A New Fulcrum Point for City Survival
78 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2015 Last revised: 7 Nov 2015
Date Written: June 1, 2014
Municipalities have historically enjoyed immense stability. This era of tranquility is over, and fiscal deterioration is accelerating. Policymakers and scholars have struggled to formulate debt restructuring options; almost all have embraced federal bankruptcy law. But this resource-draining process is not the fulcrum point for any meaningful solution to municipal demise. Indeed, for the vast majority of distressed municipalities, the lever of municipal recovery will not turn based on the solutions that have to date been offered. This Article radically shifts the municipal recovery debate by arguing that state law is the centralized point at which officials can exert the necessary amount of pressure to gain concessions from key creditor constituencies. To that end, I propose a comprehensive, fiscal monitoring system that identifies and then directs distressed municipalities into a dynamic negotiation model designed to restructure inveterate debt obligations. Animating this proposal is a more nuanced understanding of the Contracts Clause that allows a municipality to explore unilateral contract modification in an effort to facilitate consensual agreements with creditor constituencies.
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