One evening last month, the mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, took to the podium at a downtown theater. The occasion was the state of the city address, and despite the mayor's best effort to project optimism, the truths facing America's 11th largest city are grim. The budget deficit is at least $85 million. The police department doesn't have the money to safeguard Detroit's vast, sparsely populated territory. The school system is a mess, and its emergency financial manager plans to shut nearly a quarter of the city's public schools by summer. Bing plans to shrink Detroit's government and shed thousands of jobs — an unpopular proposition in a city already boasting a 25% unemployment rate. Outside the theater, protesters waved signs that read, "FIRE THE MAYOR," and "SAVE OUR CITY." Inside, Bing spoke plainly: "We've been hit the hardest by what many call 'the Great Recession.'" We simply cannot afford to continue down this road." Days later, an independent report would suggest that Detroit's actual budget deficit might be $400 million, and that the best route for survival is possibly bankruptcy.
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Author: Steven Gray