Tracing Detroit's Decline

The need to put Detroit under emergency management wasn't the result of a single failed strategy, but the culmination of decades of poor leadership, bad decisions, and "crossed fingers," report Monica Davey and Mary Williams Walsh.

"The financial crisis that has made Detroit one of the largest cities ever to face mandatory state oversight was decades in the making, a trail of missteps, of trimming too little, too late, of hoping that deep-rooted structural problems would turn out to be cyclical downturns that might melt away as the economy picked up," say Davey and Walsh.

"Some factors were out of the city’s control. As auto industry jobs moved elsewhere over the decades, for example, Detroit lost much of its affluent tax base. Lower than expected state revenue sharing did not help, nor did corruption allegations in the administration of Kwame M. Kilpatrick, a mayor who resigned in 2008 and was convicted on Monday of racketeering and other federal charges."

"But recent findings from a state-appointed review team and interviews with past and present city officials also suggest a city that over the years was remarkably badly run."

“This was bad decisions piled on top of each other,” Gary Brown, the Detroit City Council president pro tem, said the other day. “It has all been a strategy of hope. You keep borrowing where every piece of collateral is already leveraged. You have no bonding capacity — you’re at junk status. You’re overestimating revenues and not managing the resources. Now the chickens have come home to roost.”

Full Story: For Detroit, a Crisis of Bad Decisions and Crossed Fingers

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