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About Us

About Us…

MuniNet Guide, a publication of MuniNet LLC, covers all the bases when it comes to state and local matters. Our content and data provides a comprehensive look at of America’s states, counties and cities with spotlights on key demographics, employment trends, municipal finance, municipal bonds, infrastructure, fiscal distress, pension problems and municipal bankruptcy and a host of other related subjects and resources that make your job of tapping pertinent information a whole lot easier. Our articles and perspectives feature expert insights and analysis that shed more light on current hot topics and the evolving condition of states, localities and their agencies.

Our focus is on the fabric of U.S. communities, their economies, how we pay for them and the infrastructure that makes them work, including education and schools, healthcare, housing, transportation, utilities and economic development. In addition, MuniNet’s States & Cities section provides a snapshot statistical profile of every city, village, town, county and school in the U.S. as well as hand selected links to sources that round out what’s important.

MuniNet delivers a heavy accent on municipal finance, the factors that impact economic and fiscal sustainability and pertinent information that is likely to be important to the municipal bond market and the places and organizations that depend on it for their short and long term financing needs. The municipal finance portion of the site provides cutting edge and hard to get research on issues such as fiscal distress, public pensions and municipal bankruptcy.

About Us: Website Features

In addition to timely articles highlighting trends, current issues, research, and innovations in state and local government and the municipal bond industry, MuniNet Guide also features:

  • Job Market, a double edged resource that provides both monthly condition and trend information to help job seekers and researchers assess the best metropolitan job centers as well as fresh aggregate listings of active jobs available by city and metro area aggregated from our compilation of our affiliate online job sources.
  • Municipal Bond Calendar, a weekly focused list of upcoming and recent tax-exempt and taxable bond issues selling in the municipal bond markets. The calendar provides a selected list of bond issues in the market by state, bond issue size and includes links to issuers’ websites.
  • Conference Guide, a one stop targeted calendar for upcoming conferences, seminars, webinars and workshops for professionals with an interest in state and local government, municipal bonds, public finance, and areas of interest to anyone who cares about future of America’s communities.
  • Know Your Cities Contest, a chance to test your knowledge of U.S. cities by identifying a monthly “mystery city” by a photo and two clues. Enter to win!
  • Top Picks, selections of topic oriented hand-picked notable websites that rise above their peers.
  • Expert Interviews, commentary and insights from experts in their fields, including demographics, municipal finance and investing, urban affairs, transportation and housing.
  • State and Local Government pagessnapshot demographic profiles for states, counties and cities, with links to investor relations materials, local news sources, related government agency websites and community activists.
  • Sector and Topic-specific pagesshowcasing current articles, news, maps, and links to websites in categories including municipal bonds, municipal finance, fiscal distress, bankruptcy, public pensions, demographics, economic trends, education, employment, healthcare, housing and real estate, transportation, utilities, and special topics.

Because the sites included in the MuniNetGuide.com database have been compiled from a variety of resources through years of hands-on research, we believe it is the most comprehensive and relevant database of its kind.

About Us: Background & Philosophy

MuniNet has been covering municipal bond research, public finance, urban administration, and public sector agencies since the mid-1990s. First introduced as a subscriber-based print newsletter, MuniNet Guide launched its website in 2000 and gradually transitioned to a free online publication.

In its early days, MuniNet was designed to be a guide to municipal-related content on the Internet, helping readers efficiently navigate the then-new world of online resources. While the sophistication of users and search engines has vastly increased over the years, our mission remains: to be “your hub for municipal-related content” on the web.

About Us: Publishers and Editorial Team

Richard A. Ciccarone, Co-Publisher & Co-Owner

Richard Ciccarone has over 35 years of municipal research related experience. Most of those years, he was either directly or directly involved in making credit and market decisions regarding municipal bonds on behalf of institutional financial institutions and their clients. In the process, knowledge from a wide variety of pursuits and interests was a prerequisite in order to assess the fiscal health or prognosis of state and local entities as well as their associated enterprises and the not-for-profit institutions that serve communities.

He is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Merritt Research Services, LLC, a municipal bond credit database company. It was originally launched in 1986 as part of Van Kampen Merritt Inc. to be the first municipal bond database and software package available to the municipal bond market. Merritt Research became an independent company in 2001. Over the years, Mr. Ciccarone has also held a number of executive positions with nationally recognized financial institutions overseeing municipal bond research and investment management activities. He is also the co-owner of MuniNet LLC and co-publisher and founder of MuniNetGuide.com, an online resource specializing in municipal-related research and information concerning state and local bodies, including public finance, infrastructure, job market data and economic statistics and analysis.

He is a co-founder and past national Chairman of the National Federation of Municipal Analysts (NFMA). He also represented the NFMA as a member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council. Mr. Ciccarone also served as President of the Society of Municipal Analysts and the Chicago Municipal Analysts Society.

He has received numerous awards and distinctions, including: top Buyside research director and top municipal generalist analyst from Smith’s Research & Gradings and The Bond Buyer as well as a first team All American Fixed Income Analyst from Institutional Investor magazine. In 2007, Smith’s Research awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the municipal bond industry and the National Federation of Municipal Analysts recognized him with two awards: the Excellence in Municipal Analysis recognition in 1988 and a Career Achievement Award in 2011. He is an active speaker and presenter on municipal bond issues and is often cited by national news sources, trade publications and broadcasting media. His articles have appeared in the Handbook of Municipal Bonds  on “Managing a Buy-Side Municipal Research Department” and the Oxford Handbook of State and Local Finance on “Financial Markets and State and Local Governments”, co-authored by John E. Petersen. His writings have also appeared in the Municipal Finance Journal and the Urban Land Institute.

Active in community affairs, Mr. Ciccarone served an elected trustee of the Hinsdale Village Board, which provided him with a look at the other side of the table. He also served Hinsdale as an appointed member of its plan commission and on its Firefighters Pension Board. Currently, he is executive committee member of the Civic Federation of Chicago board of directors and the co-chair of it pension committee. He currently is a member of both the Hinsdale Hospital Foundation and the board of directors of Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.     

James E. Spiotto, Co-Publisher & Co-Owner

James E. Spiotto is a Managing Director of Chapman Strategic Advisors LLC, the consulting subsidiary of Chapman and Cutler LLP. In this role, he is engaged in strategic and advocacy initiatives on topics of high interest to municipal market participants and the presentation of educational forums on issues impacting the financial services industry. He is also the co-owner and co-publisher of MuniNetGuide.com, an online resource specializing in municipal-related research and information concerning state and local government, including public finance, infrastructure, job market data and economic statistics and analysis. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Retirement Security Initiative, a national, bipartisan, non-for-profit advocacy organization focused on protecting and ensuring the fairness and solvency of public sector retirement plans.

Prior to joining Chapman Strategic Advisors LLC, Mr. Spiotto was a partner in the law firm of Chapman and Cutler LLP where he represented issuers, indenture trustees, bondholders, banks, insurance companies, institutional investors and funds in litigation, bankruptcy or workouts of more than 400 troubled debt financings in more than 35 different states and in foreign countries as well. Over the last thirty years, Mr. Spiotto represented clients in the resolution of troubled state and local debt financings, most recently in the Sierra Kings Health Care District, Jefferson County, Alabama and Mendocino Coast Health Care District Chapter 9 cases and has testified before the United States Senate and House Judiciary Committees in conjunction with the amendments to the Bankruptcy Code involving municipal bankruptcy.  

Also a significant part of Mr. Spiotto’s practice included the representation of indenture trustees facing defaulted securities, troubled securitizations, workouts, debt restructuring, exchange offers, refinancing, insolvencies, pre-packaged plans and all stages of related financial litigation. He has lectured before various academic institutions and professional associations regarding the rights and remedies of indenture trustees and bondholders in defaulted debt securities. From 1980 through 1995, he chaired the annual Practicing Law Institute Program on Defaults and Remedies for indenture trustees and their counsel.  Also during that time he lectured at the ABA Corporate Trust Workshop and Cannon Financial Institute on the role of the indenture trustee in defaults and remedies. He authored the treatise Defaulted Securities: The Prudent Indenture Trustee’s Guide in conjunction with the American Bankers Association.

Among his many professional accomplishments, Mr. Spiotto is a past President of the Society of Municipal Analysts, was awarded the National Federation of Municipal Analysts’ Municipal Industry Contribution Award in both 1992 and 2014, and was presented with the National Association of Bond Lawyers’ Carlson Prize for the best scholarly article in recognition of his presentation on Municipal Defaults and Bankruptcy to the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee Hearing on the Orange County Crisis.

He has written numerous books and articles on municipal defaults and bankruptcy including the article entitled “Municipal Bonds: Defaults and Remedies” that appeared in Resources in Review, published by the Government Finance Research Center of the Municipal Finance Officers Association. He is a co-author of the volume The Law of State and Local Government Debt Financing (Thompson West). He authored chapters on municipal defaults and bankruptcy in The Handbook of Municipal Bonds, Sylvan Feldstein and Frank Fabozzi, editors, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., an article on “Municipal Finance and Chapter 9 Bankruptcy,” published in the Municipal Finance Journal, and a chapter on Financial Emergencies: Default and Bankruptcy in the Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance, Robert D. Ebel and John E. Peterson, editors. He also wrote the article, “The Renewed Battle Over Tax Exemption of Interest on State and Local Government Debt Obligations,” published in the Government Finance Review. His article “The Role of the State in Supervising and Assisting Municipalities, Especially in Times of Financial Distress”) was recently published in the Municipal Finance Journal. He also is the author of Municipalities in Distress? published by Chapman and Cutler LLP and available from Amazon.com and Primer on Municipal Debt Adjustment, published by Chapman and Cutler LLP and available upon request from the firm. His most recent article, “How Cities in Financial Distress Should Deal With Unfunded Pension Obligations and Appropriate Funding of Essential Services” will appear in the upcoming edition of The Willamette Law Review.

*The statements and views expressed in MuniNet Guide not reflect those of Chapman Strategic Advisors LLC, are intended for general informational purposes only and do not constitute advice including any statements, articles or comments of James E. Spiotto. 

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