Highland Park's decision is one of the nation's most extreme austerity measures, even among the scores of communities that can no longer afford to provide basic services. But unlike many other cutbacks that can easily be reversed, this one appears to be permanent.
The city is $58 million in debt and has many more people than jobs, plus dozens of burned-out or vacant houses and buildings. With fewer than 12,000 residents, its population has dwindled to half the level from 20 years ago.
Faced with a $4 million electric bill that required $60,000 monthly payments, Mayor Hubert Yopp asked the City Council to consider reducing lighting. Council members reluctantly approved the plan, even in an election year.The economic crisis has been pretty severe for many rust belt communities. With drastic measures such as this, it will be interesting to see just how these municipal governments survive.
While we've seen some tighter budgets in the sleepy little burg where I work, we haven't had to deal with anything like this. I also hope we never do.