Bankruptcy ‘a black eye’

Published 11:20 am Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Recently, the Jefferson County Commission voted to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy after an ongoing struggle to solve the sewer debt crisis that has plagued Jefferson County for years. As I’ve stated before, I firmly believe that filing for bankruptcy will be detrimental not only to the well-being of citizens and ratepayers in Jefferson County, but to the state as a whole. The county has lost all credibility and only time will tell how badly it will hurt economic development and recruitment throughout Alabama.

Filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history is unchartered territory and I am disappointed that it has come to this. It will be a black eye for our state and will be years before we fully recover. While there are numerous negative impacts of declaring bankruptcy, one that especially concerns me is the fact that the debt will not be dissolved automatically. We must still find a way to take care of this debt while also covering the additional costs of bankruptcy.

I read with interest the Shelby County Reporter’s story last week on Shelby County’s own struggles with the decision to declare bankruptcy in 1993. The situation was very similar to the current Jefferson County financial crisis but with a somewhat different solution. I commend Shelby County’s decision to find a viable solution to work its way out of bankruptcy and I had hoped Jefferson County would follow suit.

Now, Shelby County is one of the most financially sound counties in the state, continuing to thrive with the addition of new businesses and jobs every year.

However, I can’t help but wonder what the future looks like for Jefferson County after it decided to declare bankruptcy. While it may be a while before we truly know the effects of this bankruptcy and financial crisis, I can only hope Jefferson County comes out as successful as Shelby County.

Slade Blackwell is serving his first term in the Alabama State Senate representing Jefferson and Shelby Counties in District 15.