A Deep Dive on Detroit's Path to Insolvency

The story of how Detroit became the largest US city to ever file for bankruptcy is a long and tangled one featuring many villains and several "if only" moments. The Detroit Free Press reviews 50+ years of financial history to set the record straight.
September 16, 2013, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that [Detroit's] elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin," find Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher's in their lengthy investigative report on the city's path to insolvency. Their reporting reveals several surprises, including villains absolved and supposed good actions condemned. 

"The numbers, most from records deeply buried in the public library, lay waste to misconceptions about the roots of Detroit’s economic crisis. For critics who want to blame Mayor Coleman Young for starting this mess, think again," they write. "And Wall Street types who applauded Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s financial acumen following his 2005 deal to restructure city pension debt should consider this: The numbers prove that his plan devastated the city’s finances and was a key factor that drove Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July."

"When all the numbers are crunched, one fact is crystal clear: Yes, a disaster was looming for Detroit. But there were ample opportunities when decisive action by city leaders might have fended off bankruptcy."

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Published on Sunday, September 15, 2013 in Detroit Free Press
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