The article in the Republican-allied New Britain City Journal on a deal related to Republican Mayor Erin Stewart’s controversial proposal to borrow $115 million to push city debt into the future is misleading and inaccurate, according to the Majority Leader of the City Council, Ald. Carlo Carlozzi, Jr. (D-5).
On March 22, 2018 the City Journal published an article, headlined, “Debt Consolidation Agreement Reached”, stating that, “It appears the two parties have reached an agreement and debt consolidation bonding could be passed at next Wednesday’s Council meeting.” The article refers to discussion between Stewart, the Council President Pro-Tempore, Ald. Eva Magnuszewski (D-AL), Carlozzi and the Republican leader, Ald. Robert Smedley (R-4).
The article, on the City Journal‘s front page, was written by its editor, Robin Vinci, who also commented, in her “Editor’s Note,” that, “I am so happy to report that it appears an agreement has been reached on debt consolidation. … I wish it didn’t take so long, but better late than never.”
Carlozzi responded to the front page article, in comments on Facebook, stating that, “the article is inaccurate, does not have facts and that the only time an agreement is reached is when the votes have been cast.”
Carlozzi added that the City Journal, “headline was mis-leading and has caused a problem with Alderpeople. She keeps on reporting that we owed $40 million this year when we actually owe $24 million for our debt payment. She has other aspects of the story wrong and she has repeated and repeated and repeated the same thing in every story she writes regarding the debt restructuring.”
Democratic Council leaders have confirmed that productive discussions have occurred between Stewart and Democratic and Republican Council leaders, and that Democratic Council members will discuss possible plans as part of the decision on how to move forward.
But Carlozzi said that a deal has not been reached at this time and that it is presumptuous to state that there is a deal without all of the Council members involved.
In a Facebook comment, Carlozzi said that, “The opinion of a journalist is just that..an opinion. However Robin Vinci likes to use the New Britain City Journal to make her opinion facts, when they are not.”
“There was never a deal per se.” said Carlozzi. “We got together, we requested scenarios based on certain parameters. Healey provided that. Eva then asked for some other numbers. Those all need to go to the caucus with the plan that we would vote this coming Wednesday.”
John Healey is a Managing Director for the city’s debt underwriter, Mesirow Financial.
Under the debt plan originally proposed by Stewart, the city would borrow $115 million in order to refinance city debt and push debt payments into the future. Under her proposed plan, city taxpayers would be making smaller payments on existing city debt in the current year and next eight years, with the largest saving being in the three years following the current year. After the year 2026, however, taxpayer payments on existing city debt would increase, becoming dramatically higher over the course of twenty-one years. The plan would add an additional ten years to the taxpayer’s payments on existing city debt, and, according to City Council members, would add over $69 million to city debt service and increase the city’s total debt obligation from $380 million to $449 million.
Stewart and other Republicans have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics to pressure City Council Democrats into fast approval of her $115 million borrowing plan. Council Democrats say that, despite the pressure, they have continued discussions, behind the scenes, between Council members, Stewart and others on the city’s finances.
Editor’s Note (3/31/2018): The article was corrected to note that Mesirow Financial is the city’s debt underwriter.