On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder ordered an emergency state takeover of Detroit. Too bad this didn’t happen years ago, when there was still a reasonable chance to save the city from shocking decline.
Once the nation’s fourth-largest city, it now ranks 18th.
Its population has slipped from 1.8 million in 1950 to 700,000 today, and more than a third of these are classified as living in poverty.
The city’s official unemployment rate is 18.2 percent. An estimated 40 square miles within city limits is an urban wasteland of burned and looted buildings.
City government has run huge deficits for more than a decade, and no longer can pay municipal employees and pensioners or provide vitally needed services. It is considered the poorest and most ill-managed city in America.
Many blame the city’s woes on the decline of the Detroit-based automotive industry, but that is a relatively small part of the problem. Corrupt government, venal politicians and rampant crime are more to blame.
Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, ousted in 2008 after holding office for seven years, was recently convicted of more than 20 federal charges of corruption and bribery.
Honest and efficient municipal government does make a difference, as residents of the Lowcountry surely recognize.
And we should never take it for granted.