us as a city, a state and a nation. And, never forget, all of this come right down to the individual census tract and, even closer to home, the block where I live.
The following report from The New York Times caught my attention. It provides a good overview of what cities face,including even bankruptcy!
Read the report and then let me know your thinking. Solutions?
Mayors See No End to Hard Choices for Cities
By MICHAEL COOPER
Published: January 21, 2011
Mayors outside the White House on Thursday included, from left, Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia, Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Michael B. Coleman of Columbus, Ohio.
These are hard times for cities, and the mood was grim as more than 200 mayors gathered here this week for the winter meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.
Many mayors have already raised taxes, cut services and laid off workers, even police and firefighters. Now they are girding themselves for more tough times, as falling home values are belatedly showing up in property tax assessments, and struggling states are threatening to cut aid to cities.
“I came in full of idealism — I was going to change my city,” said Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Conn., who has laid off 160 workers. “You get involved in government because you want to do more for the people, you want to show them that government can work and local government, by and large, really does work for the people — directly, you can’t hide. But then you say you’ve got to pay the same amount of taxes, and you’re going to get less.”
Some mayors said that they expected more cities, mostly smaller cities, to seek bankruptcy or possibly even default on their loans as the downturn grinds on, though municipal analysts see defaults as unlikely.
In interviews, mayors spoke about their efforts to keep their cities afloat by raising taxes, consolidating services, selling off city assets and shrinking their work forces.
Many of them, including Democrats who have been historically close to unions, said they were taking aim at public pensions, which they said were no longer affordable.
“That’s not a Democrat or Republican issue,” said Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, a Democrat who is supporting measures that would lower the cost of pensions for new police officers and firefighters and require employees to contribute toward the cost of their retirement health benefits. “The fact is, our pensions aren’t sustainable.”
To read the entire report click here.