Our favorite city is back in the news again and making history for all the wrong reasons. As the New York Post put it Detroit declares bankruptcy, becoming largest city in U.S. history to go belly up. “Detroit on Thursday became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy, as the state-appointed emergency manager filed for Chapter 9 protection.”
It’s enough to inspire me to bring back Detroit Mock City, as I’m sure the Detroit based news and humor will be ripe for years. As you might expect since Detroit is often one of our more ignored cities the news coverage has not been overwhelming, though it is definitely the most I’ve seen Detroit covered on a national basis in years.
It has been covered by major news outlets like CNN, Fox News, USA Today, CBS, CNBC and basically everyone. So the news is definitely out there for people who want it. I wouldn’t say it has been treated as a top headline, but more as a sideshow attraction. And despite this coverage it was a fairly easy news item to avoid (most people I brought it up to had no idea).
So how much does Detroit actually owe? $18.5 billion! That’s billion with a B. Let this graph put that in perspective for you.
How did this happen? Here’s how the N.Y. Post explains it:
A number of factors — most notably steep population and tax base falls — have been blamed on Detroit’s tumble toward insolvency.
Detroit lost a quarter-million residents between 2000 and 2010. A population that in the 1950s reached 1.8 million is struggling to stay above 700,000. Much of the middle-class and scores of businesses also have fled Detroit, taking their tax dollars with them.
As has been documented many times on this blog in the past, the city suffered a mass exodus and was left basically abandoned for huge sprawling sections of the city. So that causes some problems.
My favorite coverage of the story comes from the The Onion:
WASHINGTON—Following Thursday’s announcement that the city had declared bankruptcy, reports are confirming that Detroit may suddenly descend into a horrifying, depopulated hellscape, one with numerous dilapidated buildings, rampant urban decay, a failing education system, near-constant drug-related homicides, and a downtown area that looks virtually abandoned. “I fear that, very soon, we may be looking at a city that is completely and utterly unrecognizable from its booming heyday of the 1950s,” said the report’s lead author, Professor Robert Fuchs, noting that Detroit may see its population plunge to half its size amidst a mass exodus of desperate and unemployed residents. “Its citizens might as well enjoy the city while they can, because soon enough they’re going to be living in an uninhabitable wasteland where the police take nearly an hour to get to the scene of a crime, the poverty rate is three times that of the national average, and vacant warehouses look like they’ve been attacked by mortar shells.” Fuchs added that even Detroit’s once dominant auto industry could very well be transformed into a depressing, broken-down husk of its former self.
Why is that so damn funny? In case you haven’t been playing along at home it’s because all those things have been true of Detroit for decades. As I’ve said for years, if there is any city in America that needs a hero it is Detroit.
No, I don’t mean some lame RoboCop reboot. I’m talking about this:
Yes, Detroit’s true hero…Black Snow. But much like Detroit we are totally broke, which is why we are running a Kickstarter to get the book printed. We aren’t trying raise $18.5 billion, just $2,000, and we’re already halfway there. So show your support for Detroit by becoming a backer.
Want to see some interesting Detroit facts? Here you go.
Hopefully the city can live up to it’s motto.