The Best and Worst Run Cities in America

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10. Orlando, Fla.
> Population: 243,209
> Credit rating: Aa1, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 10.73 (17th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.2% (tied- 38th highest)

Like the state of Florida as a whole, Orlando took a significant hit during the housing crisis. Median home values between 2007 and 2011 declined by nearly 40%. Violent crime has also plagued the Orlando area. In 2011, there were nearly 11 violent crimes for every 1,000 people, which placed Orlando among the top fifth of the 100 largest cities. In 2013, the city will have to borrow $29.5 million from its reserves in order to balance the $354.2 million budget. Despite the shortfall, the budget deal did not raise property taxes and city employees will get a 3% raise.

9. Cleveland, Ohio
> Population: 393,804
> Credit rating: A1, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 13.66 (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.3% (37th highest)

Cleveland has been widely affected by the struggles America’s manufacturing sector faced during the preceding decade. Total employment in the city’s manufacturing sector fell consistently between 2002 and 2010. Despite the slight improvement in manufacturing, the city’s residents have struggled in recent years. Cleveland’s median household income in 2011 was just $25,371 — barely half the national median of $50,502. Also that year, the city had a poverty rate of 34.3%, more than double the U.S. rate. Violent crime also remained an issue, with 13.66 violent crimes per 1,000 residents — significantly higher than the national rate of just 3.86.

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8. Newark, N.J.
> Population: 277,545
> Credit rating: A3, negative outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 11.66 (14th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 15.2% (6th highest)

While Mayor Cory Booker’s political stature is rising, the city of Newark continues to struggle. Nearly 32% of residents found themselves impoverished within the last 12 months, the seventh-highest percentage of the 100 largest cities. The City Council finally approved a budget in October, after running 10 months without one. The budget curtailed spending, which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie required as a condition for $10 million in state aid to close the city’s budget hole. In addition, a 3.7% increase in property taxes was levied against homeowners in Newark, bringing the average total tax bill to $6,020 for 2013.The city also had one of the highest violent crime rates and the sixth-highest unemployment rate of any large U.S. city.

7. Fresno, Calif.
> Population: 501,365
> Credit rating: Baa2, under review for downgrade
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 5.82 (42nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 15.6% (tied- 4th highest)

Like many California cities, Fresno’s economy has been slow to recover from the Great Recession. In 2011, the city’s unemployment rate was higher than almost every other cities, at 15.6%. The city’s median home value declined considerably during the recession and was nearly 39% lower in 2011 than in it was in 2007. The weak economy also forced the city to make substantial cuts. Between 2009 and early 2012 Fresno eliminated more than $100 million in expenses to address budget shortfalls. In October, Moody’s announced that Fresno’s ratings were under review for a downgrade from its already abysmal Baa2 rating, with the main justification for this poor rating coming from the sizeable budget gap the city recently had to close.

6. Modesto, Calif.
> Population: 202,761
> Credit rating: not rated
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 6.94 (39th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 14.6% (7th highest)

The national downturn in home values between 2007 and 2011 was especially difficult for Modesto, where home values fell by more than half during that time. In 2011, more than 4.4% of all homes were in foreclosure, and the city’s unemployment rate was close to 15% — up from a 13.7% average in 2009. Also in 2011, the Modesto metro area’s GMP fell by 1.7%, the largest decrease among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Not all is bad for the city – Modesto’s violent crime rate, while not the best, is not terrible either.

5. Hialeah, Fla.
> Population: 229,967
> Credit rating: not rated
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 3.78 (18th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 14.1% (tied- 9th highest)

Home prices between 2007 and 2011 fell by 44% in Hialeah, the 10th-highest decline of all 100 largest cities. The median household income of $27,208 in 2011 was the third-lowest of all major cities, after declining by 44% during the recession. Of workers residing in Hialeah, 15.5% worked in the generally low-paying retail trade, the highest percentage of all of the 100 largest cities. As a result of industry composition, nearly 40% of city residents are without health insurance, higher than any other large city in the U.S.

4. Detroit, Mich.
> Population: 706,640
> Credit rating: Caa1, negative outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 21.37 (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 19.9% (2nd highest)

Detroit was hit hard during the recession, with the near-collapse of the automobile industry and a further slowdown of the already embattled housing market. The median home value between 2007 and 2011 tumbled by 43.5%, or more than four times the rate of decline across the country. The lack of income coming into the city’s coffers in the last few years has led to significant financial difficulty for Detroit. Moody’s currently rates city’s bonds as Caa1, which is considered junk status and the worst-rating Moody’s gave to any major city. Mayor Dave Bing signed a budget that aims to cut $250 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, with total spending of $1.12 billion.

3. Stockton, Calif.
> Population: 296,367
> Credit rating: Caa3, negative outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 14.08 (8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 20.2% (the highest)

Last year, Stockton was unable to fund its pension liabilities and make debt service payments. As a result, it became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. The city had been especially hurt by the recession. Its unemployment rate for 2011 was above 20%, while more than 5% of homes were in foreclosure — both among the highest rates for any large city. Just before the bankruptcy filing, Moody’s downgraded the city’s credit rating to account for the likelihood of a default. Moody’s noted, “The Caa3 rating level assumes losses to bondholders will be greater than 20%. The negative outlook reflects the high likelihood that losses could exceed our estimates.” Not only have the city’s creditors been affected, but so have city employees and retirees. According to NPR, the city may cut health benefits to reduce its $417 million in unfunded liabilities.

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2. Miami, Fla.
> Population: 408,760
> Credit rating: A2, negative outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 11.98 (12th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 12.4% (17th highest)

Between 2007 and 2011, the median home value in Miami fell by 43.5%. Additionally, the city had one of the nation’s lowest median household incomes, at under $29,000, while 31% of residents lived below the poverty line — nearly twice the U.S. rate of 15.9%. Despite the difficult economic conditions Miamians faced, the city joined with Miami-Dade County to pay for almost 80% of the more-than $600 million cost of building a new baseball stadium for the Miami Marlins. The deal has caused significant uproar. While taxpayers pay extremely high costs to service the stadium debt, the team has traded many of its top players. In 2011, the SEC launched an investigation into the agreement.

1. San Bernardino, Calif.
> Population: 213,008
> Credit rating: not rated
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 8.76 (27th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 17.6% (3rd highest)

Few cities were hurt by the housing crisis to the same extent as San Bernardino, where the median home value declined by 57.6% between 2007 and 2011, more than any other large city in the U.S. By the end of 2011, almost 4.4% of homes in San Bernardino were in foreclosure, among the highest rates for all large cities. That year, the unemployment rate reached 17.6%, or nearly double the U.S. rate and almost 10 percentage points higher than city’s annual rate in 2007. In August, declining home values and rising employee retirement costs forced the city to file for bankruptcy. But the city’s filing is being challenged by its largest creditor, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which is demanding payments.

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