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How to keep your city from filing for bankruptcy
Stephanie Johnston / PUBLIC WORKS / July 24, 2013
Detroit’s infrastructure was built for 1.8 million people. Today, 700,000 live within the same 140-square-mile service area. Experts believe that street, water, wastewater, streetlight, and other infrastructure systems are three times the size they need to be for the city’s population.
In the long march toward bankruptcy, public works tried valiantly – amidst pay and benefits cuts, furloughs, and workforce reductions — to bridge this gap. Inevitably, though, service declined or disappeared entirely. Garbage is picked up twice a month. Some neighborhoods contract privately for snow-plowing. Almost half of 88,000 streetlights don’t work (one reason the crime rate is higher than similarly sized cities).
With 40% more residents planning to move away within the next five years, some say it’s time for Detroit to merge with Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties and save money by consolidating redundant service departments. (Supposedly, police and fire alone consume 60% of the city’s general funds.)