Monday, January 24, 2011

Tough times. . .multiplying needs. . .deep cuts

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

Published: January 21, 2011

WASHINGTON — Despite having one of the highest crime rates in the nation, Camden, N.J., laid off nearly half its police force this week after failing to win concessions from its unions. On the other side of the country, Vallejo, Calif., was filing a bankruptcy plan that proposed paying some creditors as little as a nickel or 20 cents on each dollar they are owed.

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.


Chris said...

I'm so confused--I thought Obama saved the country.

Truth is, Obama is a complete disaster Where are the jobs, especially the "green" ones? He will talk about investment tomorrow night which is another name for increased spending. The speech tomorrow will be just more propaganda and will be lauded by the left-wing media.

Lorlee said...

I think that Texas has done a pretty good snow job to be considered "relatively prosperous." We rank in the 40's out of 50 on most important measures like health care and education. The budget deficit ranks higher than California figured on a per capita basis. My concern is all those people headed here will find there is no safety net when those low paying jobs they came seeking end or don't materialize.

Jerry said...

Interesting to note that all these cities have been historically led by Democratic mayors and liberal councils,who have been beholden to public employee unions. Now, they are having to pay the price. Solutions? Bankruptcy may be the only solution to be able to re-negotiate the union contracts. Notice that the unions are not willing to budge, even if half of them are laid off! Unfortunately, this same scenario is playing out in California, Ill, New York, and several other states. Even the Washington Post and NY Times are beginning to see the light on the union contracts, but it may well be too late. In spite of all this, Harry Reid this very day is trying to push through legislation to make it easier for police, firefighters, etc. to have stronger unions. Go figure. Solutions? Let the true market forces take over. If cities and states go bankrupt, then so be it. But absolutely NO bailouts! I realize that you and I are likely 180 degrees apart on this issue, but that does not mean that I do no love you and respect your work! Keep up the great fight for God's children!