While city budgets are tanking around the state because of the steep recession, sales tax revenues in Berkeley actually rose this year, according to the Chron. City Manager Phil Kamlarz credited the increase to the success of the city's shopping districts, which are full of small, diverse stores that tend to soften the impact of both economic downturns and upturns. By contrast, cities that depend on a few big-box retailers tend to experience booms and busts, mirroring the fortunes of those businesses.
Berkeley's numerous restaurants also have helped boost tax receipts, the Chron reports. The increase in revenues also has allowed the city to avoid layoffs and steep cuts in its budget. In fact, the city's budget is actually increasing a bit next year, which is amazing, considering what other cities are going through. So the next time someone clamors for a big-box store in your town, remind them that Berkeley is a prime example of why cities are better off developing shopping districts full of small, independent stores.