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Detroit Files for Bankruptcy
July 18, 2013 2:29 PM   Subscribe


 
Okay, I retract my earlier statement.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:31 PM on July 18, 2013


.
posted by drezdn at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2013


.
posted by lalochezia at 2:40 PM on July 18, 2013


I'd buy that for a dollar!
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:40 PM on July 18, 2013 [38 favorites]


I am surprised it took this long to get to this point. I feel like I've been hearing about the collapse of Detroit for my entire life.
posted by something something at 2:40 PM on July 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Delta City will rise from the rubble.
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on July 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


If it's anything like how personal bankruptcy can help an individual, I hope Detroit can emerge from this stronger and in a better position to succeed.
posted by Atreides at 2:42 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Think about one really, really wealthy person - or company - who is going to be hurt by this? Detroit and Stockton are "dispensable" places - Vallejo, too. Just imagine the devastation caused to municipal workers who are retired, or near retirement - just for starters. Detroit has been ignored by the large corporations that "used" Detroit, until it was no longer "useful". Follow the money! Why weren't the large commercial banks forced to bankruptcy? We all know the answer to that. Follow the money, and the corruption thus enabled !
posted by Vibrissae at 2:46 PM on July 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


Atreides honestly I doubt it. They'll first have about a year in court as creditors fight this tooth and nail. Then, once it's legal, the judge will order the debts canceled as per bankruptcy law which will help the city for a while, maybe a year or two. And then the city will be effectively be shut out of the bond markets for 20 years. It's what happened to Greece when they went bankrupt (the time before last). That means no new infrastructure will be built or major projects done in the city for 20 years. The city, if it wasn't dead before, is dead now.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:46 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Think about one really, really wealthy person - or company - who is going to be hurt by this?

There are plenty of companies that are owed money for services rendered to Detroit that will now get pennies on the dollar.
posted by gyc at 2:48 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jesus Christ, thousands of people are going to lose their pensions and city museums are about to be sold off to the highest private bidders. Could people maybe consider waiting a few moments before reducing this to Robocop jokes?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:49 PM on July 18, 2013 [60 favorites]


Bankruptcy!? That should not allowed!! They should be forced to accept a bailout loan of massive proportions, otherwise how do we protect the investors!?
posted by Vindaloo at 2:51 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR I'm truly sorry for the people who are going to be hurt by this. But we've known about how screwed detroit has been for years and years. At least since the financial crisis if not before. If this is a shock to anyone I'll eat my hat.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:51 PM on July 18, 2013


I just finished reading Detroit City Is The Place To Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis, by Mark Binelli, which ended on a cautiously optimistic note. So much for that, I guess.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2013


There are plenty of companies that are owed money for services rendered to Detroit that will now get pennies on the dollar.

Or, if you're Bank of America or Merrill Lynch, 75 pennies.

Priorities, folks.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:54 PM on July 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Let's hope that Detroit doesn't have any outstanding student loans.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:55 PM on July 18, 2013 [31 favorites]


I wonder if deliberately letting the city go broke is just a convenient way for Gov. Walker to help his friends in the business community raid pensions and further break unions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


Since the Ambassador Bridge is still the busiest land crossing point between US and Canada, I wonder if this will be cause for further border militarization or will it just make Detroit the new northeastern smuggling capital?
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder if deliberately letting the city go broke is just a convenient way for Gov. Walker

I don't know how he could control that from another state, but maybe.
posted by LionIndex at 3:02 PM on July 18, 2013 [35 favorites]


I wonder if deliberately letting the city go broke is just a convenient way for Gov. Walker to help his friends in the business community raid pensions and further break unions.

It's an over-arching theme for sure, but Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin. Rick Snyder is the governor of Michigan.

To be fair, assholes look the same when you're only concerned about how they're shitting on everyone.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ah, sorry. My fault!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: "I wonder if deliberately letting the city go broke is just a convenient way for Gov. Walker to help his friends in the business community raid pensions and further break unions."

I think you're confusing your shitty Midwest/rust belt Republican governors... but it's not like Michigan doesn't have one of their own, so it's understandable.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


>I wonder if deliberately letting the city go broke is just a convenient way for Gov. Walker

I don't know how he could control that from another state, but maybe.
posted by LionIndex at 6:02 PM on July 18 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Yeah, Walker is an asshole, but he's Wisconsin's asshole (the other mitten-shaped state).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:04 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


And then the city will be effectively be shut out of the bond markets for 20 years. It's what happened to Greece when they went bankrupt (the time before last). That means no new infrastructure will be built or major projects done in the city for 20 years. The city, if it wasn't dead before, is dead now.

That is (probably) incorrect (not knowing the future I can't be 100% sure of course). Greece defaulted, it didn't declare bankruptcy. As far as I know there is no international "bankruptcy" or similar mechanism to provide for orderly resolution in the case of a sovereign default, and so it is inherently messy, debts may or may not be legally abolished even when it is clear they will never be paid, creating uncertainty that prevents countries from selling debt on the open market.

Under the US Bankruptcy statute, an individual, corporation, or municipality legally wipes out existing debt at the time of the bankruptcy petition, subject of course to creditor objections (which are resolved in the ensuing litigation). But after those are resolved, the pre-petition debts are unambiguously removed and the new post-BK entity is clean as a whistle and totally debt-free - in other words, the perfect type of entity to sell new debt on the open market.

Anecdotally, I know Chapter 9's are not exactly comparable, but individual people who dismiss debt in bankruptcy often get brand new credit card offers very soon afterwards - they are in no way "debt lepers" for the indefinite future. Of course, it may be tough for them to get a mortgage...
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:06 PM on July 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


These assholes blur together after a while. Mea culpa.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:06 PM on July 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Regardless of the derailers above. I would like to point out that Calpers was saved by the Stockton decision (although the "good faith" argument may be argued before the supreme court). Also, the most interesting part of the above is the proposal in the senate to privatize pensions and insure pensions with companies like AIG. Hopefully more commenters will read the more inside links before bringing their ideological pretensions to the comment board.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 3:07 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is an interesting point Joey and well said. I really do hope that Detroit has better luck than Greece, that's for sure. Watching the ensuing clusterfuck will be crazy.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:08 PM on July 18, 2013


"Sorry, huge metropolis whose services we still use, we moved all our money to the other side of this imaginary line! Bye!" -suburbs
posted by gerryblog at 3:09 PM on July 18, 2013 [33 favorites]


There are plenty of companies that are owed money for services rendered to Detroit that will now get pennies on the dollar.

Or, if you're Bank of America or Merrill Lynch, 75 pennies.

Priorities, folks.


If BofA and Merrill Lynch are holding derivatives contracts, they have superpriority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act. Those same provisions directly threaten your bank account.
posted by ogooglebar at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Attorneys for the city’s pension fund say they would have won a restraining order blocking the bankruptcy filing temporarily – and preserving pensioner rights – but Gov. Snyder’s legal team tricked them. The Detroit Free Press reports pension fund lawyers agreed to the government’s request for a 5-minute delay to a hearing for the order, and that in that five minutes Snyder’s attorneys filed the bankruptcy papers in another court. “It was my intention to grant your request,” the judge told the pension lawyers.

The law, in its majestic equality....
posted by gerryblog at 3:17 PM on July 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


I wonder if deliberately letting the city go broke is just a convenient way for Gov. Walker to help his friends in the business community raid pensions and further break unions.

It seems to me that things were engineered to happen this way.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:18 PM on July 18, 2013


In lieu of Walker, would you settle for the Koch brothers exploiting a traffic hub into a toxic wasteland?
PolicyMic: Koch Brothers: Billionaires Place 3-Story Pile Of Petroleum Coke in Detroit

BusinessInsider: The Koch Brothers Have Buried An Area The Size Of A City Block Under 30 Feet Of Oil Sands Waste
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:19 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Walker and Snyder are both assholes with very similar agendas.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:21 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


These assholes blur together after a while

I had that same problem with certain stations back when I was pirating my cable TV.

(#analogworldproblems)
posted by Riki tiki at 3:22 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile here in MN, where some people complain taxes are too high, guess what, we now got a DFL gov and legislature, and we've recovered 95% of our job losses from the recession, and just had a 1/3 of a billion revenue boost.
I really really really love parts of WI and MI, but it strains my heart to see how utterly mismanaged those states have been. Recent economic reports have shown MN just outstripping both those so called business friendly states. Here then is that famed 'experiment of different state systems'... Guess who's objectivelly winning the business climate debate? But we can always count on folks voting against their interests.
posted by edgeways at 3:23 PM on July 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Anecdotally, I know Chapter 9's are not exactly comparable, but individual people who dismiss debt in bankruptcy often get brand new credit card offers very soon afterwards - they are in no way "debt lepers" for the indefinite future. Of course, it may be tough for them to get a mortgage...

Yeah, but they're predatory cards like this:
The card, featured on First Premier’s home page, offers a credit line of $300 with an interest rate of 36 percent, an upfront processing fee of $95 before the account is opened, a $75 annual fee that drops to $45 after the first year, a $6.25 monthly fee after the first year, late fees up to $35 and a fee every time the credit limit is increased equaling 25 percent of the increase.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:26 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, please don't use "Detroit" as a slur.

...Detroit, regardless of it's unsung local charms, is now a byword for head-in-sand planning and corruption. Let it be a clear example for other civic leaders to observe.


posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 3:31 PM on July 18, 2013


I had some well-thought-out comments on cities as the engines of economic growth, and how the short-sighted suburbs have been working the long nose-cutting/face-spiting game with Detroit, but ultimately this outcome makes me sick at heart, and I had to return to my beloved copy of "The Quotations of Mayor Coleman A. Young."

On the abandonment of Detroit

"No other city in America, no other city in the Western world has lost the population at that rate. And what's at the root of that loss? Economics and race. Or, should I say, race and economics."

On suburbanites' desires to run Detroit

"I don't know of any other city in the nation where there's such a preoccupation in the suburbs for control. The same people who left the city for racial reasons still want to control what they've left."

On Detroit-bashing

"We must not let the doomsayers and the naysayers cause us to lose faith in our city, in ourselves and in each other. Much of the negative propaganda with which we are bombarded is calculated to disarm us. Without love and without hope there can be no future for anyone."
posted by palindromic at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Detroit has been a byword for municipal failure for a very long time. While I'm sure a different governor and different state legislators could have made things marginally better or worse around the edges, I'm not sure that using this as "proof" as to the wisdom or folly of anything done in just the last few years or so is all that useful. Bankruptcy has loomed on the horizon for Detroit for a long, long time.
posted by yoink at 3:37 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am surprised by the vitriol. Investors are taking a huge hit here and will walk away with pennies on the dollar. The rich are being soaked!

OTOH, municipal bonds - even with the generous no-tax subsidies - are gonna cost more for everyone making it harder for liberal governments to repeat Detroit"s borrow and spend policies. Democrats will now have to campaign on raising taxes to pay for all the goodies they promise to everyone.

Something for everyone.
posted by three blind mice at 3:43 PM on July 18, 2013




I played a lot of SimCity 2000 when I was a kid. I made a lot of mistakes early on, but its virtual towns were quite resilient. You could build no roads, defund all your police, make the tax system completely bonkers, throw down hurricanes and earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns from on high, and your blighted, radioactive ruins would somehow soldier on...

...unless you sucked at budgeting, and triggered the sandbox's only real kill screen:
Due to your bungling management, your city has
dropped into irretrievable debt. A delegation
of citizens gently escort you from your office.
Game Over, Detroit.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


We beat Stockton!
posted by klangklangston at 3:46 PM on July 18, 2013


Even Bakersfield beats Stockton.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:47 PM on July 18, 2013


I guess that long-rumored firesale at the museum might really happen now. Apparently, the public trust the museum's collection is held in could possibly be broken in bankruptcy court, allowing the art to be sold-off.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:47 PM on July 18, 2013


New York almost filed in 1975. We were so close the papers were on their way to be filed. We made it back from the brink. I have faith in Detroit.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:52 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Today's bankruptcy filing is like a Rorschach test. Many observers across the political spectrum are reading into it to bolster whatever particular point they want to make, but it's been coming down the roads for decades. Detroit was too reliant on the auto industry and too racist/segregated to maintain any kind of fiscal support for a city that was once supported by a tax base of 2 million but now is down to about 700,000. And our labor force participation rate is under 50%. There's simply not enough revenue here to pay back our creditors, and I can't say I really pity them.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 4:01 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I too have been wondering about the DIA situation. After the August 2012 ballot initiative to fund the DIA via a millage in the Tri-County area, what right does the city actually have to the DIA's collection, especially considering that the city does not apparently fund the museum at all?
posted by palindromic at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2013


A city whose population base has declined from 2 Mil to 700k is exactly the sort of place that should be defaulting on its debt.

A Ch.9 Re-Org Plan will be put in front of a judge and most of the parties will agree some least worst outcome for all. Then Detroit will be able to access the debt markets again.

The thing to pay attention to is where the employees come in the creditor waterfall. In a corporate bankruptcy they are the most senior unsecured creditor, but here it appears the trustee wants to treat them as equal to the GO bond holders. Which is bad. I have no idea where the law stands on that.

BTW - while this is a huge deal Muni world - it is only 18 bil in debt, and most of that will still be money good. In the scheme of things this isn't a huge deal. GM was much much bigger.
posted by JPD at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


State lawyers basically said "hey, look over there!" to prevent the filing from being blocked.
City of Detroit pensioners and their pension funds made a last-ditch effort to stop the city’s bankruptcy filing today, but were beaten to the courthouse by minutes.

An attorney for the pension funds said he feels blindsided because he agreed to delay the emergency hearing five minutes at the request of attorneys for Gov. Rick Snyder. He was seeking a temporary restraining order to block the historic bankruptcy filing.

During those five minutes, he said, attorneys filed in federal court in Detroit for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, which generally results in a stay in all other pending litigation involving the city.

And Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said she would have issued a restraining order to stop the Detroit bankruptcy, if given a chance.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:07 PM on July 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


About the DIA situation, the MI AG issued an opinion declaring the collection off limits; but it's unclear how a opinion by a state attorney general would conflict with federal bankruptcy law.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 4:08 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't even understand how that's legal.
posted by sio42 at 4:08 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "filing in another court thing" I mean.
posted by sio42 at 4:09 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Look at the bright a side - BofA's profit was up 70% (!) last quarter. Now the fiddlers must be paid while Detroit burns.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:09 PM on July 18, 2013


I am surprised by the vitriol. Investors are taking a huge hit here and will walk away with pennies on the dollar. The rich are being soaked!

There's simply not enough revenue here to pay back our creditors, and I can't say I really pity them.


As a reminder, and perhaps to explain some of the vitriol, any Detroit city employee or retired Detroit pensioner is a "creditor" in this case and they are going to be put in a bad place as a result of this. Especially if, as JPD points out, the DIP is able to knock the employees out of most-senior status.

And because a lot of muni employees pay into their pension rather than social security, they may not have that option available to them either. I am not in a position to say Detroit had a lot of other options here, but there some VERY not-rich people who are going to be VERY screwed by this bankruptcy.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:11 PM on July 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


"I am surprised it took this long to get to this point. I feel like I've been hearing about the collapse of Detroit for my entire life."

That's in part because Detroiters are crazy resilient. There's a huge amount of blue collar pride in doing the hard work to win back the city, even sometimes beyond all common sense.
posted by klangklangston at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


there some VERY not-rich people who are going to be VERY screwed by this bankruptcy

There's a lot of TBD in this, though, isn't there? The legal fight has in some ways only just begun. And we can't pretend that one of the real options going forward was that somehow Detroit was going to be able to make good on all its outstanding pension obligations. One way or another the pension holders were going to have to take a hit. Whether these bankruptcy proceedings will lead to that hit being worse than it would have been otherwise is hard to say. In fact, it's not clear what "otherwise" there realistically could have been other than some kind of bankruptcy.
posted by yoink at 4:18 PM on July 18, 2013


yes - there is a lot TBD - its not clear where the law stands on the pension issue at all.

Stockton's Creditors tried to argue that the money due to CALPERS was parri passu, but I think the structure in Detroit is different, so who knows. Really we have no idea until a judge rules.

Though its made a lot harder by the fact that the Governor appointed a trustee who is down right eager to place the pensioners parri passu with the capital markets creditors. Which just seems IDK immoral or something. Its one thing if that's what the law says, but he actively wants that to happen - which is literally sucking money out of actual retirees wallets to give to muni holders.
posted by JPD at 4:22 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Constitution may not protect Detroit's pensions

Chapter 9 recognizes that there are limitations on the power of the bankruptcy court,” write Harold S. Horwich and Christopher L. Carter, attorneys with Bingham McCutchen LLP, in the American Bankruptcy Institute’s journal. “A plan cannot be confirmed if the results would be that ... the municipality would be in violation of state law.

“However, not every violation of state law is beyond the power of the bankruptcy laws to discharge. Cases have clearly recognized that bankruptcy law supersedes state laws protecting contract rights, even where the state constitution expressly protects contract rights.”
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 4:27 PM on July 18, 2013


Though its made a lot harder by the fact that the Governor appointed a trustee who is down right eager to place the pensioners parri passu with the capital markets creditors.

Yeah, well, he's a jerk. On the other hand, once you're in bankruptcy my (admittedly limited) understanding is that the judge becomes the all-important figure. I mean, in a way Orr actually gives up a lot of the powers granted to him as "emergency manager" by taking the city into bankruptcy. The union's job would obviously be easier if they were sitting at the table with someone who wanted to see them made as whole as possible, but all the various claimants will be represented at the table regardless, and they'll all be making their cases to the judge, no?
posted by yoink at 4:31 PM on July 18, 2013


From the NYT article:

Leaders of public sector unions and municipal retirees around the nation will be focused on whether Detroit is permitted to slash pension benefits, despite a provision in the State Constitution that union leaders say bars such cuts.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:35 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well no - the judge rules on the equitable nature of the re-org plan, they don't create the re-org plan. In a non-contentious restructuring the way it works is that someone (usually hired by the trustee) figures out where the haircut in the cap structure has to occur. Everyone above that point gets new debt that's basically the same thing as their old debt. All of the owners of the debt below that point form a committee or committees and hash out a deal. There might be a few layers below that and all of them sort of figure out a way to make it work. Then that gets presented to a judge. Some holdouts object, and the judge either agrees or disagree with their objection.
posted by JPD at 4:36 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


These assholes blur together after a while.

Reminds me of the time i was really bored and watched a lot of porno in one day. ;)

Meanwhile here in MN, where some people complain taxes are too high, guess what, we now got a DFL gov and legislature, and we've recovered 95% of our job losses from the recession, and just had a 1/3 of a billion revenue boost.

I live, and have lived at various parts of Wisconsin near the border for a good 20 or more years, and it's been interesting to watch. I always expected Wisconsin to move up, but after Walker, it really went in Minnesota's favor. That said, why do your roads suck so badly?? I cross over, and it's huge potholes on the interstates every couple miles that you can't avoid or see due to traffic. Lots of road work always being done, but seems to wear out right after. Always boggled me.

About Detroit, i know it's a personal anecdote, but the last time i drove though and stopped at a hotel there, (over 15 years i think) i came down to find someone had written several "Faggot"s on my car. Besides New Orleans, where two people tried to rob me and had beer bottles thrown at me (was there for a convention, middle of summer), and has left me with nothing good to say about it at all.
posted by usagizero at 4:48 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It may not help that the person who gets to choose the bankruptcy judge is a well known conservative who was considered by G.W. Bush as a potential Supreme Court nominee.
posted by yoink at 5:00 PM on July 18, 2013


Several wags involved in the new urbanism movement have suggested that Detroit is the first city that managed to build enough infrastructure to alleviate congestion. Subsidize lots and lots of roads that let people flee to the suburbs. Population base heads to the 'burbs, decides they don't really want to go downtown, and businesses follow the population. Next thing you know everyone who can leave has.

Pop up a map of Detroit and look across the river to Windsor, which also lost a lot of automobile manufacturing capability but hasn't tanked as fast, and... well... there are lots of factors contributing to a collapes, but I suspect that running whole-hog into the Ponzi scheme that is subsidizing the living crap out of asphalt isn't good for our economic well being, and Detroit is merely a bellwether.
posted by straw at 5:04 PM on July 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Don't forget the Motor City.
This was supposed to be the New World.

posted by eyeballkid at 5:14 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't even understand how that's legal.

The "filing in another court thing" I mean.


It's probably legal, but I guess we'll have to see how stringent the State Bar of Michigan is when it comes to ethics.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:18 PM on July 18, 2013


Take heart Detroit, this too shall pass.
posted by absentian at 5:18 PM on July 18, 2013


gerryblog, I grew up in the Detroit suburbs before moving to Seattle a couple years ago. I've heard of people complaining of suburbanites trying to control Detroit, but I can't think of any examples of that actually happening in my lifetime. To most of my family and friends, Detroit was just that place you had to endure to go see the Wings play. Nobody seemed to want anything to do with it. I wasn't necessarily the most engaged person in local politics, though. What are the suburbs actually doing?
posted by Vox Nihili at 5:28 PM on July 18, 2013


I seem to remember that municipal bonds were being promoted a few years ago as being really, really safe investments, because how could a city ever go broke? And they had high dividend rates, too! Was this like an organised fleecing of naive investors, or was it actually innocent?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:54 PM on July 18, 2013


I recommend Detroit : An American Autopsy (2013) if anyone is interested.
posted by snap_dragon at 6:01 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I seem to remember that municipal bonds were being promoted a few years ago as being really, really safe investments, because how could a city ever go broke?

Municipal bankruptcies are very rare, although not unknown, and people have been talking about the possibility of Detroit going bankrupt for at least 30 years on and off. If this were an "organised fleecing of naive investors" it could be targeted only at investors who stubbornly refused to seek out the most basic relevant information.
posted by yoink at 6:02 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


So what happened?? Didn't Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager, get all the creditors on a bus, take them on a tour of the worst areas of the city ask them all to sit down and accept pennies on the dollar rather go this route? Were there a few investors who simply refused to play ball? Did the city unions decide to take the chance that the courts wouldn't allow this rather than participate? Some other back story??

On the other hand, from what I've read (no first hand experience) there's an awesome underground art scene in Detroit because space is so cheap. Kinda like downtown NYC in the 70's and early 80s. The art scene here was driven by the availability of cheap space -- all of which has evaporated today. Perhaps if one has a large tolerance for risk, some spare capital and a 20 year time window now is the time to start buying loft space in Detroit?
posted by Dean358 at 6:17 PM on July 18, 2013


i don't live there, or real close to there - and when i go there it's mostly to the suburbs ... but it's still my favorite big city

i wish michiganders were as proud of the city as they've been of the baseball team (and the hockey team)

and if we had regional municipal consolidation in this country, this wouldn't have happened
posted by pyramid termite at 6:29 PM on July 18, 2013



I guess that long-rumored firesale at the museum might really happen now. Apparently, the public trust the museum's collection is held in could possibly be broken in bankruptcy court, allowing the art to be sold-off.


I should hope so. Art preservation is not a trivial task, and is best handled by people who are able to make payroll. Sell it already...
posted by ocschwar at 6:30 PM on July 18, 2013


I've mentioned it here before, but I just want to recommend the 2012 documentary, 'Detropia', which deals with the decline of Detroit, and mentions the emerging art scene.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:30 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


usagizero: About Detroit, i know it's a personal anecdote, but the last time i drove though and stopped at a hotel there, (over 15 years i think) i came down to find someone had written several "Faggot"s on my car.

It the graffiti was spelled correctly, that's a good sign that the school system is improving.
posted by dr_dank at 6:37 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I should hope so. Art preservation is not a trivial task, and is best handled by people who are able to make payroll. Sell it already..."

I haven't heard that the DIA can't make payroll. Was your comment informed by anything aside from lingering Visigoth sentiment?
posted by klangklangston at 6:38 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I haven't heard that the DIA can't make payroll. Was your comment informed by anything aside from lingering Visigoth sentiment?


No, just irritation as seeing the DIA's predicament get more attention than the Detroit police's 30 minute response time, the city's inability to get lead mitigation done, et cetera. I haven't heard anything either way abotu the DIA's payroll, but I prefer that important artifacts be held by entities with which this kind of talk fails the giggle test.
posted by ocschwar at 6:41 PM on July 18, 2013


I was not aware that the DIA had taken over the city's policing, lead mitigation, etc. Was that a decision of the emergency manager?
posted by klangklangston at 6:53 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was not aware that the DIA had taken over the city's policing, lead mitigation, etc. Was that a decision of the emergency manager?


Well, if everything is hunky-dory at the DIA, maybe they should.
posted by ocschwar at 7:01 PM on July 18, 2013


This is another example of why I feel I'm living in the most dynamic time ever.

I've seen the Internet bloom, the USSR fall, space rockets and space stations grow from Apollo and Skylab to Mars missions and awesome rovers, the devastation of the auto industry and cities going bankrupt, and the immense impact of technology on people that can afford it.

I've seen my personal fortunes rise to mediocre levels and fall again to the current pothole that I inhabit. Life is good when your expectations are low and your primary role is as an outside observer.

Detroit may utterly collapse or it may rise again. It doesn't really matter to me, but it's going to be fun to watch.
posted by disclaimer at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2013


It may not matter to you but it has a huge effect on hundreds of thousands of people who live there, who have worked there and who are dependent on retirement funds from the city. It's hugely callous to think of it as just a great spectator sport.

I've lived in SE Michigan for more than 30 years and despite the bankruptcy much of what is happening in Detroit in the last couple of years is more encouraging than it's ever been. There are businesses moving back into the city. The art and music scene are vibrant and there's a serious and interesting effort to explore urban farming and productive uses of the huge amount of now-vacant land. The city's problems are huge but not insoluble if those in power don't come in with a primary goal of rewarding their own.

For years the flight of both middle class families and large businesses has done terrible things to the city's tax base. The existing obligations date back to a bigger city with a bigger workforce. Re-sizing to provide services, solve corruption and plan for future growth are necessary outcomes to a successful emergence from bankruptcy beyond just the hugely complex issue of figuring out who gets paid what. As others have said, it sets an important precedent for how pension obligations are handled in bankruptcy. It's not the same as in a corporate one from what I understand and as has already been made clear Rick Snyder and his cronies won't play fair or with any real concern about retirement obligations compared to corporate ones.
posted by leslies at 7:16 PM on July 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


83 comments and not one mentioning the magic word: UAW.
Also known as the real reason why this city is, well, not a city anymore.
posted by bokononito at 8:33 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


ow my eyes. they roll.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:41 PM on July 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


83 comments and not one mentioning the magic word: UAW.
Also known as the real reason why this city is, well, not a city anymore.


Oh, for fuck's sake, take that simplistic garbage somewhere else. The UAW didn't cause white flight and the erosion of the tax base, and it certainly didn't cause the city to tie its entire fate to one single industry. There's still 5 million people that live in the surrounding communities. There's less than 1 million in the city of Detroit itself.

I'm sitting in the office of a UAW factory right now. All of our midwestern plants are organized with them, and we've been making money like gangbusters for the ten years I've been here. So have our UAW-organized competitors.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:42 PM on July 18, 2013 [26 favorites]


I don't care how callous it sounds, it's reality. I have no intention of involving myself in "fixing" Detroit. The city did this to itself, over a long period of time, and as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't reflect on my life one bit if it thrives or dies.

Good for you for standing up and hoping for a rebirth. I hope the city becomes the thriving metropolis you dream of. But I don't believe that it will happen in my lifetime. If it does, great. If not, well, I won't be surprised at all.
posted by disclaimer at 8:45 PM on July 18, 2013


America, fuck yeah!
posted by Renoroc at 8:52 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't reflect on my life one bit if it thrives or dies.

It might not reflect on your life, but you're kidding yourself if you think the SE Michigan economy thrives without a healthy Detroit.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:01 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It might not reflect on your life, but you're kidding yourself if you think the SE Michigan economy thrives without a healthy Detroit.

Isn't the point that that's exactly what's been happening for the last 20 years? I've spent a somewhat-unfortunately large amount of time in Macomb Township in the last few years, and by all appearances, it's a typical (if unusually soulless) American suburb. There are certainly not burnt-out buildings on the side of the interstate, for instance.
posted by downing street memo at 9:06 PM on July 18, 2013


I've been around Detroit for more than fifty years or thereabouts. It's been unhealthy for my entire working career. You'll excuse me for not worrying that my future success depends on whether or not Detroit pays its bills. Past history does not bear out the hypothesis.
posted by disclaimer at 9:18 PM on July 18, 2013


I don't think you could say the SE Michigan economy thrived over the last 20 years, it was certainly in recession for basically all the 2000s. Detroit's death spiral and general regional backwardness have a lot to do with that - a lot of other central cities thrived during this time. Macomb Township and other suburbs-bordering-exurbs were basically where the housing bubble money went in Detroit. The irony is a fair chunk of that wealth was probably from Detroit pensions and UAW pensions. There might not be burned out houses on the side of the interstate, but I'm pretty sure there are a fair amount of empty homes.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't reflect on my life one bit if it thrives or dies."

How's the weather in Livonia?
posted by klangklangston at 9:29 PM on July 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Isn't the point that that's exactly what's been happening for the last 20 years? I've spent a somewhat-unfortunately large amount of time in Macomb Township in the last few years, and by all appearances, it's a typical (if unusually soulless) American suburb. There are certainly not burnt-out buildings on the side of the interstate, for instance.

The population of SE Michigan has steadily dropped, though at a slower rate than Detroit. There's a lot of new construction on the fringes, but that's just because people are moving out of the now-decaying closer-in rings of suburbs. Drive from Detroit into Warren; you'll know you've crossed the border when you start seeing desperately sad-looking white people everywhere.

Jane Jacobs actually predicted that this expanding-ring-of-development-with-expanding-empty-center structure would happen in Detroit back in 1961, when she wrote Death and Life of Great American Cities.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:33 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Detroit: the only city in which I've ever seen a parked car completely on fire on the highway. One tire tried to roll away, but it was still on fire. I don't know if that's an analogy or something.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:08 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Petty sure the East Side would stab Seattle to death if it could. Never going to happen, you hear me, you Tim Eyman loving freaks.
posted by Artw at 10:14 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm actually surprised that more cities haven't gone bankrupt following the collapse of the housing market and, in California, the end to redevelopment as a source of city funds.

As someone who really cares about good city government, it is sad. Amost all things that people most expect from government are paid for with significant contributions from local budgets, or at least planned and delivered by local staff funded by those budgets. For every city that's gone bankrupt, there are many more running on the bare minimum of personnel, closing schools, selling off buildings, trying to offload essential public services, deferring long-range planning, and generally struggling to continue doing some very basic and important things.
posted by salvia at 10:43 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Petty sure the East Side would stab Seattle to death if it could. Never going to happen, you hear me, you Tim Eyman loving freaks.

Five East-Siders sitting at my table playing board games tonight. I took a quick poll and every single one of us loves downtown Seattle and votes against Eyman's initiatives every chance we get. So no need for the broad brush.

(Thanks to You Can't Tip a Buick for the reminder that it's really time to pull out my copy of Jacobs and read it again.)
posted by Inkslinger at 11:13 PM on July 18, 2013


I pass by a huge mural about Jane Jacobs on my way to get coffee every morning, and every morning I've gone "Hm, maybe I should look into this, seems pretty interesting."

I guess it's time to check out that book.
posted by Imperfect at 5:01 AM on July 19, 2013


Past history does not bear out the hypothesis.
posted by disclaimer at 12:18 AM on July 19 [+] [!]


epoynsterical weeping.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:31 AM on July 19, 2013


I don't care how callous it sounds, it's reality. I have no intention of involving myself in "fixing" Detroit.

"Hey look at me! I'm on the internet telling everyone how little I care!"
posted by octobersurprise at 6:41 AM on July 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't care how callous it sounds, it's reality. I have no intention of involving myself in "fixing" Detroit.

There are other threads. Feel free to comment on them. Meanwhile, from my cozy home in the 617, I get Facebook status updates from a FOAF who is living in Detroit, working as a teacher, and right now trying to figure out if he can survive working gratis to do the same work Detroit may or may nto continue to pay him to do.
posted by ocschwar at 8:03 AM on July 19, 2013


.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:26 AM on July 19, 2013


I don't think Detroit pays any teachers, he's probably paid by DPS or a charter operator. The irony is day-to-day life in the city will probably change very little.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:29 AM on July 19, 2013


I've been around Detroit for more than fifty years or thereabouts.

While carefully maintaining a 20-mile buffer, I see.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:35 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bankruptcy and Moral Leprosy
[T]he Detroit bankruptcy story will likely appeal to those who view American politics, economics and culture as a vast morality play in which the looting of the productive and the virtuous by those people and their union-thug allies eventually ruined the looters themselves, as their avarice outstripped their ability to redistribute the wealth they could not themselves generate. There is no power on earth that could make me listen again to Rick Santelli, but I suspect that somewhere he is gloating or glowering, depending on how deeply he is invested in the municipal bond market.

This is all somewhat ironic, because the very existence of bankruptcy laws is a testament not only to a belief in second chances, but in the ability of people and institutions to bring great and valuable things out of failure. Access to bankruptcy is a very American phenomenon. The list of great Americans who have survived bankruptcy (Henry Ford, Walt Disney, H.J. Heinz, Milton Hershey) or—prior to the modern era of bankruptcy laws—personal insolvency (Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant) is long and distinguished enough to make the equation of bankruptcy and moral leprosy, well, un-American.

Detroit will long suffer in higher borrowing rates, loss of autonomy, and reduced city services, for the situation that brought it to bankruptcy. And among the greatest sufferers will be the municipal employees and retirees, now unsecured creditors against the city, and low-income residents, who are supposedly to blame for their excessive demands for a middle-class standard of living. So let’s dispense with the smug and moralistic condemnations, and the use of misery to justify miserable austerity policies.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:44 AM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]






Vacant Detroit becomes dumping ground for the dead. Abandoned and neglected parts of Detroit are quickly becoming dumping grounds for the bodies of murder victims. Many parts of the city are now a vast urban wilderness that is rarely visited by outsiders and infrequently patrolled by police.
posted by stbalbach at 12:32 PM on July 19, 2013


Judge says Detroit bankruptcy filing was unconstitutional, must be withdrawn

She's awesome:

[Judge] Aquilina said the Michigan Constitution prohibits actions that will lessen the pension benefits of public employees, including those in the City of Detroit. Snyder and Orr violated the constitution by going ahead with the bankruptcy filing, because they know reductions in those benefits will result, Aquilina said.

“We can’t speculate what the bankruptcy court might order,” said assistant Attorney General Brian Devlin, representing the governor and other state defendants.

“It’s a certainty, sir,” Aquilina replied. “That’s why you filed for bankruptcy.”

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vacant Detroit becomes dumping ground for the dead.

You know, I was looking at a Detroit crime mapper a few months ago and I noticed there were a lot of body parts being found. And burned bodies. And whole bodies.

I do not want to be in Detroit during the zombie uprising.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:09 PM on July 19, 2013


I swear, when we elect the first zombie President, you will all regret letting your prejudices get the better of you.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:15 PM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Only somewhat related, but some stunning photos of the ruins of Detroit here.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:26 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Upcoming Brawl Over Detroit
posted by homunculus at 1:33 PM on July 19, 2013


She's awesome:

[Judge] Aquilina said the Michigan Constitution prohibits actions that will lessen the pension benefits of public employees, including those in the City of Detroit. Snyder and Orr violated the constitution by going ahead with the bankruptcy filing, because they know reductions in those benefits will result, Aquilina said.


I wonder what she thinks the relationship of the federal bankruptcy code is with the Michigan state constitution under the Supremacy Clause.

If the Michigan constitution somehow makes certain debts exempt from discharge, the solution that the bankruptcy clause provides is for the creditors to claim exceptions from discharge through an adversary action or other means. The federal bankruptcy system would be swallowed if any creditor to file a claim in state court to enjoin a debtor from filing bankruptcy.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:33 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is me not being a lawyer at all but what I think I'm reading is that yes, Federal bankruptcy law would override the protections in the State Constitution, but the State Constitution makes the act of applying for Federal bankruptcy for the purpose of overriding said protections in itself illegal.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:45 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


the State Constitution makes the act of applying for Federal bankruptcy for the purpose of overriding said protections in itself illegal.

I don't think it would be possible for a State Constitution to deny you the right to invoke relevant federal laws, would it? I mean, then Southern states could have just ducked the terms if the Voting Rights Act by amending their constitutions to make it illegal to appeal to the feds in such matters, no?
posted by yoink at 2:59 PM on July 19, 2013


the State Constitution makes the act of applying for Federal bankruptcy for the purpose of overriding said protections in itself illegal.

Legally, that would be nonsense because of the Supremacy Clause.

There are basically two ways for a creditor to claim that the debt owed to them should not be discharged in bankruptcy: they can claim exceptions for the debt owed them, or they can claim that the debtor should not be allowed to file for bankruptcy at all. The second type is very, very rare. While I do not hold myself out as a bankruptcy lawyer, I have filed a number of actions in bankruptcy court to have my client's owed debts excepted from a bankruptcy discharge, but never to say that the debtor should not be allowed to file at all.

I am sure the city of Detroit has more creditors than just the government employees with pensions. For example, construction contractors and all other sorts of vendors. Is the city not allowed to try to discharge any of those debts because the government employees say so? No. If the pensions are exempt from bankruptcy discharge, which they might be for all I know, the provided remedy is for the government employees to file a claim of exception in the bankruptcy by adversary action or other means.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:41 PM on July 19, 2013


Guys, guys, guys - the bankruptcy statute specifically requires state authorization for a municipality to be eligible to file in the first place. See 11 U.S.C. 109(c)(2). So it is not a supremacy clause problem to say that a state can prevent one of its municipalities from filing.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Legally, that would be nonsense because of the Supremacy Clause.

The bankruptcy filing didn't just materialize from the ether; the State-controlled emergency manager had to propose it, and the State's executive, aka the governor, had to approve it. To rule that these State participants overstepped their bounds seems like a rational state argument regardless of whether one actually agrees with it or not.

Again, not a lawyer, but also don't see how there's even a precedent argument here. This is an entire city trying to declare bankruptcy per the whims of an unelected official appointed via an emergency-passed state law, in a state that already has specific laws in its constitution about preventing the reneging of pension payment. There's a whole mess of "this has never happened before" here.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:34 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 2012 documentary Detropia is excellent and details the decline and current reality of life in Detroit. It's on Netflix streaming, PBS and on sale In digital formats:

http://www.detropiathefilm.com/
posted by Berkun at 5:38 PM on July 19, 2013


If I had to wager, I'd bet that the judge's decision was based just as much on the shenanigans that Orr et al. engaged in with filing (agreeing to a hearing for a delay, then filing five minutes before that hearing) as on the constitution. Not a lawyer, but it's been my anecdotal experience that judges very much do not like it when you attempt to snow them.
posted by klangklangston at 6:08 PM on July 19, 2013


"Again, not a lawyer, but also don't see how there's even a precedent argument here. This is an entire city trying to declare bankruptcy per the whims of an unelected official appointed via an emergency-passed state law, in a state that already has specific laws in its constitution about preventing the reneging of pension payment. There's a whole mess of "this has never happened before" here."

Yeah, that emergency manager law was bullshit too, with it being defeated on the ballot then rammed through a special session of the legislature.
posted by klangklangston at 6:09 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


To rule that these State participants overstepped their bounds seems like a rational state argument regardless of whether one actually agrees with it or not.

it is a rational argument - the only authorization the emergency manager has to even be an emergency manager, much less declare bankruptcy for the city, is the state law that created his position - therefore, he cannot make any kind of decision that would cause the pensions to be subject to federal bankruptcy law, as that would mean that his office is an inherently unconstitutional one, under michigan's constitution

i'm not a lawyer, but it seems fairly straightforward to me

what isn't straightforward is whether the mayor of detroit would be prohibited from doing the same thing - as a city official, not a state official, he might be able to argue that he, and his city's rights, are still protected under federal law and he could file for bankruptcy

wouldn't it be interesting if rich snyder's greed for power over detroit took away the very option that might save the city?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:19 PM on July 19, 2013


Guys, guys, guys - the bankruptcy statute specifically requires state authorization for a municipality to be eligible to file in the first place. See 11 U.S.C. 109(c)(2). So it is not a supremacy clause problem to say that a state can prevent one of its municipalities from filing.

Guys, guys, guys! In this case, Governor Snyder did authorize Detroit to file for bankruptcy, so this statement makes no sense.

In this case, the state of Michigan did not try to stop Detroit for filing for bankruptcy. To the contrary, the governor authorized it as required by the bankruptcy code. In this case, several city pension funds and their pensioners sought to enjoin Detroit from filing bankruptcy.

Since it apparently needs repeating, the state did not try to prevent Detroit from filing for bankruptcy.

This is an entire city trying to declare bankruptcy per the whims of an unelected official

Nothing in the bankruptcy code says, "you can't file a petition on a whim". If there is problem with the merits, that will be decided in the bankruptcy court.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:22 PM on July 19, 2013


An 'Affront to Democracy' Steers Detroit Toward Austerity, John Nichols, The Nation, 18 July 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 7:55 PM on July 19, 2013


"Since it apparently needs repeating, the state did not try to prevent Detroit from filing for bankruptcy."

Yes, but the Michigan constitution precludes Snyder from exercising that power (if it would hurt pensions). The state can certainly constrain the actions of its elected leaders through its constitution.
posted by klangklangston at 10:54 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's what I don't get -- where is the plan to shrink Detroit in actual square miles? Is anybody looking at wholly-abandoned sections of town where the city may own all the land by tax default, and start systematically shutting these areas down?

Close off the sewer, water & gas lines. Pull the poles down put up concrete barriers to keep the cars off the streets, & eventually sell the land & move the city limits inward. Is it the odd lone holdout here & there preventing this from happenning in most places? Why do they want legal authority and responsibility for the unoccupied wastelands? Or have I just not seen the references to the work or plans for this work?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:48 AM on July 20, 2013


Devils Rancher: I dunno about Detroit itself, but Flint's had some on-and-off pro-shrinking movements, and of course the city of Detroit has been gradually demolishing abandoned houses — it's just that there's a lot of abandoned houses, and demolishing them takes money and time. I don't think there are any plans to shrink the city borders themselves, though.

The thing is, though, say you shrink the city limits, say you cut off services to a bunch of neighborhoods, barricade the streets, and leave the abandoned zone to the Wayne County Sheriff's Dept. to police (hah!). I don't think you've necessarily solved anything, there.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:27 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, but the Michigan constitution precludes Snyder from exercising that power (if it would hurt pensions). The state can certainly constrain the actions of its elected leaders through its constitution.

That might be a reason for pensioners to claim an exception to the discharge (then again, it might not), but that is not a reason to bar the city from discharging any of its debts.

The bankruptcy code provides remedy for the pensioners and any other creditors who wish to file objections to discharge and seek exceptions to discharge. I am sure they will do just that, although I question how they will ultimately prevail on the merits. They are likely going to be considered general unsecured creditors, the lowest priority in bankruptcy, and I do not think "it's in the state constitution" is a legal reason to be excepted from discharge.

The relevant clause says that the pensions and other such retirement systems, "shall be a contractual obligation thereof and shall not be diminished or impaired thereby." Well, a prime purpose of bankruptcy is to extinguish contractual relationships that are protected by state law. Bankruptcy will certainly extinguish debts that are enforced by state law. That is SOP and a primary purpose of the bankruptcy system. If "this debt is enforceable by state law!" were a legal reason to except a debt from bankruptcy, there would be no such thing as bankruptcy.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:40 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A real shame.
posted by letters2mary at 10:35 AM on July 20, 2013


The thing is, though, say you shrink the city limits, say you cut off services to a bunch of neighborhoods, barricade the streets, and leave the abandoned zone to the Wayne County Sheriff's Dept. to police (hah!). I don't think you've necessarily solved anything, there.

Well, there was a time when there wasn't a city in those places, before. Someone should be laying plans to turn it back to farmland or forest or whatever it was previous to being a city. It seems like having to be responsible for policing miles and miles of roadways that nobody needs to actually drive on has got to be a huge expense, as well as the infrastructure. I admit I don't know anything about the terrain, but if it were sold to ranchers or farmers of some sort, and the pavement was bulldozed, and it were fenced off, and no longer part of Detroit, that would be good for the city. Perhaps I'm a being a polyanna about it, which is really why I was asking. Unpopulated urban wastelands could be converted to something else, or just given back to the animals & trees, or something. Leaving the streets open where there are no homes or businesses sounds like a losing proposition.

What taxing authority there owns abandoned property, and would it benefit the city of Detroit, even short-term to sell it off in large parcels as empty acreage?
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2013




Well, there was a time when there wasn't a city in those places, before. Someone should be laying plans to turn it back to farmland or forest or whatever it was previous to being a city

LOL those planners probably lost their jobs two budgets ago.
posted by salvia at 9:24 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recall there being some plans to sell off great swathes of the east side for use in urban agriculture (I believe Wayne State University was involved in the group of buyers), but I haven't been following that stuff closely and really don't know what's going on. But rest assured, people have thought of all the easy solutions for Detroit — turns out, none of them are all that easy.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:19 PM on July 24, 2013


oh god hamtramck. poor, weird, crazy hamtramck.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:22 PM on July 24, 2013


Charlie LeDuff: Come See Detroit, America’s Future
How did it get this way, I’m asked? After all, it was just 99 years ago that Henry Ford offered the workingman $5 a day and profit-sharing. How, in less than a century, did it come to this?

The short answers: municipal mismanagement, race riots, white flight, black flight, dead flight (people routinely disinter their deceased and relocate them to the suburbs). There were the overreaching unions and management that couldn’t balance a ball. Proof? The multibillion-dollar bailout of the auto industry. Thank you, American taxpayers!
posted by BobbyVan at 6:25 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Counterpoint: Sorry, Haters—Detroit's Decline Isn't Even Close To Being America's Future
Detroit is everything that conservatives hate—labor unions, black people, pensions—so in some quarters there's almost a kind of glee around this idea that Detroit is a preview of the American future. But it's total nonsense.
[...]
When I was born in 1981 you really could look at the state of urban America and see decline everywhere. Population was falling everyone. Crime had risen for two decades everywhere. Crack was poised to explode onto the streets. Detroit was heading downhill. But so was New York and Philadelphia and DC and everywhere.

Today? New York is booming. DC is booming. I wouldn't say Philadelphia or Baltimore or Providence were exactly booming but they're now all growing. Crime is falling. People are moving to downtown Los Angeles and in many major American cities the biggest thing holding growth back is high prices as construction supply fails to keep up with growing demand.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]




I didn't think there was anything funny about the situation in Detroit, but then I saw this.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:00 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]








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