Monday, July 22, 2013

Detroit’s Bankruptcy Reveals Dysfunction Common in Cities

U.S. Map of Metropolitan Areas highlighting th...
No city was hit as hard by the recession as Detroit, America’s one-time industrial capital whose decades-long decline cut its population in half and left $18 billion in debt it can’t afford to pay.
Even so, the pressures that pushed Detroit into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history are playing out on a smaller scale around the nation. Diminished tax revenue and rising labor costs have left four cities insolvent since 2007. Service cuts were made by others such as Detroit, where street lights are dark and police are scarce.

“None of the other cities are as far along, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of cities that have similar issues,” said Alan Mallach, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public-policy research organization in Washington. “Every other industrial city has problems that could send them down the same path.”

U.S. municipalities have recovered slowly from the 18-month recession that ended four years ago, depressing property-tax revenue and leading to investment losses for pensions that many cities haven’t fully funded for years. Projected pension and health-care obligations for the 61 biggest cities will top assets by about $217 billion, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based research and public-policy group. Read more >>
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