The Worst-Run Cities in America
10. Hialeah, Fla.
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 4.36 (26th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 22.1% (35th highest)
> Adult population graduated from high school: 68.6% (5th lowest)
> Credit rating: not rated
> Population: 225,461
Hialeah is the sixth-largest city in the state, and yet it receives little press attention, largely because it is overshadowed by the neighboring city of Miami. In many ways, Hialeah is an improvement on its larger neighbor, posting the 26th lowest violent crime rate in the country, as well as the third-lowest vacant homes rate, at just 5%. However, Hialeah also has a 12-month unemployment rate of more than 15% — higher than Miami and all but a few of America’s largest cities. The city, which has grown very quickly over the past several decades, has one of the lowest percentages of adults with health insurance, at 28.6%.
9. North Las Vegas, Nev.
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 8.93 (28th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.0% (35th lowest)
> Adult population graduated from high school: 76.8% (15th lowest)
> Credit rating: A2 (negative outlook)
> Population: 217,304
The housing market of North Las Vegas plunged 50.9% from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, one in every five homes in the city was foreclosed upon, according to RealtyTrac. On top of it all, the North Las Vegas Housing Authority misspent public money for years meant to help needy residents. It appears that the soft housing market will continue to hurt city coffers. One of its major revenue sources — property taxes — is expected to fall by over a fifth in 2011 in the county. To reduce spending, the city cut or froze more than 800 positions in recent years. The city has a credit rating of A2 from Moody’s, which the agency attributes to its “continued economic weakness and persistent financial challenges,” as well as “the city’s structurally imbalanced operations and reliance on financial reserves” used to support government operations.
8. Fresno, Calif.
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 6.26 (48th highest)
> Poverty rate: 30.2% (9th highest)
> Adult population graduated from high school: 74.6% (11th lowest)
> Credit rating: A3 (negative outlook)
> Population: 496,147
Fresno, which was incorporated in 1885, is California’s largest inland city. Like much of the state, the city’s home values declined by more than 30% between 2007 and 2010. However, the vacancy rate in the city, at 9.8%, is better than average. Fresno’s 12-month average unemployment rate was the fifth-highest among the largest cities in the U.S. Also, more than 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. In October, Moody’s downgraded the city’s long-term debt rating to A2, citing an increasing budget gap and weak financial reserves.
7. St. Louis, Mo.
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 17.47 (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 27.8% (13th highest)
> Adult population graduated from high school: 81.5% (36th lowest)
> Credit rating: Aa3 (stable outlook)
> Population: 319,156
St. Louis has had a hard time controlling violent crime. With 17.47 incidents per 1,000 residents in 2010, the city has the second highest rate of violent crime in the country. This is due in part to the city’s high poverty rate of 27.8% and its median income of $32,688, which is the 10th lowest out of the 100 largest cities. Additionally, nearly 20% of housing units in the city are vacant. All of these measures influence government revenues. Despite this, St. Louis has managed its finances fairly well. While Moody’s credit score is Aa3, the credit agency also reports that the city faces a continued weakening of resident income levels, high unemployment rates and a decreasing population.
6. Stockton, Calif.
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 13.81 (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 23.0% (27th highest)
> Adult population graduated from high school: 75% (12th lowest)
> Credit rating: Baa1 (negative outlook)
> Population: 292,747
Stockton is part of the inland area that also contains Fresno. Stockton was one of the hardest-hit by the burst housing bubble. In 2007, median home value in the city was $364,700. By 2010, that number declined more than 50% to $171,500. This massive drop — the second-largest decline among all major cities — has led to large-scale foreclosures and an increasingly dire economic situation. Stockton has the sixth-highest violent crime rate in the country among major U.S. cities, as well as the second-highest average unemployment rate, at more than 20%. The city currently has a large debt and a weak economy.