Stockton offers glimpse into cities that don’t have the political will to control their budgets

Crime is out of control in Stockton, and the city’s unwise financial management over a decade plays a big role in the problem.

As a Fresno Bee editorial says about the north Valley city: “Squeezed by its own profligate spending and the housing crash, it was forced to lay off almost 25% of its police force and cut pay and benefits for those who remained.

“Veteran officers retired or took other jobs. A police force of 441, already too small for a city of close to 300,000, dwindled to just 329. As the police ranks thinned, Stockton’s homicides ticked upward, from 24 in 2008 to 33 in 2009 to 49 in 2010. If this year’s trend holds, the number of homicides would triple in just four years.”

Stockton has filed for bankruptcy protection, but that doesn’t make its streets any safer.

In Fresno, finances aren’t as bad, but Mayor Ashley Swearengin has had to make several moves to protect the public safety budget. That includes outsourcing garbage service to collect annual franchise fees from the private companies. She first privatized commercial garbage service, and the City Council on Thursday took its second of three votes to privatize residential garbage service.

Swearengin will also have to get concessions from the police union. Unfortunately, she and the council unwisely extended the Fresno Police Officers Association contract until 2015. That limits the city’s options in trying to control city finances.

Even with garbage privatization maneuver, the city still faces a $5 million budget gap. Fresno isn’t Stockton, but it still has major financial problems.

Responses

Brian Murray says:

“What’s happening in Stockton should be a wake up call to anyone who has a stake in municipal finances”… now you ask for people to wake up call?…and then there was the television images today from Michigan…unions,their members and those they empower…and they call the “Tea Party” evil…LOL

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