The City of Hartford’s budget is complicated – much more complicated than the budget of a typical municipality.
Most Hartford residents, and many commentators, have only a vague sense of how money flows into and out of the City’s accounts. It is very difficult to have an effective conversation about spending when everyone has different perceptions about the numbers.
The proposed baseball stadium is a perfect example. The rational way to approach this decision is to lay out the expected expenses and revenues to find out how much the stadium is likely to cost the City (both up front and over time). Next, review the funding sources to understand where the money would come from and what sacrifices would be required if the deal went forward. Finally, once final negotiations are complete and all the numbers are available, everyone could look at the results and express their opinions.
The passion and involvement the stadium proposal has generated raises a larger question for me. Why isn’t this amount of energy brought to the regular City budget process that happens every spring? It’s all the same money. And with this level of community engagement perhaps solutions could be found for some of Hartford’s long-standing budget challenges.