Former Mayor Richard Riordan, among others, raised that possibility a few years back, and budget chief Miguel Santana recently used the city of Stockton as a cautionary tale in describing L.A.'s financial situation. Make no mistake, the city is in bad shape, but a bankruptcy filing? Just doesn't seem likely. Here's why:
--Size: Not only is L.A. the nation's second largest city, it's one of the world's most important economies. Never say never and all that, but this could be a case of being too big to fail.
--Funding options: For all its deficit woes, L.A. remains on good terms with the Wall Street ratings agencies and the institutional investors that buy up the city's debt. Earlier this month, Standard and Poors, Moody's and Fitch's all gave the city their highest ratings for the notes used to keep the place operating.
--Budget-cutting options: It might not look pretty, but a $7.2-billion budget can always be trimmed before resorting to bankruptcy, even if it requires a reduction in cops and other basic services.
--Politics and unions: A Chapter 9 filing could involve significant changes in benefit plans for members of city unions, changes that the mayor (whoever he or she is) and council members would be unwilling to make.
--Ballot initiatives: If bankruptcy were becoming a real option, voters would probably intervene - and if it came down to reduced police services or reduced pensions for city workers, what do you think they would choose? If you have any doubt, check out what happened in San Jose and San Diego earlier this month.
--Process: If it took the small city of Vallejo three years to get out of bankruptcy protection, how long might it take the nation's second-largest city? Decades?
Like I said, never say never, but the chances appear pretty remote.