Bankruptcy: The only way out?


If and when the city of Detroit enters chapter 9 bankruptcy there will be a lot of blame. Or worse yet, there won’t be enough time to pass blame around.

The city will be dealing with the devastating consequences and the psychological trauma of a once grand city now on its very knees seeking radical and meaningful transformation from political ineptitude and an inadequate and incompetent economic formula that got the city to where it is today.

Because the only economic formula that was used for the most part in Detroit government was to borrow money and push the problem of addressing the growing deficit to succeeding mayoral and city council administrations, it has come to this: a point where bankruptcy is a real issue and the city if emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr fails to convince creditors and Wall Street juggernauts to reach an amicable resolution regarding what Detroit owes.

Certainly we’ve heard numerous times about why we are here and how Detroit government and its officials did not heed warning signs about this current dispensation. In fact, reports from one auditor general to another pointed to a government growing in deficit that was unable to meet its spending costs.

The city’s former auditor general, Joseph Harris, who was one of the last vocal number crunchers for Detroit, was always in the crosshairs of city council when his reports revealed questionable spending and uncontrollable costs.

I recalled when I covered city hall how Harris’ unpleasant reports would meet stiff resistance from city council with their supporters accusing the former auditor general of harboring political ambitions. His truth-telling style about the city’s financial crisis was always met with baseless political allegations from politicians seeking to maintain the status quo and justify their out-of- control spending of tax dollars.

And that is part of the reason why Detroit is where it is. The lack of independent analysis and voices who would speak freely and honestly inside city hall about the cost structure of a government devoid of political expediency and how it has cost the city so much, that bankruptcy is hovering around the city like the sword of Damocles and hanging by the thread.

A city once billed as the epitome of a thriving major urban center with all of its power and grandeur is now facing the terror of an unrealistic and faulty economic formula, used for decades at the expense of hard- pressed taxpayers who continued to finance a system even when it did not work for them. This includes substandard city services and a public safety emergency.

Because of the tyrant-like behavior and the culture of sycophancy of our elected officials who only wanted to hear what pleases them instead of what is for the greater good and future for the city, a new reality has been ushered in with bankruptcy as likely the only option.

And since there have been proven unrealistic assumptions about the capacity of city government, and what it can do for Detroiters under the current system of borrowing, the city must now find a way to address billions in legacy cost.

Emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr tried to take a stab at the issue this week by taking interested creditors on a tour of despaired areas of the city, but the creditors were opposed to the tour, so it was postponed. That is not what will convince creditors who typically want their money, not emotional pleas.

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