Political, popular obstacles block city pension changes

Detroit's bankruptcy casts shadow over long list of cities facing similar challenges

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DETROIT - Detroit's bankruptcy is casting a shadow over a long list of cities facing similar challenges of changing populations, waning industries, crushing debt and surging pension costs. But it's also giving mayors new urgency in the search for solutions to long-standing fiscal problems.

Pensions top the list. Detroit's emergency manager has proposed creating a new 401(k)-style retirement system, an idea floated in other cities along with proposals to reduce benefits and eliminate pension increases.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants big changes to the pension system covering city employees, but so far he's failed to get state lawmakers to go along.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says that to her, the lesson of Detroit is that cities can no longer afford to put off tough solutions to complicated problems.

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