Residents worry about whether bankruptcy will better Detroit
FILE - This Oct. 24, 2012 file photo shows an empty field north of Detroit's downtown. Detroit, which on Thursday, July 18, 2013, filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in American history, owes as much as $20 billion to banks, bondholders and pension funds. The city can get rid of its gargantuan debt, but a bankruptcy judge cant bring back residents or raise its dwindling revenue. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
Retire Detroit Police Dept. officers Al Grant, left, Don Taylor and Greg Trozak, right, of the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association, pose for a photo with some police and firefighter memorabilia at their office Friday, July 19, 2013 in Sterling Heights, Mich. "The retirement obligation and health care obligation of a workforce that used to support a 2 million population cannot be supported with the diminished population of 700,000," said Steve Miller, board chairman at insurance giant AIG who has turned around a number of struggling companies. Detroit's pensioners are likely to see benefit cuts. And because they're lower in the pecking order of creditors, they may bear the brunt of the city's ills. And many will have trouble taking the hit, especially those hurt in the line of duty. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, right, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, left, address reporters during a news conference on Friday, July 19, 2013 in Detroit. On Thursday, Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy when Orr asked a federal judge for municipal bankruptcy protection. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
FILE - A pedestrian walks by graffiti in downtown Detroit in a Dec. 12, 2008, file photo. Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy on Thursday, July 18, 2013, when state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr asked a federal judge for municipal bankruptcy protection. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
In Detroit, it can take the police nearly an hour to respond to a 911 call. Despite razing close to 10,000 vacant houses, three times as many still stand with windows smashed and doors ripped off. At night, many streets and even freeways are dangerously shrouded in darkness because tens of thousands of street lights don’t work.
This is Detroit, an insolvent city seeking to find its way through the uncertainty of the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.
For decades, residents have heard one city official after another vow to improve city services but little would be done. Yesterday – a day after the city filed the unprecedented bankruptcy – they were given a deadline.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr promised weary residents that they would see better city services in 30 to 60 days.
“Now is our opportunity to stop 60 years of decline,” Snyder said yesterday during a press conference just north of downtown.
Though Thursday’s bankruptcy filing had been feared for months, the path ahead for the once-mighty Motor City is still uncertain. As Detroit starts the likely lengthy process of shedding its debt, residents, businesses owners and retirees nervously wonder if they’ll see improvements after years of neglect or if another round of promises will go unfulfilled.
Resident Dennis Talbert has waged a battle to improve his northwest side neighborhood of Brightmoor for years, pleading with city officials to raze rows of vacant homes that have been stripped of electrical wiring and plumbing. So far, none has been torn down.
Mayor Dave Bing continues with his plan to demolish 10,000 empty houses before his term ends in December. But it’s costly, and the city’s inventory is too massive to make a real dent.
“I don’t think the trickle-down theory works in Brightmoor,” Talbert said. “The whole issue of bankruptcy will not impact poor people. Only when organizations start moving our way will those houses be removed.”
Rosalind Childs called 911 last year after her teenage son came home to find their home had been burglarized. The thieves took off with a laptop computer, money and a designer handbag.
“I got home four hours later, and he was sitting there with a butcher’s knife in my house waiting for the police to come,” Childs said of her son.
Childs is doubtful bankruptcy will change anything.
“We already are getting poor city services,” she said. “I don’t think bankruptcy is really going to make a difference. You can’t put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.”