In Stockton, Calif., slow fall off financial cliff

HANNAH DREIER Associated Press Published:

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) -- Stockton has twice topped Forbes magazine's list of "America's most miserable cities," and is now struggling to avoid another unflattering title: largest American city to declare bankruptcy.

The city of 300,000 rode the wave of the housing boom in the early 2000s. Now it finds itself littered with foreclosed homes, saddled with pension and bond obligations it can't afford, and unable to pay its bills.

City leaders are participating in a two-month mediation with creditors and employee unions to try and forestall bankruptcy.

The Stockton police union, upset over job cuts and a record murder rate, has posted billboards listing the town's body count and telling residents they are not safe.

The city's deficit is $15 million and that could double in the next fiscal year.