Thursday, October 2, 2014
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 dwalters@sacbee.com.

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

Head-on crash sends 2 to trauma centers

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Vacaville man earns Carnegie heroism medal

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Mundy fifth-graders share their thoughts

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

 
Veterans meet set in November

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Solano Tea Party Patriots meet next week

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Bevy of vintage warbirds expected at Nut Tree air show

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

FBI turns animal cruelty into top-tier felony

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
California Catholics challenge abortion order

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

San Francisco expands free public Wi-Fi access

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Judge: Stockton must treat pension like other debt

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Mexico’s probe of army slayings raises doubts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
John Wayne’s heirs lose ‘Duke’ legal brawl

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Hong Kong protesters threaten to occupy buildings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Man convicted of murder in killing over loud music

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

3 Afghan soldiers who fled say they can’t go home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Poll: Divided voters still focus on economy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Respiratory virus seen in 4 deaths; role unclear

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
920 California chickens killed with golf club

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Liberia short on ambulances for Ebola patients

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Wife of slain Los Angeles-area mayor released

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ebola patient told hospital he was from Liberia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Caltrans: Bay Bridge tower rods exposed to water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Secret Service chief quits due to security lapses

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
2 children in Los Angeles County have enterovirus

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Palestinians: Israeli occupation must end in 2016

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Infant’s body found in California trash facility

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

App teaches kindergartners basic computer coding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
2 white Ohio women sue over sperm from black donor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

 
Editorial Cartoon: Oct. 2, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

Crazy? Violent? Lose your guns

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11

 
It’s time to teach history

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

Read this column ASAP or immediately

By Reg Henry | From Page: A11

 
Real reasons neighborhoods are in trouble

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 2, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 2, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Oct. 2, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
Our son’s suicide has made us feel like outcasts in our community

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Lena Dunham launches tour for book of adult essays

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

‘Interstellar’ to be released 2 days early on film

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Steinem: Domestic violence discussion a positive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

‘Orange is the New Black’ author talks Season 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Joy Behar to debut a 1-woman show in New York

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Tony Bennett sets mark as oldest act with No. 1 LP

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Bumgarner, Giants silence Pirates 8-0 to advance

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A’s part ways a day after 12-inning loss to Royals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

49ers prepare for familiar face in Chiefs Smith

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders leave for bye after meeting with new coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

College notebook: Former Falcon Williams tearing it up as Torero

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Prep water polo: Rodriguez boys swim to 11-1 win over Armijo

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep girls tennis: Stybnarova earns victory at No. 1 singles

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
 
Prep cross country: Armijo rolls to sweep at MEL center meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Drivers fear next round of NASCAR’s Chase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
JC volleyball: Solano wins twice in Falcons Classic

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

JC women’s soccer: Sjoberg nets 2 goals as Solano ties Chabot

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Trout makes playoff debut when Angels host Royals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Tigers hope starters can outdo Orioles bullpen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Wambach, players file lawsuit over World Cup turf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oslo latest city to drop out of 2022 Olympic race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Cardinals re-sign Fairfield High graduate Bishop

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B3

 
LeBron warmly welcomed ‘home’ by Cleveland fans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

This date in sports history for Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

Stocks start October with a drop

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
GM looks to new vehicles, China to boost profit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

5 reasons bonds may be less safe than you think

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Why the bond market is more fragile than you think

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

.

Obituaries

John ‘Bo’ M. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Laura M. Gerdes-Lemmons

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9