Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Streetsblog

What We Can Learn From the New Wave of Municipal Bankruptcies

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Stockton, California; Jefferson County, Alabama: They're the first wave in a new era of municipal bankruptcy.

When public insolvency becomes a trend, clearly something has gone fundamentally wrong.

Patrick Kennedy at Network blog Walkable Dallas Fort Worth says the problem isn't contained to the housing bust or bad investment decisions. Fundamentally, he says, it's a symptom of inefficient, sprawling development run amok:

The bust wasn't the problem. It was the boom, that displaced and destabilized cities... Sprawl.

The underlying problem is that you can't balance the budget with an imbalanced physical environment. Too much infrastructural burden and too little tax base.

Take Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Kennedy says:

Harrisburg is a city of 50,000 people. It's also a state seat. Its boundaries are very small and its major industry is tax exempt. Most of the people that work in said state seat live outside of the city proper. Because they can. Because said state built an infrastructure availing housing opportunities at an ever increasing edge, chewing up evermore agricultural land. There is no mass transit available, and like most increasingly sprawling and disconnected places, it wouldn't make a difference.  The infrastructure is built in a way that mass transit would never be as "convenient" as driving.

The metropolitan area of Harrisburg, PA is about 650,000 people. And that doesn't even include metropolitan York, PA nor metro Lancaster, PA. A triangle, all about 30 minutes apart. Or less than it is from Dallas to the majority of its suburbs. Combine those three metropolitan areas and Harrisburg, a city (tax base) of 50,000, as its primary job center, has to support a super-metro area of about 1.3 million people.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington asks whether the District's new pedestrian safety campaign is an extensive exercise in blaming the victim. Streets.mn explores the primal impulses that can cause parking discussions to become so irrational. And Seattle Bike Blog considers the "human infrastructure" that undergirds cycling.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Exclusive: Legal Team Announced for Suit Against Hochul’s Congestion Pricing ‘Pause’

Attorneys from three firms have inked a joint defense agreement to fight "the governor’s illegal decision to cancel congestion pricing," Comptroller Brad Lander said.

July 17, 2024

Brooklyn BP Wants Mayor Adams To Do More To Reduce Parking

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso's recommendation on City of Yes: Eliminating parking mandates is not enough!

July 17, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines: Citi Bike By the Numbers Edition

Haters of Citi Bike are really going to detest the new website. Plus other news.

July 17, 2024

Once Again, There is More Evidence that Safer Streets Help Local Business

...and there's more insight into why people simply don't believe it.

July 17, 2024

Bedford Ave. Protected Bike Lane Would Benefit Residents, Businesses: Data

A new report debunks the common myth that street safety projects aren't built for the benefit of people who live in a given neighborhood.

July 16, 2024
See all posts