Table of Contents
Cities are the economic backbone of America because they are where people live, play and work. Cities are places where the real change takes place since the government is closer to the people. When cities are made strong, the country’s economy flourishes, nation thrives, the environment becomes cleaner and well preserved for coming generation. However, there are economic challenges that grapple with these cities, and the local government should work to bring the difference between success and failure. Such imperatives entail fragile fiscal health, poor transportation infrastructure, gang violence, shrinking middle class, inadequate access to higher education, the need for affordable housing and a broken immigration system.
Economic problems facing U.S. cities
Fragile Fiscal Health
In 2013, American cities discovered amend in their fiscal health after revenues have declined for seven years. The situation become worse in 2014 with high rates of unemployment, and long-term pension benefits of health obligations continued to constrain many cities’ fiscal outlook. Cities continue to face economic downturn due to cuts in federal funding thus giving them challenges to balance their annual budgets (Bluestone, Stevenson & Williams, 2008). As a result, cities reduce workforce and concentrate on developing infrastructure. The trickle-down effect is a devastating economy for the communities. Therefore cities require new tools in the efforts to generate revenue to curb financial tenuous. For instance, the NLC supports the law which would give cities the right to collect taxes from the purchase of remote online.
Deteriorating transport infrastructure
Poor infrastructure continues to erode the economic competitiveness safety as well as the quality of life in American cities. Cities have found the need to upgrade infrastructure and introduce other transportation modes such as water ferries, rail, and bicycle transportation. According to the United States Society for the Civil Engineers, lack of investing in poor roads and bridges cost America $130 Billion in the year 2010. The cost is expected to rise to $3.1 trillion by 2020 leading to a low GDP and 877,000 losses of jobs. Traffic snarl-ups cause pollution as it emits about 380 pounds of carbon dioxide as well as wasted fuel. Therefore, poor transportation infrastructure is a major problem that continues to increase as funding declines.
Apart from funding schemes like a tax on property and sales, American federal government must be a fiscal partner to ensure good solutions. The cities have used tax-exempt bonds provide payments on schools, roads, airports and other important infrastructure. As the cities, relevant authorities plan to close the federal shortfall, suggestions to eliminate exemption of income tax given to interests on bonds from the local government and the state. However, the NLC does not accept attempts even to limit municipal bonds tax exemption.
The shrinking middle class
Various jobs held by the middle-class people disappeared during the recession period. As a result, many people were left unemployed, and some of them took up the lower paying jobs. With the emergence of the overall economy from Great Recession, both mid and higher skill jobs are yet to return forcing the educated to take up lower paying jobs just for their survival. As a result, poverty has hit many families forcing them to rely on the social service programs for their basic needs. The country is only left with low-paying jobs in food service while the higher paying jobs like manufacturing and construction cannot be found hence declining the income for middle-class people by 30% in the last decade (Practicing Law Institute, 2010).
Apart from the shrinking middle class, unemployment and collapsed business are hitting the cities too. The 1999 Brookings Institute report asserts that American cities and their suburbs have almost equal numbers of poor habitats that exceeded the poor people living in central cities by 1.5 million even though the rate of poverty is higher in central cities than in the suburbs.
Due to the financial crisis in America, millions of people are living in poverty and struggling to meet their basic needs. Such occurrences can lead to unemployment and family instability. It is upon the city leaders to economically empower families by creating employment and expanding opportunities to build financial assets.
Inadequate access to higher education
For cities to grow economically and compete globally, the majority of their residents must be supported to pursue and earn postsecondary degrees. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, about six out of ten jobs will require a postsecondary qualification by 2018. The report reveals that some earnings will depend on the level of education. Unfortunately, only 40% of Americans possess the postsecondary education and it is even lower for lower-income minorities. The city should encourage their residents to obtain higher education credentials in preparation for higher pay and stronger local economy. The leaders can coordinate wraparound services to influence young people to enroll and complete college.
The organized gangs recruit high-risk youth and increase criminal enterprise like drug business, human trafficking and prostitution pose devastating effects on the economy of American cities. Gang activities can instill fear and violence to the afflicted neighborhood. Apart from causing deaths the gangs also cause intimidation to neighborhoods, economic decay and weaken civil engagement hence weakening the community bond. As a result, children fear attending schools and thus the future economy becomes threatened. The United States has about 1.4 million outlaw gang members which comprise of about 33,000 gangs and the majority of them join at the age of between 12 and 14 years (Congressional Quarterly, inc. 2010).
Fortunately, cities are implementing approaches that both seek to stop gang violence and build communities that cannot allow gangs. Some of these approaches include establishing gang prevention plans based on the public health approaches that bring together all the stakeholders within the municipality. The cities also partner with schools to create gang awareness and keeping the youth on track towards graduation.
Solutions being implemented by fire departments
The economic challenges in the U.S cities have called for the Fire Departments to look for solutions that would help municipalities reduce expenditures. Some of these solutions include laying off the firefighters, closing down the fire stations and prioritizing emergency medical dispatching.
The northern California city of Vallejo Fire Department
In California, unprecedented reductions to the budgets of the fire station are raising concerns about the ability of the municipalities to respond to cases of emergencies, especially during the wildfire season. The fire department has operated through bankruptcy and shrunk its firefighters from 28 to 15. Due to economic crises in the whole country, the department has shrunk by reducing its firefighters from 28 to 15 and also closing down three of its eight stations (Peterson, & Madison, 2009).
However, these solutions are not successful as they continue to create more problems that dig deep to the economic budget. For instance, the closure of the fire departments has caused collateral damage than solving the budget crisis. Many homes near the departments that were closed catch fire and wait for longer time for other fire companies to come for emergency backup. Despite closing down some fire station at California, Vallejo Fire Department still relies on mutual aid which is not a viable option to solve the budget crisis.
We can do it today.
New York City Fire Department
Since the 2001 bombing of the U.S World Trade Centre, Fire departments throughout the country now trains the firefighters to fight terrorism as part of the cities to counter economic hardships and find solutions to cope with the shrinking budget. The Police Department at the New York City has a well-known counter-terrorism unit. Other cities like Los Angeles have also launched training programs for counter-terrorism to fight al-Qaida and other insurgent groups. Fighting terrorism is a counterproductive and helps to prevent the economic damage to the cities and the country at large. The department is upgrading powerful emergency response to the effective operation. They also lay off the firefighters and closed some fire stations saving the city about $12 million per year. This department also works to charge motorists up to $490 as a way of responding to accidents and car fires.
However, this training program faces serious financial challenges because weapon required for training are too expensive. According to TEMPLE RASTON, the latest weapon is Fire Boat 343 which costs $27 million (United States Fire Administration, 2012). This weapon is expensive for a single Fire Department and can only be donated by the U.S Homeland Security Docket. The biological and nuclear weapons used for detecting those agents are also expensive.
Despite all these sophisticated weapons, terrorists continue to cause damage by killing city residents and bombing buildings and that are essential for economic development making it hard for the department to cope up with the shrinking budget.
The San Jose, CA, Fire Department
This department has come up with a resource management plan known as Dynamic Deployment to reduce the impacts on service of closing down the fire companies. They faced some upfront cost for the software, communications experts, as well as the data experts but leaders, work towards reducing service level impact to essential calls.
Other more communities use various ways of triaging calls at their centers and giving options to the callers like assist line for nurses or rather appointments and transportation to the clinic. These alternatives lower the cost and reduce emergency costs hence preserving resources for the true emergencies.
This report gives good advice about patient transportation for EMS managers that try to do away with transport by partnering with the third party would be good. However, the process can be complicated and fail to find solutions to the shrinking budgets because most requests only ask the applicants what they are capable of doing hence the difficulty in evaluating competitors. Any decision that has the effect to service response requests is not similar to all agencies.
Jacksonville Fla, Fire Fighting Department
The Jacksonville Fire Department implements the 2% pay cut to the firefighters and calls for the single firefighters without dependants to contribute 5% of their income to the health care coverage. The department also laid off the firefighters to seek the solutions to the budget crisis. In 2010 about 23 firefighters were laid off which is 25% workforce reduction. The Muskegon Mich firefighters signed a three-year contract which encouraged the part-time firefighters. In Baltimore, staffing level was reduced from 36 to 34 saving the city’s annual revenue of $750,000 (United States Fire Administration, 2012).
Some of these strategies were not successful and culminated in many years of tough budgets for Jacksonville. Moreover, the pay cut is not the solution especially to the low-income earners because they end up not affording health care costs. When this happens, and people get sick, they call for 911 hence increasing the burden on the budget.
Fargo Fire Department in North Dakota
According to the chief of the Fargo Fire Department, Mr. Bruce Hoover, the firefighters only respond to true medical emergencies thus cutting their run by 1000 per year. This strategy helps them to keep both apparatus and workforce in place for real emergencies. They also deploy their workers to cut down the costs to meet the budget crisis.
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The solutions carried out by the U.S Fire Fighting Departments are not good and successful. The current information on what is happening in the fire departments such as call times, geographical distribution and the time of a day is all measured in the Manpower of the fire service, retrenchment, and equipment. Such solutions are not successful in solving problems associated with the shrinking budget. Therefore it is essential to look at both budgets and creative ways to handle the issue of staffing as well as deployment.
- Bluestone, B., Stevenson, M. H., & Williams, R. (2008). The urban experience: Economics, society, and public policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Congressional Quarterly, inc. (2010). Social problems: Selections from CQ researcher. Los Angeles: SAGE/Pine Forge.
- Peterson, D. F., & Madison. Fire Department. (2009). Best practices for the fire prevention program of the Madison Fire Department. Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.
- Practising Law Institute. (2010). Financial crisis fallout 2010: Emerging enforcement trends. New York, NY: Author.
- United States Fire Administration. (2012). Funding alternatives for emergency medical and fire services.