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  • Fred

How is Hartford going bankrupt?

Yesterday I found an article in the Wall Street Journal called the City of Hartford Hires Law Firm to Consider Bankruptcy Filing.

Living in the Midwest, I don't have the foggiest idea about the inner workings of the Hartford, Connecticut government because I'm only familiar with 2 local bankruptcies.

First in Ohio there's East Cleveland. East Cleveland was one of Cleveland's nicest suburbs another lifetime ago, during World War II. Since then, East Cleveland has been on the downward spiral, losing over half of its population and bottoming out in 2015 when the city initiated merger talks with Cleveland and filed for bankruptcy in 2016. Currently East Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in Ohio, and, if it does merge with Cleveland, it will be Cleveland doing the 17,000 residents of East Cleveland a favor.

And secondly, in Michigan, there's Detroit. No matter what they tell you, I've been to Detroit and most of Detroit is a war zone. Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013 after its population went from 1.8 million in 1950 to around 700,000 today. Despite emerging from bankruptcy, Detroit continues to hemorrhage population and the Detroit "recovery" is isolated to the downtown area and not the residential areas. Somehow, Detroit is opening a brand new home for the Red Wings and Pistons in the downtown area, Little Caesars Arena, so some of Detroit's problems can be traced to misplaced priorities. (The optics of building any type of stadium, when in bankruptcy, is not good. Even though the last 3 facilities in Detroit have been built through split public/private efforts.)

Which circles us back around to Hartford. This is the entirety of what I know about Hartford, the 221st largest city in America. In the 90's, the NHL's Hartford Whalers' greedy owner moved the team to Greensboro, North Carolina, then to Raleigh. Now the city of Hartford only has just over 100,000 people within its boundaries, but the county contains nearly a million people. And, not to mention, Connecticut on a whole is a hotbed of college hockey, with 4 Division I schools within its borders.

I digress, the point is that the Whalers should have never left Hartford.

Back to the task at hand. If you research the highest poverty rates in large cities, Detroit and Cleveland are on every list.

So I'm not saying that Hartford isn't poor, it seems to fall into one of the more poor cities, with a population between 100,000 and 250,000, but they ain't Youngstown either. If you're poor in Hartford, it's like saying you're the poorest kid in your private school. There's a good article in the New York Times that explains the dilemma better than I ever could, but it does not explain how Hartford is unique among other urban centers who don't declare bankruptcy.

I then searched out cities that have declared bankruptcy in America and found this cool website with an interactive map of all filings. Again, if you search richest Metro Areas, the Hartford Metroplex comes in at 7th. Now if you read the New York Times article above, White Flight is one of the culprits cited, with the rich fleeing to multiple suburbs, but again those circumstances are not isolated to Connecticut.

The only statistic that seems to skewer Hartford differently than other medium sized city is its Puerto Rican population. One of the largest in the U.S. by both number and percentage.

I've been meandering a bit, so how is Hartford going bankrupt? I personally blame Peter Karmanos Jr., but in reality it's a bit more puzzling and complex than that.

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