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Back from Bankruptcy, Can Vallejo Become a National Model?

Since declaring bankruptcy in 2008, the climb out of the budgetary depths hasn't been an easy one for the city of Vallejo, California. But, as it springs back to life, could Vallejo become a model for how to run a city in an age of austerity?
May 24, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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After a period of painful budget cuts following what was the largest municipal bankruptcy at the time, Ariana Eunjung Cha reports on the keys to Vallejo's reinvention, as, "For the first time in five years, the city expects to have enough money to do such things as fill potholes, clear weeds, trim trees and repair tennis courts." With cities across the country facing tough decisions on how to overcome fiscal catastrophes, Vallejo could provide valuable lessons.

"For Vallejo to survive, two city council members - Marti Brown, 46, a redevelopment worker for the state, and Stephanie Gomes, 45, a legislative specialist for the U.S. Forest Service - decided that the city needed to study best practices from around the world and bring some of them to California."

"We're trying to be more innovative and risk-taking," Brown said. "It's something we've been forced to do, but it's turning out to be a really positive experience for the city."

By "using technology to fill personnel gaps, rallying residents to volunteer to provide public services and offering local voters the chance to decide how money would be spent - in return for an increase in the sales tax," Vallejo is in much better financial shape than many cities across the country.

While Cha notes that, "Economists warn that a number of large bankruptcies of cities, concentrated over a short period of time, could have a devastating effect on the national economy," hitting the reset button has allowed Vallejo to think optimistically again.

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Published on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in The Washington Post
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