The Latin motto on the city of Detroit’s official seal translates to “We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.” There is no better time to put faith in that motto than right now. Detroit has become synonymous with financial failure. Recently, a news report talked about troubles being faced by North Las Vegas, Nevada. That report cited a comment from a ratings agency that said North Las Vegas was on a path to make it “the next Detroit.” We cannot, as a state, allow that to be what people think about when they think of Michigan. In researching the history of Detroit, it became apparent that too many generations of people are not familiar with the great city that was.
Did you know that in 1929, Detroit was the fourth largest city in the United States? Or that the population of the the Motor City peaked at 1.85 million people after World War II? The cradle of the American automobile industry was famously referred to as “The Arsenal of Democracy” because of the work it did to put fighting machines on the front lines during WWII. Unfortunately, hard times began to hit the city, which is now the nation’s 18th largest with a population just over 700,000. Decisions have been made over the years in Detroit that ignored the plight that was falling upon it and today Detroit has the lowest credit rating of any U.S. city.
Detroit may seem broken but the fact that it is going through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history is only part of the story.
Despite the hard times and the blight, there is still much to celebrate about Detroit and its position in Michigan and the nation cannot be undersold. Did you know that 38 percent of Michigan residents live in the tri-county area around Detroit? Or that those three counties produce 44 percent of the state’s total income and sales tax revenue?
Detroit’s successes and failures have driven success and failure for Michigan. That is still true today and will be well into the future. That’s why House Republicans are reviewing this bankruptcy as a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring stability and greatness back to the Motor City. We aren’t just hoping for better things; we are looking for ways to make better things happen.
We will do so carefully and with the best interests of all Michigan taxpayers in mind — whether they live in the city of Detroit, one of the surrounding counties, in the far west reaches of the state or well into the Upper Peninsula. Detroit matters and the matters of Detroit should concern everyone in Michigan. There is nothing easy about finding solutions for a city facing $18 billion in debt. But just because something is difficult is no reason to stop trying.
The special House Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future is starting its work on legislation this week. It will be an interesting collection of testimony from city and state officials, experts from around the country and residents of Detroit and Michigan. Stay tuned.