I’ve been watching Jericho. It’s a more-than-decent attempt to combine Picket Fences with The Day After. This combination enables them to tell a variety of stories–suburban pathos stories in one thread, nuclear holocaust stories in another thread government conspiracy stories in yet another thread. But weaving throughout is a narrative that asks a simple question: How does a town survive when government fails?

People in Michigan are asking the same question.

From the article:

• Voter-approved Proposal A, which limits increases in a property’s taxable value to the inflation rate or less until a property is sold. Only then does it increase to the market value.

• The voter-approved Headlee Amendment, which limits revenue growth in local governments to the inflation rate unless there is new development in a community.

• Since 2001, the state has cut more than $400 million annually from the sales tax revenue it shares with local governments, a funding source that provides as much as one-quarter of all revenue in some communities.

• State law requires binding arbitration in police and firefighters’ salary disputes, saddling some communities with costs they say they cannot afford.

• Some city charters require minimum staffing of police and firefighters, squeezing the rest of the budget.

• Retiree health-care costs have been rising by 10% or more annually and exceed what many communities pay to insure active workers

Some communities have raised taxes, but that can require complicated city charter amendments. More than half of Michigan’s cities levy the maximum tax allowed under their charters, the Michigan Municipal League says.

At least as far back as Proposition 13 citizens have sought out different ways to reduce their tax burden. This is the other side–what do those taxes provide? These suburbs have been forced to make cuts in library funding and recreation departments, but also in police and fire departments. Now some of these suburbs are old-line suburbs anyway, with little money to speak of, and a marked inability to draw in desirable middle class residents. But I knew it was bad when the article noted that Dearborn, home of Ford Motor Co., looks to go through its $24 million rainy day fund within two years.

These suburbs are going to have to ask the same type of questions officials in Detroit are asking now. But whereas cities like Detroit are at least able to front in the short term with high visibility enterprises like the Superbowl, new sports stadia and the like, these suburbs have nothing to offer.

Wes might have to expand his exhibit.