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Distressed Cities Weigh Bold Tactics in a New Fiscal Era
NY Times ^ | March 31, 2012 | By MICHAEL COOPER and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH

Posted on 04/01/2012 1:52:32 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin

Robert Stout, the former finance director of Vallejo, Calif., was talking about the spiraling public safety costs that ultimately led his city to declare bankruptcy when he mentioned a fire that broke out two blocks from his home, not long after the city had closed some of its firehouses to save money.

“The first fire truck that went by was yellow,” Mr. Stout recalled. “Our fire trucks are red. So the first fire truck to respond was on mutual aid from a town 20 miles away. That gives you some sense of what you are facing when you get into these situations.”

“This is truly a new era for dealing with troubled municipalities,” said Michael Stanton, the publisher of The Bond Buyer, a public finance newspaper, which sponsored the packed two-day conference.

Attempts to plug budget holes with one-time transactions are giving way to other approaches. The conference discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the more powerful tools being used in many cities these days, including receiverships, emergency declarations and even bankruptcy.

New woes unfolded even as a capacity crowd of government officials, investors, lawyers and credit analysts were gathered to discuss the trend.

In Jefferson County, Ala. — which filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history after its sewer-construction financing fell apart and a court threw out one of its taxes — county commissioners voted to default on a general obligation bond payment.

In Detroit, city and state officials sparred over the emergency aid the city might be able to get, and how much state oversight and control would accompany it.

Stockton, Calif., was in negotiations to avoid becoming the biggest American city yet to declare bankruptcy.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital, recently announced that it would default on a payment coming due to general obligation bondholders.

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bluezones; taxandspend; urban

1 posted on 04/01/2012 1:52:34 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
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To: DeaconBenjamin

The first question that comes to mind is, “How bad are you underwater on your public service pension funding?” Second, “How much do you pay your Mayor, city manager, finance direct, and police chief”?

I doubt after answering these and a few other questions anyone here at FR will do much crying for them.


2 posted on 04/01/2012 1:57:50 PM PDT by Recon Dad (Gas & Petroleum Junkie)
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To: DeaconBenjamin
Hard times spur creativity...easy times make you fat and lazy.

Hoo-rah for hard times!

3 posted on 04/01/2012 2:00:25 PM PDT by RoosterRedux
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To: DeaconBenjamin

So... where is their money going??

Gay bathhouses or libraries?

ethnic community centers?

bureaucrats? paper pushers?

millions of dollars to fund “studies” and stuff?


4 posted on 04/01/2012 2:02:00 PM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: DeaconBenjamin
Here's a "bold, new tactic:" Stop making laws! Stop trying to be all things to everyone! Stop robbing the many to give a few useless, counterproductive services to the few! Shut down your unions. Stop spending money you don't have and insisting it's The People who demand those additional services. They DON'T! Let the private sector do its job and you do yours.

Now THAT is innovative thinking!

5 posted on 04/01/2012 2:12:36 PM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: Recon Dad

ie how much of you tax revenue is used for current pension expenses?


6 posted on 04/01/2012 2:13:04 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand
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To: DeaconBenjamin
Bold Tactics?

Have they considered Limited Government?

7 posted on 04/01/2012 2:13:53 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy (Like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin has become simply a stick with which to beat Whites.)
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To: RoosterRedux
Hoo-rah for hard times!

careful what you wish for.

8 posted on 04/01/2012 2:14:39 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand
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To: the invisib1e hand

Who’s wishing? Tough times are here!


9 posted on 04/01/2012 2:16:49 PM PDT by RoosterRedux
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To: Recon Dad

Third question is “what are you doing about the obligations to current employees?”


10 posted on 04/01/2012 2:22:58 PM PDT by wiggen (The teacher card. When the racism card just won't work.)
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To: Recon Dad

“How much do you pay your Mayor, city manager, finance direct, and police chief”?

In 2009 Vallejo paid its city manager $390,000 to resign. The city manager’s salary was $341,000 per year for a city with a population of $117,000. This salary was the fourth highest in the state. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/20/BAIE17NDV1.DTL

Interesting the town spent 74% of its budget on public safety salaries prior to bankruptcy. Firefighters make over $200K per year with overtime. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/09/MNFKVEV4L.DTL

If you visit the city’s website you will see its mission, proudly communicated, “The City of Vallejo celebrates its cultural and ethnic diversity, preserves its history and maritime heritage, cares for its children and their future, and provides cost effective quality services second to none.”

It appears the people of the city are experiencing the consequences of the progressive policies of the politicians they elected for decades.


11 posted on 04/01/2012 2:23:00 PM PDT by Soul of the South (When times are tough the tough get going.)
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To: IronJack

Here in NJ the firetrucks from the neighboring town are 20 blocks away instead of 20 miles, and towns insist on paying firemen very well to sleep all day in the firehouses (we don’t have many fires, and the towns are on top of each other). Many of our paid departments were set up when large companies had factories that required the departments; those companies paid a large part of the bill for the firemen.

Forty years later the factories are closed down Superfund sites, and the firemen insist they are still necessary in the same numbers. Firemen I know tell me how important a paid department is, while they live in towns that have volunteer departments; apparently my children need paid firemen to sleep safely while their children don’t. I never supported “residency laws” until this nonsense came up.


12 posted on 04/01/2012 2:23:51 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: DeaconBenjamin
a fire that broke out two blocks from his home, not long after the city had closed some of its firehouses to save money.

Probably set by one of the laid-off public servant "heroes".

I'm not in favor of any publicly-funded firefighters. There should only be volunteer forces or publicly-contracted fire service subject to a competitive-bidding process.

13 posted on 04/01/2012 2:33:16 PM PDT by bkopto (Obama is merely a symptom of a more profound, systemic disease in American body politic.)
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To: RoosterRedux

you might enjoy “The Trouble With Prosperity” by James Grant.


14 posted on 04/01/2012 3:06:38 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand
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To: DeaconBenjamin

The farthest our department usually goes on mutual aid calls is 10 miles, average is 5 to 6. Driving rigs through traffic is a pain.


15 posted on 04/01/2012 3:24:23 PM PDT by UB355 (Slower traffic keep right)
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To: kearnyirish2

When I’ve talked to paid firefighters, you can see from their evasive responses that they know they’re not all that they’re cracking themselves up to be WRT “Why not have volunteer departments?”

Where I have lived for the last 10+ years in two locations, the departments are volunteer, and they do quite well for what they have and the amount of ground they have to cover.

It’s high time that communities start going back to volunteer fire and law enforcement groups, and if they can’t do that, then they need to crack down on unionized workforces negotiating pensions that are simply unsupportable in the long run.

Another thing that has to happen is that people need to quit buying the BS that these “public safety” types keep peddling - that they’re working oh so very hard at such a great risk to their lives and safety.

How many firefighters die on the job per year? Between 70 and a bit over 100 per year, over the last 10 years.

Now, how many farmers and ranchers are killed on the job per year?

More than 500. About 100 farm/ranch kids are killed on the farm or ranch per year.

You don’t hear of farmers or ranchers getting fat-assed pension plans, do you? Nor unionizing to demand higher food prices.

Firefighters should man up and STFU. They’re not so terribly special. Cops die in slightly higher numbers on the job per year.

Neither comes close to the rate at which loggers, fishermen, etc die per year. We don’t see loggers getting huge pension plans, either.

At some point, someone has to just lay out the facts and tell the truth. The truth is, cops and firemen aren’t all that special. Their jobs aren’t the most hazardous, they’re not all that physically demanding by comparison to logging, fishing, ranching and farming, and they can be performed by volunteers.

The USSR tried “volunteer farming” on their collectives. Didn’t work out so well.


16 posted on 04/01/2012 3:57:34 PM PDT by NVDave
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To: the invisib1e hand

Thx! I’ll check it out!


17 posted on 04/01/2012 4:28:07 PM PDT by RoosterRedux
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To: NVDave

I agree. I am a retired public safety person. I was also a Director of Public Safety and had 25 volunteer/part paid fire fighters.
I would put my guys up against any full time guys I know. My town of 40,000 where I live could easily go to a volunteer department and not suffer. They artificially inflate response numbers by rolling on medical calls.
We need to look at things differently because we are out of money and out of options.


18 posted on 04/01/2012 4:47:21 PM PDT by midcop402
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To: NVDave

I agree. I am a retired public safety person. I was also a Director of Public Safety and had 25 volunteer/part paid fire fighters.
I would put my guys up against any full time guys I know. My town of 40,000 where I live could easily go to a volunteer department and not suffer. They artificially inflate response numbers by rolling on medical calls.
We need to look at things differently because we are out of money and out of options.


19 posted on 04/01/2012 4:47:35 PM PDT by midcop402
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To: kearnyirish2
Fire departments are relics of the days before building codes, sprinklers, fire-retardant materials, and forced-air heating. But thanks to their unions, we have to keep them on at ever-increasing cost, doing mostly nothing.

That said, when disaster DOES strike, you couldn't pay me enough to do their job. Witness the Trade Center on 9/11. Is it worth it? Hard to say. But I think it bears a close, close re-examination. WITHOUT the unions butting in.

20 posted on 04/01/2012 4:52:07 PM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: NVDave

Here in NJ most departments are volunteers; the problem is that some of the paid ones remaining are from a bygone era when manufacturing/chemical type fires were the threat (and those companies picked up much of the tab of that protection). In my town police aren’t in a dangerous line of work (though anything can happen - we are between Newark & Jersey City, and do get some non-violent crime from Newark); firefighters are always in danger dealing with fire but don’t have many fires here.

As their unions keep their stranglehold on the taxpayers, the response has been the flight of American taxpayers and businesses, as well as a surge in illegal apartments to help homeowners defray those tax costs. The result is a town that resembles a South American city more than an American one; I don’t think there has been discussion about what to do about illegal aliens, but our town of 40K would lose about 1/4 of its population (and 1/2 of its businesses) if they left.

They live “off the grid”, contributing nothing for the fire, police, school or town services provided, leaving the remaining Americans to deal with the costs.


21 posted on 04/01/2012 9:09:36 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: IronJack

9/11 showed how absurd it was when the city was asked how they were going to replace all of the firemen who had been killed; the initial response was “We won’t”. Even afterwards, as the city proceeded with a plan to close firehouses throughout the city, the firemen used 9/11 as a rallying point to justify their obsolete jobs (at least in those numbers); somehow the deaths of those brave men entitled many of those remaining to an easy, overstaffed job (and nobody was allowed to question that). Note the insistence during the rubble removal that a detail of firemen be on hand to carry out any firefighter remains removed; Mayor Giuliani rightly opposed this but was shouted down, and now we’ve been presented with a bill for the health effects on those very firemen. 9/11 really brought out the best & worst in them.

In my area some towns have regionalized (after much resistance), while others are looking at a paid/volunteer hybrid (which is already in place a lot for EMTs). I think once everyone currently “on the job” is assured that they’ll be allowed to “attrite out” through retirement (including those that are 25 years old now), the resistance to these measures drops; unlike our laid-off police officers who are fielding offers from other parts of the country (who spare themselves the cost of training new officers by hiring some with experience), I don’t know that many municipalities are looking for paid firemen anymore (or ever were). Any that are considering starting paid departments should avoid a lot of headaches by immediately including ambulance services as part of their jobs and the like; once you have a caste set up with a sense of entitlement, it can be very difficult to go back or add responsibilites (teachers being the best example of this).


22 posted on 04/01/2012 9:22:31 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: kearnyirish2

100% Democrat run cities says it all.


23 posted on 04/01/2012 9:28:11 PM PDT by AGreatPer (Obama has NEVER given a speech where he did not lie!!!)
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To: bkopto
I'm not in favor of any publicly-funded firefighters.

Where I grew up (MD), training and equipment were funded in part by a fire tax. With the exception of a couple of paramedics ( one up from EMT) and dispatch personnel, alll the firefighters were volunteer. It worked very well, and was far cheaper than paid departments.

I'm not sure how (if?) that has changed, but it worked well then.

24 posted on 04/01/2012 9:35:38 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing)
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To: AGreatPer

They’re killing suburban NJ at this point; that was what Governor Christie was elected for (and he’s doing a good job so far dealing with it). His Dem predecessor admitted that without illegal aliens NJ had lost population (and our recent loss of a representative seat supports this assertion); Christie was elected to stop the bleeding.


25 posted on 04/01/2012 9:42:02 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: ClearCase_guy

Limited government???? This is where the liberals will eat each other. They exist to expand government they can’t pay for. They have screwed the pooch; jumped the shark. Cannibalism is next.


26 posted on 04/01/2012 10:19:22 PM PDT by SaraJohnson
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