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Griebel: Private Sector Can Help Hartford Deal With Financial Problems

Griebel: Private Sector Can Help Hartford Deal With Financial Problems

Hartford Courant  October 26, 2016

While city leaders weigh their options for fixing Hartford's troubled financial picture, key investors and private sector companies should have a seat at the table for the discussion, the head of the city's business chamber said Friday.

Oz Griebel, chief executive officer of the MetroHartford Alliance, said stakeholders, from the heads of major corporations to officials with the Capitol Region Council of Governments, must have a role in devising a plan to right Hartford's fiscal problems. Special legislation, along with the possibility of a state takeover or a bankruptcy filing, are among the options being batted around.

Hartford is facing a $22.6 million shortfall this year and a more than $50 million budget deficit next year. City financial officials have said they are working on a strategy to resolve cash flow problems that could prevent Hartford from paying its bills as early as December.

"The most important thing is bringing all the right people to the table," Griebel said. "The more people you can get in the room, you've got a higher degree of confidence" in any decision made.

Griebel said he has not made any suggestions to Mayor Luke Bronin about how Hartford's financial woes should be handled, but the business chamber has begun researching municipal bankruptcy cases.

"We're doing our own analysis of what the pros and cons are," he said. "Bankruptcy is not a day at the beach."

The ability to reopen union negotiations would be a good step for Hartford, Griebel said, though he added that the process could be a black eye for the city.

"Neither I nor the [MetroHartford] Alliance is recommending bankruptcy," he said. "We're saying it's an option that needs to be analyzed along with the other options that are out there."



Working closely with business leaders back to top

Griebel disputed a report in Crain's Connecticut this week that quoted him as saying he supported a bankruptcy filing in Hartford. An official with Crain's declined comment.

Bronin said Friday that he has already sought input from numerous stakeholders about the city's financial issues.

"Since taking office, we've been working very closely with business leaders, elected officials, employees and residents alike as we work to get Hartford healthy," he said in a prepared statement. "I think there's a shared commitment to facing Hartford's fiscal challenges directly and fighting for a sustainable solution for the Capital City. Virtually all of these stakeholders, including and maybe especially our business leaders, understand the reputational damage that bankruptcy could do to the entire region and state.

"As we head toward the legislative session this year, there's no doubt that we'll continue to need all stakeholders at the table and invested in Hartford's success."

Bronin has not said whether he would file for bankruptcy. He has asked for a legislative fix to give Hartford a boost in funding.

The mayor has suggested the creation of a regional tax or a bump in the state sales tax to help Hartford and other struggling cities. He has also floated the prospect of shared services with neighboring towns — an idea that hasn't yet caught on with bordering communities.