Residents wary as Detroit faces uncertain future in bankruptcy

DETROIT Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:42pm EDT

A large ''Opportunity Made In Detroit'' banner is seen on the side of a building in downtown Detroit, Michigan in this January 30, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files

A large ''Opportunity Made In Detroit'' banner is seen on the side of a building in downtown Detroit, Michigan in this January 30, 2013 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook/Files

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Some Detroit residents voiced skepticism on Thursday that the former U.S. manufacturing powerhouse would emerge in better shape from its historic bankruptcy filing designed to fix the city's financial crisis.

Hours after learning Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, residents spoke of the stark realities that come with living in a financially broken city.

"It was like putting a thumb in a dam," said Jodie Holmes, 55, as he leaned against an abandoned restaurant marked with graffiti, waiting for a bus to take him to his temporary job.

"I don't know if bankruptcy will help us or drop us to our knees," he added.

Detroit filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy in federal court on Thursday. The bankruptcy, if approved by a federal judge, would force Detroit's thousands of creditors into negotiations with the city's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, to resolve an estimated $18.5 billion in debt that has crippled Michigan's largest city.

Detroit was once synonymous with U.S. manufacturing prowess. Its automotive giants switched production to planes, tanks and munitions during World War Two, earning the city the nickname of the "Arsenal of Democracy."

Now a third of Detroit's 700,000 residents live in poverty and about a fifth are unemployed.

"Maybe bankruptcy will help. I don't know," said lifelong Detroiter Damien Collins, 68, outside his east-side house surrounded by abandoned homes.

The retired autoworker said he had given up hope anything would bring back Detroit.

"Nothing else has worked, so why not try it?" he asked.

Detroit's economic struggles have resulted in a deterioration of city life. The murder rate is the highest in nearly 40 years, only a third of its ambulances were in service in the first quarter of 2013 and nearly 78,000 abandoned buildings create "additional public safety problems," Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, wrote in a letter accompanying the filing.

Residents have also had to cope with a breakdown of services. Forty percent of street lights were non-functional in the first three months of this year, while the police took an average of 58 minutes to respond to emergency calls, more than five times the national average. The city government has also been plagued by mismanagement and political corruption.

"Detroit has a lot to offer, but we need a clean sweep of politicians," said Joanna Maslach, 30, a restaurant manager. "There's still too much corruption here. It's too dysfunctional."

Jim Fields, 37, who recently moved to a downtown loft from the suburbs, is one who believes the city is poised for a comeback. He is among a growing number of professionals moving to historic buildings converted into loft spaces.

"Bankruptcy hits the reset button," the software engineer said. "It's a golden opportunity to make this city right again. I'm very hopeful."

(Writing by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Nick Carey; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (8)
xyz2055 wrote:
I don’t believe in socialism nor in communism…but the simple facts are that America has grown into a plutocracy shielded by democracy. Banks and Corporations are reporting record earnings while the vast majority of Americans are simply surviving. Lean Management is working for the 1%. Free Trade agreements have farmed jobs off to places where the poor are willing to make the products for almost nothing. The elected officials in this country care about 1 thing and 1 thing only. Campaign funding for re-election. The Koch brothers don’t give millions every year to the republican’s because they are patriotic or because they care about America. Rather they expect a return on that investment. Wake up America. You have been bought and sold. Detroit is simply the most flagrant example.

Jul 19, 2013 2:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
No worries! moodys has nominated american economy as stable which means with the same stability will bankrupt every state.

Jul 19, 2013 3:10am EDT  --  Report as abuse
JoeObserver wrote:
This is shocking. Detroit was performing ok during the 2009 financial crisis. It’s hard to believe Detroit is bankrupt now amid when DOW jones is reaching new high everyday.

Jul 19, 2013 3:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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