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Providence, Stockton Appear on Brink of Chapter 9 Bankruptcy

Labor contracts, especially those related to pensions and other entitlements, appear to be a common factor for a couple of U.S. cities that appear on the brink of municipal bankruptcy.

In Providence, RI this week, former state Supreme Court justice and the state-appointed receiver for the Rhode Island’s Central Falls bankruptcy from last summer, deemed a Chapter 9 for the city essentially unavoidable.  To wit, its mayor, Angel Taveres, noted the city could go broke by June without concessions on said contracts/entitlement agreements. Such an argument forced an out-of-court settlement between Central Falls, RI and its retired workers following that municipality's 2011 Chapter 9 filing.

There now is more evidence than ever that Stockton, CA is heading toward municipal bankruptcy, as well. Former U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ralph Mabey has been tasked with the role of mediator in Stockton’s debt negotiations -- mediation now is required per a 2011 California law forcing parties to the table for up to 90 days prior to a Chapter 9 filing being allowed. Stockton officials have become the first to begin going through the new mandate’s mediation process. If filed, Stockton would unseat Jefferson County, AL -- a case recently allowed to continue after being deemed valid by a bankruptcy judge -- as the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

Brian Shappell, CBA, NACM staff writer