When Detroit filed for bankruptcy last week, it was the largest city to go belly up in U.S. history. But it was also a false flag of despair. Municipal bankruptcy is rare; Governing estimates that 0.06 percent of local governments have filed for bankrupcty protection in the last five years. And on the whole, according to the National League of Cities, the financial conditions of American cities have been on the rise. Cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Joliet, Illinois, have eliminated or greatly reduced huge budget gaps in the last several years.
Another important note: the structure of cities is incredibly variable. Everything from the degree of the recession’s impact to the size of pension liabilities to the level of state aid is completely different from city to city.
That said, Detroit is not the only city struggling to pay its bills. These 13 cities have shown significant signs of distress. They may have risky debt ratings, a declining population, a large budget gap in the year ahead, high unemployment ... or all of the above. Many have already declared themselves in a state of fiscal emergency, which allows them to void union contracts, increase taxes, or other things they wouldn’t be able to do legally otherwise.