Improving Bankrupt Detroit

Detroit is Bankrupt in more ways than one. Besides having too few assets to cover their $18 Billion in debts, and besides running operational deficits for years, Detroit is bankrupt in the sense that most everyone who can afford to leaves. The population has shrunk from 2,000,000 in 1950 to about 680,000 today, an exodus that shows no sign of slowing.

The murder rate in Detroit is 25 times the state average; 400/year in 2012 (58/100,00) as compared to 250 in the rest of the state (2.3/100,000). The school system in 2009 scored the lowest math scores that had ever been recorded for any major city in the 21 year history of the tests. And mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, currently in prison, was called “a walking crime wave” by the mayor of Washington DC. The situation is not pretty. Here are a few simple thoughts though.

(1) Reorganize the city to make it smaller. The population density of Detroit is small, generally about 7000/ square mile, and some of the outlying districts might be carved off and made into townships. Most of Michigan started as townships. When they return to that status, each could contract their children’s education as they saw fit, perhaps agreeing to let the outlying cities use their school buildings and teachers, or perhaps closing failed schools as the local area sees fit.

This could work work well for outlying areas like the southern peninsula of Detroit, Mexicantown and south, a narrow strip of land lying along Route 75 that’s further from the center of Detroit than it is from the centers of 5 surrounding cities: River Rouge, Ecorse, Dearborn, Melvindale, and Lincoln Park. This area was Stillwell township before being added to Detroit in 1922. If removed from Detroit control the property values would likely rise. The people could easily contract education or police with any of the 5 surrounding cities that were previously parts of Stillwell township. Alternately, this newly created township might easily elect to join one of the surrounding communities entirely. All the surrounding communities offer lower crime and better services than Detroit. Most manage to do it with lower tax rates too.

Another community worth removing from Detroit is the western suburb previously known as Greenfield, This community was absorbed into Detroit in 1925. Like the Mexicantown area, this part of Detroit still has a majority of the houses occupied, and the majority of the businesses are viable enough that the area could reasonably stand on its own. Operating as a township, they could bring back whatever services they consider more suitable to their population. They would be in control of their own destiny.