Saturday, March 28, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Fresno finds itself in trouble, despite frugality

walters column sig

By
From page A11 | February 13, 2013 |

A couple of years ago, as many California cities were struggling with budget deficits that eventually sent several of them into bankruptcy court, Fresno appeared to be a shining exception.

The city and its mayor, Alan Autry, had kept a tight lid on spending, enjoyed a healthy surplus and had been rewarded with a sterling credit rating.

No more. Fresno, the state’s fifth-largest city, is now in deep fiscal distress.

Autry’s successor, Ashley Swearingen, wants to privatize the city’s trash collection system and counts on an infusion of upfront cash from the private contractor, plus monthly franchise fees, to keep the city afloat.

The city manager warns that without that infusion and some service cuts, the city might not make payroll in a few weeks.

However, the city’s unions are stoutly resisting the trash contract awarded to Mid Valley Disposal and have turned in ballot measure petitions to overturn it.

Moody’s Investors Service, which less than two years ago gave Fresno an Aa2 credit rating and declared the city’s finances to be “very strong,” has since downgraded the city’s bonds step by step, culminating in a recent drop to a subpar level. Moody’s cited a big general fund deficit, high payrolls and other fixed costs and a struggling local economy.

Nobody’s uttered the B-word – bankruptcy – yet in Fresno, but clearly if it cannot meet all of its obligations, that becomes an alternative, just as it did in Stockton and San Bernardino.

The key to Fresno’s immediate future obviously is the trash collection franchise, which promises the city $1.5 million in immediate cash, plus $200,000 a month. But Fresno is also becoming ground zero for public employee union opposition to privatization of public services at any level of government.

Assuming the referendum to overturn the franchise makes the ballot, which appears likely, the local union campaign will be supplemented by cash and other resources from public employee unions elsewhere.

As a test of Swearingen’s political talents, it could affect her status as one of the few Republican politicians with potential for statewide office.

Fresno thus joins distressed municipalities that range from tiny hamlets to Los Angeles. And while the circumstances differ somewhat from city to city, the high fixed costs and moribund revenue that plague Fresno are a fairly common feature.

Property and sales taxes from the housing bubble encouraged cities to loosen their purse strings, and when the housing bubble burst, those costs remained while revenue stagnated or even declined.

Even Fresno, which had boasted of its frugal ways, found itself in trouble.

And if the referendum succeeds, what then?

There’s no free lunch, and other city workers may lose their jobs to protect those of trash collectors.

Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him at [email protected]

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Rick WoodFebruary 12, 2013 - 11:44 am

    "Despite frugality." Note that. People are starting to realize that it's almost all a revenue problem at this point. Between the recession and state takeaways, cities really can't be blamed for the mess they are in. The evidence that people are coming around is the passage of local sales taxes and the like for general city services. It's a shame it's come to this. Fairfield would actually be in good shape but for the state takeaways. Local sales taxes aren't the whole answer, nor are they a sustainable answer or a particularly good answer, but it's what we have. I think more use of benefit assessment districts needs consideration. They are the fairest way to go for some things: Beneficiaries pay for the benefits they recieve, and they get to vote in proportion to the amount they will pay.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:11 am

    Rick, I agree whole-heartedly. The biggest factors affecting Calif. cities are the economy ,the loss of redevelopment agencies and other state initiatives that have attempted to balance its budget by requiring municipalities to should financial responsibility without appropriate funding.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensFebruary 13, 2013 - 7:13 am

    Its never the fault of California's city governments. They, like the state aren't responsible for their spending and unions. Instead, its the people's fault---especially those people who complained and warned you about all of this.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Fraisure Smith hearing delayed twice Friday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
Luncheon honors women for their work to help others

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Sheepdogs, handlers flock to Rio Vista for trials

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Solano Rotary clubs honor top firefighters from across county

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Eatery to host event to support child with cancer

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

 
Project begins to brighten downtown Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

April workshops set for Train Station Project

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police log: March 26, 2016

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun police log: March 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Going home to mother

By Murray Bass | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Chances of being locked up vary widely across California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Jury says Silicon Valley firm did not discriminate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Video shows ‘hospitality ambassador’ beating homeless man

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Gov. Brown signs $1 billion water plan for dry California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
California woman, friend charged in alleged baby-theft plot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Public defender: San Francisco jail inmates forced to fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
NY mayor: Someone may have ‘inappropriately’ tapped gas line

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Feds: Baltimore jail illegally keeping juveniles in solitary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Autopsies determine children found in freezer were slain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Fetus debate looms following charges in womb-cutting case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Pugnacious Reid retiring, wants Schumer as Senate Dem leader

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Senate OKs Republican balanced-budget plan, following House

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
‘Sopranos’ star’s apartment destroyed by blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Pilot who scared passengers sues airline

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

‘Mad Men’ costumes, props head to Smithsonian

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
US economy showing signs of durability

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Mexico City businesses cite losses during Bond filming

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Comedian Gardell hosts game show version of Monopoly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Nelson set to return to role as Coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
German airline could face ‘unlimited’ damages for Alps crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Co-pilot appeared healthy, but may have hidden illness

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
About 4,000 fishermen stranded on Indonesian islands

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Warships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in Yemen

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Iran says nuke talks focused despite Yemen crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

At least 9 dead as militants attack hotel in Somali capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

An open letter from Galileo to Ted Cruz

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8

 
Belgium’s foreign minister dresses up in blackface

By Ishaan Tharoor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Books as decor: Versatile but meaningful design elements

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

 
Today in History: March 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: March 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes: March 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

My elderly mother is so stingy I’m finding excuses not to visit her

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
The newest fitness trend: Mixing it up

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

.

Entertainment

‘Stomp’ stopped by NYC blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Mannequin museum show hits New York

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
‘Teen Mom’ star charged in picture posting case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

People: Zane Malik

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Larry David Broadway role handed to Jason Alexander

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Notre Dame beats Stanford women 81-60, advances to Elite Eight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
New Rodriguez head football coach introduced

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

Curry, Thompson lead Warriors in rout over Grizzlies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Evans helps desperate Pelicans end skid vs. Kings, 102-88

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Ranuado goes 6 for Rangers’ but A’s rally for 7-6 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
A-Rod’s cousin pleads guilty in Florida steroids case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Durant to have another surgery, miss rest of season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Chicago rooftop owner charged with trying to defraud Cubs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Gift returns: Sterling wife wants house, $1 million

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Shaq acknowledges regret about decision to leave Magic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NASCAR topic: Cheating with tire pressure, or just hot air?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hot Rod Hundley, former NBA player and Jazz announcer, dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Area resident Jimmy Walker takes lead in Texas Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Logano wins Martinsville pole; Elliott to start 27th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for March 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Helen Kalis

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Robert Roberts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Carol A. Vose

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janice Jewel Thompson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Home Seller 3/28/2015

Books as decor: Versatile but meaningful design elements

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

Real estate transactions for March 28, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2