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Drop Dead, Detroit!

Drop Dead, Detroit!
For the past twenty-one years, L. Brooks Patterson has governed Oakland County, a large, affluent suburb of Detroit. Oakland County embodies fiscal success as much as Detroit does financial ruin, and Patterson, the county executive, tends to behave as though his chief job in life were to never let anyone forget it. One week in September, he gave me an extended tour of his empire, in a chauffeured minivan. Near the end of the first day, we headed toward Lake St. Clair, at the mouth of the Detroit River, for a party on a yacht. The landscape slid past, a jumbled time line of American suburban innovation: big-box districts, fuel megacenters, shopping malls, restaurants with the interior acreage of a factory. Patterson told me, “I used to say to my kids, ‘First of all, there’s no reason for you to go to Detroit. “That’s true,” his driver, a retired cop named Tim, muttered. Patterson just turned seventy-five. Still, he is best known for his big mouth. “I’m just readin’ the clouds, Brooks.”

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New (and Old) Frontiers: Above Detroit With Aerial Photographer Alex MacLean Alex MacLean has seen Detroit from the sky at various stages since 1980. The large green-spaces below, for example, were once crowded neighborhoods and business districts in a city’s footprint that is large enough to fit Houston, Boston and Manhattan. These grassy fields seen from Google Maps might be mistaken for parks. Brush Park to Downtown Detroit, MI. © 2015 Alex S. MacLean/New York Times Similar green spaces a few miles north of town generally have bunkers and greens fees. Can Detroit Return To Its Former Glory? The population of Detroit has dwindled, and now there aren't enough taxpayers to pick up the tab for essential city services. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption toggle caption Paul Sancya/AP

The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Middle Class In 1973, Ron and Loretta Martin and their three sons moved into the yellow-brick Colonial across the street from my childhood home, on Detroit’s west side. My father greeted them warmly, despite the fact that most of our neighbors saw them as blockbusters, part of a nefarious conspiracy by civil-rights groups to force integration and break up tight-knit white enclaves. The Martins were one of the first black families on our block. It took a lot of courage to be pioneers, those black families who crossed the city’s racial frontier. And it also took extra money. Black pioneers, as I discovered years later when I wrote a book about Detroit, were usually better off financially than the white people they moved next to.

Detroit’s Bankruptcy Reflects a History of Racism This is black history month. It is also the month that the Emergency Manager who took political power and control from the mostly African American residents of Detroit has presented his plan to bring the city out of the bankruptcy he steered it into. This is black history in the making, and I hope the nation will pay attention to who wins and who loses from the Emergency Manager’s plan. Black people are by far the largest racial or ethnic population in Detroit, which has the highest percentage of black residents of any American city with a population over 100,000. Eighty-three percent of the city’s 701,000 residents are black. It continues to be an underreported story that a white state legislature and white governor took over the city and forced it to file for bankruptcy against the will of its elected representatives.

Black flight to suburbs masks lingering segregation in metro Detroit Nearly a half century ago, as Detroit licked its wounds following the violent uprisings of 1967, the national Kerner Commission bemoaned the sad state of segregation in America’s central cities and the housing woes endured by African Americans and the urban poor. And few regions suffered worse from the separation of races than Detroit. Forced by federal housing policy and local practices into slums and nearly all-black neighborhoods, African-Americans lived apart from the city’s white population, which limited their ability to enroll in better schools in white neighborhoods or seize job opportunities across the city or suburbs.

Motown Down If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops frequented by young hipsters; old warehouses being converted to lofts; bike racks; houses undergoing renovation; a new Whole Foods supermarket. After decades of white flight, black flight, and urban decay, Detroit is being spoken of, in some circles, as “the new Portland,” or “the new Brooklyn.” This gentrification extends only to a relatively small area, but it is worth keeping in mind when reading about the city’s bankruptcy filing—by far the biggest municipal-bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Detroit, as everyone knows, has a lot of problems. Great swaths of the city have been left to crumble, or return to pasture. Detroit is broke—it can’t even afford batteries for its parking meters—and broken.

State prepares to collect city income taxes for Detroit Detroiters and people who work in the city will be able to pay their individual city income taxes electronically starting with the next tax season after the state Treasury Department begins processing the city’s income tax collections in January, officials said today. The state is taking over Detroit income tax collection as part of the city’s post-bankruptcy efforts to improve its bottom line, and the Treasury Department will begin processing the taxes in January. The move will make it easier to file taxes while also boosting compliance, likely resulting in increased revenue for the city, the officials said. “Taxpayers deserve an easy and convenient filing process and the ability to e-file directly with the state will do just that,” Detroit Chief Financial Officer John Hill said in a news release. “More efficient tax collection also means the city will have more resources to provide vital services to our citizens.”

Detroit Bankruptcy Filing Raises Big Questions Detroit has long been a watchword for urban decay, with vacant lots, high crime rates, and serious financial problems defining the city’s image. But Thursday’s bankruptcy filing raises many questions, beginning with its legitimacy. Many people in the Democratic city, where more than eighty per cent of the residents are black, believe that it represents an undemocratic political gambit by a Republican-controlled state government. The immediate question is whether a judge will block the bankruptcy petition, which was filed in federal court by Kevyn Orr, the city’s “emergency financial manager,” who earlier this year was appointed by Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Orr had been threatening this move for months, and, after negotiations with the city’s pension funds and bondholders broke down, he followed through.

Whites moving into Detroit, blacks moving out as city shrinks overall - Crain's Detroit Business White people are moving back to Detroit, the American city that came to epitomize white flight, even as black people continue to leave for the suburbs and the city's overall population shrinks. Detroit is the latest major city to see an influx of whites who may not find the suburbs as alluring as their parents and grandparents did in the last half of the 20th century. Unlike New York, San Francisco and many other cities that have seen the demographic shift, though, it's cheap housing and incentive programs that are partly fueling the regrowth of the Motor City's white population.