Turning out the lights

Back from vacation and trying to keep up with the news out of Detroit, where the state is moving quickly to takeover city government. As the recession continues, and state budgets continue in the red, some cities are cutting down to the bone.

What distinguishes these latest austerity measures is how noticeable they are to ordinary residents. If health care cuts, pay cuts, layoffs and furloughs — and even limits on enforcing building codes or maintaining parks — are most apparent to the people inside city halls, everyone notices when his streetlights go dark.

Predictably, such cuts generate discussions of privatization and self-help:

In Highland Park, yard lights and even strings of Christmas lights are helping to illuminate some streets, and some leaders have urged residents to add their own lighting if they are worried about security — leading to complaints that the city is trying to shift items it cannot afford to residents who cannot afford them either.

In cities around the nation, similar ideas have emerged: streetlight user fees, private security lights, even optional “adopt-a-light” programs comparable to road sponsorships.

Cities’ Cost Cuttings Leave Residents in the Dark – NYTimes.com.