How the Democrats Destroyed Detroit

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


Last Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, announced that the state will proceed with a takeover of Detroit’s Democratic city government. “The current system has not been working. We have not stopped the decline,” said Snyder. “This is time for us not to argue or to blame, but to come together as Detroit, Mich., not Detroit vs. Michigan, and bring all of our resources to bear.” Snyder may not want to point the finger, but it is obvious that decades of Democratic rule and economic policies have brought this once great city to its knees.

The move, one step short of declaring municipal bankruptcy, means Snyder will be appointing an emergency manager with sweeping powers similar to that of a bankruptcy judge. Such powers include the ability to toss out unaffordable contracts with public employee unions and vendors, put city assets up for sale, consolidate or eliminate government departments, make further service cuts, or recommend municipal bankruptcy–all of which can be implemented with little to no input from local elected officials.

Democratic Mayor Dave Bing has a 10-day window to request a hearing on the decision. If he does the hearing will take place on March 12 in Lansing. If the appeal is denied, Snyder will appoint the manager. As of now that person hasn’t been identified, but the Governor says he has someone in mind. After 18 months, the emergency manager would be subject to review by local officials, at which time he could be removed or replaced.

Mayor Bing sounded like he was leaning towards appeal. “The Governor has made his decision, and it was his decision alone to make,” said Bing. “While I respect it, I have said all along that I do not favor an Emergency Manager for the City of Detroit. I will look at the impact of the Governor’s decision as well as other options, to determine my next course of action.”

Democratic politicians and civil rights organizations in a city where the population is 82.7 percent black were far less sanguine. “For one individual to be able to wipe out the duties of our duly-elected officials, that’s more or less a dictatorship, and it’s against everything that America is supposed to be about,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the local NAACP.

The “dictatorship” meme was echoed by other Democratic officials. State Rep. Brian Banks, who represents parts of northeast Detroit, contended the Governor should not have the largest voice when deciding what’s best for Detroit.” State Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) characterized the appointment of an emergency manager as “a death in the family.” Activist minister Malik Shabazz claimed that the “governor and the right wing in Lansing are destroying democracy and moving us into plutocracy.” And Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, president of the Detroit Chapter of Rainbow-PUSH, claimed the development “will add to the growing tension in Michigan.”  “We wait to see if austerity will trump democracy and prosperity,” he added.

What prosperity? Detroit’s downward spiral has been legendary. Once the fourth largest city in the nation, and home to its largest industry, Detroit’s population has been cut in half, from 1.5 million in 1970, to less than 700,000 in 2012. Median household income is $27,862 compared to the state median of $48,669. The poverty level is 36.2 percent compared to a statewide level of 15.7. The murder rate is 11 times that of New York City, and the unemployment rate is above 18 percent, more than double the national average. Detroit Public Schools (DPS) have been under emergency management since 2008. In late February, the state review board revealed that the city faces a short-term cash $327 million budget deficit and an estimated $14 billion in long-term debt, primarily driven by unfunded pension and retirement health care obligations.

As a result, the city can’t provide basic services. The Detroit Fire Department is so short of critical resources, rotating “brownouts” of fire companies are required. Forty percent of the city’s street lights are broken. For the past two years, the Bing administration has slowly adopted a city “triage” system, best described by the Detroit Free Press. “Infrastructure improvements, demolition activity, outdoor maintenance and development incentives will henceforth be concentrated in a relatively small number of neighborhoods that boast the high numbers of owner-occupied homes and little evidence of residential and commercial blight,” it reports.

To accord with this plan, the city’s 139 square miles have been broken down into four categories by Detroit’s Planning and Development Department: “steady,” as in little blight and a high number of owner-occupied homes; “transitional,” as in a neighborhood on its way up or down; “varied” as in some streets are stable and others are not; and “distressed” as in large amounts of blight, and few amenities, such as grocery stores.

Detroit residents have responded in kind. A staggering 47 percent of the owners of Detroit’s 305,000 properties didn’t pay their property taxes in 2012. Homeowner Fred Phillips illuminated the frustration many of those residents feel. “Why pay taxes?” he asks. “Why should I send them taxes when they aren’t supplying services? It is sickening….Every time I see the tax bill come, I think about the times we called and nobody came.”

Yet it’s even worse than that. Detroit has some of the highest big city property taxes in the nation, and property assessments remain overly inflated, amounting to as much as ten times the market price of the property, according to recent research compiled by two Michigan professors.

This has led to another phenomenon. Property owners are allowing themselves to be foreclosed upon, and then re-buying the same property at a reduced price, legally eliminating their outstanding debt in the process. Six hundred properties were repurchased in this manner in 2012, triple the number that occurred in 2010.

In short, Detroit is a city on the brink of ruination. At the center of that ruination is 50 years of Democrat rule. The last Republican Mayor the city had was Louis C. Miriani, who lost his reelection bid in 1961 and ended up spending 10 years in prison for tax evasion. Incoming mayor, Democrat Jerome Cavanagh, brought the “Model City” program — fashioned after Soviet Union centralized efforts to transform entire urban areas at once — to a nine-square-mile section of the city. Using a commuter tax and a new income tax as his vehicle, Cavanagh promised residents “the rich” would pay for it all. Yet because people were being told by government how to run their businesses and their lives, in exchange for government goodies, the program ended up failing spectacularly.

In 1967, after police broke up a celebration at an after hours club, an enraged neighborhood began to riot, igniting the worst race riot of the decade. Black-owned business were looted and burned to the ground. Forty people were killed and 5,000 were left homeless, and the “white flight” out of the city center, totaling 140,000 people over an eighteen month period, ensued. The city was never the same.

An unbroken series of Democratic mayors followed, all of whom had a hand in implementing the full panoply of progressive policies, highlighted by the giveaways to public service employees. Their outlandish salaries and benefit packages, coupled with highly inefficient work rules, killed the golden goose: the auto industry, and its attendant industrial community headed South, where lower taxes and right-to-work rules kept their businesses afloat.

The same swath of progressive policies destroyed the public school system as well. Perhaps nothing illustrates the corrupting influence of those policies better than the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ success in scuttling a $200 million offer by businessman and philanthropist Robert Thompson to build 15 charter schools in the city in 2003. Ten years later, the Detroit Public School (DPS) system remains a cesspool of failure, corruption and bankruptcy, all of which is chronicled here.

Considering some of the men who have run this city, Detroit’s descent into socialistic ruination should surprise no one. From 1974 to 1993, Coleman Young, who was subsequently revealed to be a member of the Communist Party, was mayor of the city. He failed to stem Detroit’s descent into chaos, and in 1992 his police chief was convicted of stealing $2.6 million from city taxpayers, even as Young defended him. Michigan’s hard-left U.S. Senator Carl Levin was Young’s chief supporter, serving as Detroit City Council president.

Kwame Kilpatrick, who served as Mayor from 2002 to 2008, represents the epitome of corruption. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to two felonies and no contest to a third one, receiving a sentence of 120 days. In 2010, he received a five year sentence for probation violations stemming from his obstruction of justice conviction. Currently Kilpatrick, along with his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and his longtime contractor friend Bobby Ferguson, who got millions of dollars in city work, are awaiting a jury verdict on racketeering, bribery and tax charges that could send them all to jail for 20 years.

All of these polices and politicians have had their effect. In 2012, Forbes Magazine rated Detroit the most dangerous city in America. A Detroit News poll revealed that “Detroit’s crime crisis” has gotten so bad, a staggering 40 percent of its residents intend to leave the city within five years. Another two-thirds say the city is on the wrong track. The poll also found that all of Detroit’s public officials were held in low esteem, except for Police Chief Ralph Godbee–who retired due to a sex scandal after the poll was taken.

Now one might think that those living in the epicenter of Democrat-inflicted misery for fifty years might consider changing course. One would be completely wrong. On Nov. 6, Barack Obama received 98 percent of the vote. On the same night Detroit voters elected a convicted felon, Brian Banks, to serve in the state legislature. Other election results show overwhelming margins of victories for Detroit Democrats as well.

Thus, the self-inflicted misery continues, even as it is almost certain that Detroit’s Democratically-dominated city government will resist the efforts of Gov. Synder, and the Republicans who run the state legislature, to keep the city from going under. It is also likely that much of that resistance will be framed in racial terms, a theme that has already been stoked by U.S. Rep John Conyers (D-MI), who has represented Detroit for 47 years. “How come all of the jurisdictions put under emergency management are majority African American? Has anybody noticed that?” he wondered. Here’s what some people have “noticed,” Mr. Conyers: the top ten most dangerous cities in the nation are each led by a Democrat mayor.

Gov. Snyder frames the issue correctly. “There’s probably no city that’s more financially challenged in the entire United States,” he said. “We need to start moving upward with the city of Detroit.” Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, put it even more bluntly. “The city could stop doing all of its current operations today–no more police and fire, no more garbage collection, no more street lights–and the city would still have billions of dollars of debt and promises made for future payments that it would have to pay.”

Detroit residents have had fifty years to fix their own problems. They’ve elected Democrat after Democrat, bringing the city to the brink of bankruptcy. It is hard to imagine an emergency manager could do worse.

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  • wrath_of_fett

    But the GOVERNORS (including the CURRENT ONE), AKA the ones with the real power, have been almost EXCLUSIVELY Republican since 1855! Seriously, you’re blaming the Mayors?

    • Conservative_veteran

      Are you attempting to say that the Governor of the State of Michigan has been in control of the budget of the City of Detroit all this time? Because unless that was your point, you really don’t have one. And if that was your point, you are just plain wrong. Detroit and its MAYORS got themselves into this trouble. If you need further proof of that, don’t look to Lansing, just look around the country at the cities that most closely resemble Detroit. Do you know what those cities have in common with Detroit? Democrat Mayors. And in those cities, the Mayors and City Councils control the budget, just like in Detroit. When anyone can look around America and see that ALL of our cities suffering hardest from poverty, crime, corruption and now blight are the proud products of the Democrat party.

      • Mike

        Are you saying that the stagnant financial state of our nation brought on by the republicans while defunding the cities ( which are the back bone of OUR nation) has nothing to do with this problem…..White flight was the main factor that began in the 60′s for Detroit…you loose 1/2 your population and revenue due to racism…Oh well.

        • Conservative_veteran

          So its racist not to want a bunch of hoodlums to burn your house down because one of their crackhead brethren got rightfully thumped on by the police? You are just a stupid fool. Our nation was ruined by people JUST LIKE YOU Mikey, and you are all stupid enough to still think Bush did it. Im not going to waste time mentioning things like the Community Reinvestment Act that you leftists used to ruin our housing market in the name of “fairness” because if I do you might have to run off for a friggin tampon. Im sick and tired of you degenerate friggin douchebags trying to blame whats wrong with this country on everyone but yourselves. You KNOW that you are the problem deep down inside. You KNOW that leeches like you sucking off the teet of our country has nearly broken us, and soon will. But unfortunately Mikey, I bet you just keep on sucking.

          • Joseph R Nissen

            It’s funny to me how whenever a Democrat says something, they, not always but mostly, use fact and don’t insult people to prove a point. I’ve noticed Republicans often resort to name-calling and slander. Why is that? It makes you look bad…

          • Don 2

            He’s got a right to be angry. You should be too. It’s too late for nicey-nice. The party, this great experiment called America, is over Joseph…..it’s not if…..but when. Bad times are a coming your way young man…..real bad times. Better buckle up for a rough ride!

          • Shinto

            the problem is he has the right to insult democrats for causing all this mess. Being right is all that matters. Pointing to insults is no different than deflecting the issue. The Conservative_veteran is 100% correct and thats what makes him look good. your feelings don’t amount to anything. Anyways. historically and factually speaking. Democrats DESTROYED Detroit. Detroit hasn’t been the Backbone of your nation for decades. World has shifted from Cars to Information Technology during the 90′s (FACT! You are in front of a computer and not browsing a car magazine!) 1/2 of the population loss in detroit is the exodus of the Middle and Upperclass (not wanting to lose anymore wealth from Socialist Democrats, More facts) Of course you will have a huge tax revenue loss. You think I want to sit around and have someone take my wealth from me just to elevate the black community? Call it racism if you want but using racism to progress Socialist dogma is worst than racism.

            SO you Claim democrats have facts. We await your facts. while we pummel you with the truth.

            … And we Told you so.

          • Kyle Karlin

            Do you know why many cities like Detroit went through decline besides jobs leaving and union membership declining? It also has to due to the race riots of 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This affected many cities in America after his assassination. Part of the reason why much of America are becoming or are to become like Detroit is because when it is cheaper to outsource manufacturing jobs rather than to pay workers a fair wage whether with union representation or not. Comedian Bill Maher brought up a great point and that is this: Do You want a smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? You cannot have both, if Colonel Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, than the Government (Uncle Sam does). We certainly have the money to bail out the banks and the mortgage corporations but we don’t seem to care about what is left of the middle class and even less so for the poor. Wal-Mart a Republican Corporation and one of the most profitable worldwide actually pays workers minimum wage or slightly above and actually teaches their workers to file for Social Security and other government programs. Does any one know what Conservatism represents? It DOES NOT represent limited government, they are the party of the English Monarchy and Conservatism has historically been the protection and preservation of the monarchy. The Conservatives today want to control what a woman does with her body or when a near majority of America supports gay marriage they are the first ones to want government involved to ban it. So much for Conservative limited government, it is all an illusion just like Ronald Reagan.

          • Admiral Rusty Schackleford

            Pure ignorance.

          • Admiral Rusty Schackleford

            The complete opposite is true, and I know why. It is what someone does when they cannot compete in the realm of ideas. They are left with name calling. That is clearly the childish, emotional, liberal way.

  • Keith Hansen

    This is a shining example of total democrats control and ideology! Thank
    the democrat party and unions for this pathetic city. And done think
    for a second they’re limited to just this location, it’s spreading and
    coming to a city near you. The U.S.Dept of agriculture shows theyre’s
    over 50 million now on food stamps!!! That’s about a sixth of the
    country. Keep taxing, spending, and regulating, that will continue the
    cancer. Well done obama, you are awesome.

  • Farid Rushdi

    This is not about me being Republican (which I am). It’s about history showing that the way we are going as a country (NSA, checkpoints within the country, etc.) has happened countless times and they have all failed.

    How can we as Americans say it’s okay to have citizenship checkpoints hundreds of miles within our borders? We let illegals cross into the country by the millions each year and turn our heads but stop law-abiding Americans at check points to find out if they are citizens or not? Where is the outrage?

    The biggest problem I have with large-government Democratic policies (not Democrats — I grew up in DC and Ronald Regan and I were the only Republicans with the city limits) is mission creep.

    Title IX was a Nixon Administration idea to make it fairer for women in athletics. Now, men’s programs are being obliterated to pay for women’s programs. If the Duke basketball team flies first class then the women’s team must also. No. Tennessee’s women’s program has earned to fly first class; let the guys take the Greyhound bus until they win a few championships.

    Another one is the EPA. Started–again under Nixon–was supposed to keep our air and water clean. Now EPA agents are crawling all over private property, telling owners they can’t cut down trees or build a home because a little tree frog calls the area home.

    When I was growing up (early 60′s), police looked like police and the military looked like the military. Now police are the military. They buy the same equipment. SWAT teams were created in the 1970′s for hostage and life threatening situations. The first year there were less than 150 SWAT raids nationwide. Today there are 300 daily, including one two years ago about possible student loan fraud.

    Title IX was a good idea. So was the EPA and SWAT. But mission creep turns small agencies into goliaths. Why? More money and more jobs. It’s like a mom and pop opening a convenience store and over time turning it into a full grocery store.

    It’s okay when we the people do it but not when the government does it. And when the government reaches a certain size and power, there is no turning back.

    I don’t know if we are there yet. I hope not.

  • AnHonestMan

    Truth is, this isnt a political party’s creation, its a race’s. Its not PC to talk about, its ok to blame a political party, especially when fits in with an obvious agenda. but anyone who knows about the Race Riots and the White Flight from the city should be able to put 2 and 2 together. Crime is the biggest issue in Detroit, both by the citizens and the elected officials. There are many Democratic run cities in this country that are doing just fine. There are few citys that had race riots that caused 90% of the white population to leave and the city to quickly fall to ruin.