- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Your Dec. 30 editorial “Municipal meltdown” (Comment & Analysis), demands clarification, as it uses research from the National League of Cities to make egregious generalizations about municipalities.

First, your examples of Bell and Vernon, Calif., are extreme exceptions that include some elements of criminal behavior. They should not be used as a basis for any comparisons to the other 19,000 cities and 16,000 towns in this country.

Second, employee paychecks have not contributed to nationwide municipal budget shortfalls. The two main culprits of budget shortfalls are declining tax revenues because of the economic slowdown and cuts in state aid.

Just as you suggest, cities already are on a diet - they have steadily made significant budgets cuts over the past three years. These cuts include public-safety spending, essential infrastructure projects and health care benefits. This is in addition to the 480,000 personnel cuts that will occur between 2009 and 2012. You say cities must “eliminate all but the most essential services, departments and agencies” - our research indicates they already are well down this road, with more cuts coming.

The truth of the matter is that cities are responding to the financial crisis with efficiency and responsibility. However, the continuing weakness of the economy leaves them with very difficult choices, such as whether to cut fire and police service or the child welfare office. The actions taken by city officials deserve our praise and support, not the misgivings of Washington insiders.

CHRISTOPHER HOENE

Director of research and innovation

National League of Cities

Washington

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