The five biggest car dealerships here went belly up in the space of a year. The Mervyns department store was liquidated. And the city is so strapped for cash it has pulled the plug on its Fourth of July fireworks.
But now this Los Angeles suburb thinks it has found the answer to its troubles: It's going to drill, baby, drill.
It's not unusual to see working oil derricks in the midst of L.A.'s suburban sprawl. A century ago, Whittier was dotted with oil wells, but that came to an end in 1993, the WSJ reports, when Chevron turned its field over to the city. Hard times and high oil prices provided Mayor Bob Henderson with a revelation:
The Whittier Daily News reported yesterday that a Santa Barbara company filed for permission to drill in the city. Officials think they can earn about $5 million a year from the operations.
"I was sitting at home, just idly thinking about this possibility of oil drilling and suddenly thought: 'Oh, my God, when I purchased the old Chevron property, we demanded they give us the oil rights.'"
The demand was made so Whittier could convert the area into a wilderness preserve. Says Mr. Henderson: "It's home to an awful lot of animals -- bobcats, coyotes, hundreds of birds."