"The last three large California cities to seek bankruptcy protection or announce they plan to had seen their housing values, tax revenue and employment crumble. They also have something else in common: They all are so-called charter cities.
Now another California city, Compton, says it may have to file for bankruptcy by September. It, too, is a charter city. Some say that's no coincidence.
Of the state's 482 cities, 121 have their own constitutions, or charters. That gives them more leeway in governing their affairs, including the freedom to set their own rules about elections, salaries and contracts."