When Ruth Rooney moved in 2005 to a two-bedroom house in Vallejo, California, near Napa Valley's famed wineries, the historic St. Vincent's Hill neighborhood attracted young professionals and there were few vacancies.
Things began to change in 2008 after Vallejo, a city of about 116,000 that had lost its biggest employer, the U.S. Navy's Mare Island shipyard, filed for bankruptcy, said Rooney, a 54-year-old marketing consultant."I see prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers out my front window," Rooney said in a telephone interview Aug. 5. "There's two on the corner right now." Her property value has dropped 70 percent in six years, she said.Vallejo's experience comes as Central Falls, Rhode Island, proposes $5.6 million in budget cuts after seeking Chapter 9 protection this month and Jefferson County, Alabama, negotiates with creditors to avoid what would be the biggest government filing in U.S. history. There have been five municipal bankruptcies this year, compared with six in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Prostitution became a growth industry in Vallejo as the San Francisco Bay city slashed its payroll, cutting police by a third, to 90 from 134. The largest municipal bankruptcy in California since Orange County in 1994 has forced law enforcement to focus on violent crime at the cost of so-called "quality-of-life" issues, residents and officials said.
'Half the People'"When you have half the number of people, you can only do half the amount of work," Robert Nichelini, Vallejo's police chief, said in an Aug. 15 telephone interview. "Where it's taken a toll is the lower-priority crimes, which have had to take a back seat."...MORE
From our September 22, 2008 post, "The Front Line of the Housing Mess. And: The Climateer Line of the Day":
Not like the old days eh chief?...each of the 100 firemen paid $230 a month in union dues and each of the 140 police officers paid $254 a month, giving their respective unions enormous sums to purchase a compliant City Council.So a police captain receives $306,000 a year in pay and benefits, a police lieutenant receives $247,644, and the average for firefighters - 21 of them earn more than $200,000, including overtime - is $171,000. Furthermore, police and firefighters can store up unused vacation and leave time over their careers and walk away, as one of the more than 20 who recently retired did, with a $370,000 check. Last year, 292 city employees made more than $100,000. And after just five years, all police and firefighters are guaranteed lifetime health benefits...The city of Vallejo has filed for bankruptcy.