California maps could be emptier the next time you buy a map, whenever that might be. Three towns have filed for bankruptcy over the last month, and now some are expecting smaller towns could just... disappear.
Stockton was the first California city to file for bankruptcy back at the end of June. Stockton is the largest city to ever file for bankruptcy in the U.S. The city had been negotiating with their creditors for some time leading up to the announcement. It wasn't a surprise. Everyone knew the town was broke. Mammoth Lakes, a town of about 8,200, filed for bankruptcy about a week after Stockton.
San Bernardino voted to file for bankruptcy on Tuesday night because city officials apparently misrepresented the city's financial reports for 13 of the last 16 years. Now, the town's reserves are empty and they're on track to spend $45 million more than they're expected to make over the next fiscal year. This was a big surprise for everyone.
While no one is expecting Stockton or San Bernardino to dissolve from their bankruptcy proceedings, some smaller towns are running the risk of completely disappearing. The L.A. Times' Phil Willon, Catherine Saillant and Abby Sewell try to figure out if the bankruptcy trend is a recurring thing, or just a flash in the pan, and what that means for smaller towns in California. "There are likely to be more in the future, but it's hard to know, since a lot of struggling cities may manage to work things out,'' Michael Coleman, a fiscal policy advisor for the California League of Cities, says of the bankruptcy trend. But also, some places might just stop existing. "Some cities may not go into a bankruptcy, but they may dissolve. They may cease to exist.''
Vallejo, another California town that filed for bankruptcy in 2008, serves as a cautionary tale for other towns thinking about taking the plunge. But their mayor says he wound't do it, if given the chance. "It takes an enormous toll on everyone,'' Mayor Osby Davis told the Times. "And you have the stigma of being a bankrupt city. How do you come out of being labeled a bankrupt city to one that is a desirable place to live?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.