Thursday, July 18, 2013

Detroit has filed for bankruptcy

Today, the great American city of Detroit is the largest city in US History to file municipal bankruptcy:
Detroit, the cradle of America’s automobile industry and once the nation’s fourth-most-populous city, has filed for bankruptcy, an official said Thursday afternoon, the largest American city ever to take such a course.

The decision to turn to the federal courts, which required approval from both the emergency manager assigned to oversee the troubled city and from Gov. Rick Snyder, is also the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history in terms of debt.

Not everyone agrees how much Detroit owes, but Kevyn D. Orr, the emergency manager who was appointed by Mr. Snyder to resolve the city’s financial problems, has said the debt is likely to be $18 billion and perhaps as much as $20 billion.

For Detroit, the filing comes as a painful reminder of a city’s rise and fall.

Founded more than 300 years ago, the city expanded at a stunning rate in the first half of the 20th century with the arrival of the automobile industry, and then shrank away in recent decades at a similarly remarkable pace. A city of 1.8 million in 1950, it is now home to 700,000 people, as well as to tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, vacant lots and unlit streets.

From here, there is no road map for Detroit’s recovery, not least of all because municipal bankruptcies are rare. Some bankruptcy experts and city leaders bemoaned the likely fallout from the filing, including the stigma it would carry. They anticipate further benefit cuts for city workers and retirees, more reductions in services for residents, and a detrimental effect on future borrowing.

But others, including some Detroit business leaders who have seen a rise in private investment downtown despite the city’s larger struggles, said bankruptcy seemed the only choice left — and one that might finally lead to a desperately needed overhaul of city services and a plan to pay off some reduced version of the overwhelming debts. In short, a new start.
I think that this article is well worth your time if you want to read. Detroit as we all know has long been a struggling metropolis and sadly we see some evidence as to how many in Detroit may view the state-appointed emergency financial manager:
All along, the state’s involvement — including Mr. Snyder’s decision to send in an emergency manager — has carried racial implications, setting off a wave of concerns for some in Detroit that the mostly-white, Republican-led state government was trying to seize control of Detroit, a Democratic-held city where more than 80 percent of residents are black. 
No offense, but with these issues Detroit face:
Instead, numerous factors over many years have brought Detroit to this point, including a shrunken tax base but still a huge, 139-square-mile city to maintain; overwhelming health care and pension costs; repeated efforts to manage mounting debts with still more borrowing; annual deficits in the city’s operating budget since 2008; and city services crippled by aged computer systems, poor record-keeping and widespread dysfunction.

All of that makes bankruptcy — a process that could take months, if not years, and is itself expected to be costly — particularly complex.
So yeah, trying to throw a race card in the face of the issues you see in the quote above sure seems small minded. It doesn't seem as if Detroit was going to get itself out of its hole!

Keep in mind this year is an election year in Detroit and Mayor Dave Bing who continues to manage Detroit's affairs along with the Detroit city council, however, the Emergency Manager could revoke their authority at any time. Bing himself is not running for re-election as Mayor and I certainly wonder how this could play out in the municipal campaign there.

And lest the Chicago isn't Detroit folks start to talk, today the Windy City's bond rating has been lowered not one level nor two, but three levels! Ouch!

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