Cities Cut Streetlights, Playgrounds, Police in Tough Times

Topeka, Kan., became the latest city to take drastic measures to deal with budget shortfalls when it repealed its domestic violence law Tuesday. The city is fighting with the county and a district attorney over who should pay for prosecuting domestic violence criminals.

Cities around the country have been forced to cut basic services such as laws and streetlights because of budget woes in recent years:

  • Say Goodbye to Streetlights: The embattled city of Detroit lost 1,400 streetlights in one of its most impoverished neighborhoods, Highland Park, when it couldn’t afford to pay its electrical bill, according to Michigan Live. The neighborhood owed $4 million in unpaid bills when the utility came to collect the poles.  Dark streets and sidewalks in the city lead some critics to predict crime will rise.
  • Say Hello to Potholes with KFC Logos.: A suburban town with a serious budget problem, Naperville, Ill., once considered a deal in which Kentucky Fried Chicken would pay for pothole repairs in exchange for stamping the new potholes with the chicken chain’s logo, according to the Chicago Tribune.
  • Hello, Officer? The  city of Alto, Tex., population 1,200, decided to cut its entire police force for six months, laying off five officers and increasing emergency response time from three minutes to 15 minutes, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Citizens will rely on sheriff’s officers in the meantime, though the county force is already stretched thin after nearby Wells, Texas, laid off its sole police officer earlier in the year.
  • No More Playtime for You! Kids in Clearwater, Fla., lost nine playgrounds – with six more scheduled to go – because of budget cuts, according to the St. Petersburg Times.  Replacing the aging playgrounds had become too expensive for the struggling city, so the playgrounds were demolished, instead.
  • One Square Per Person: Parks Department employees in Coney Island, N.Y., doled out squares of toilet paper to bathroom patrons near the Coney Island boardwalk last summer, leaving the toilet paper canisters in stalls empty. The rationing was said to be prompted by to budget constraints on the department, according to the New York Post, though a city spokeswoman denied the claim.
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