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Published: Saturday, 9/21/2013


Fixing Detroit

There are those in this region, and elsewhere, who take almost sadistic pleasure in Detroit’s bankruptcy filing.

Some of this is, sadly, racially motivated. “See — we told you so,” some are smugly saying. Such criticism, we now know, couldn’t be more wrong.

Granted, there is more than enough blame to go around, and the antics of certain present-day Detroit politicians have been enough to make anybody wince.

But a massive, numbers-crunching investigation by the Detroit Free Press turned up some surprising results. Many of the irresponsible fiscal practices that landed Detroit in trouble began in the 1950s, under the white mayors who preceded the much-vilified Coleman Young.

Mr. Young wasn’t perfect, and some of his inflammatory rhetoric wasn’t helpful. But his fiscal and budget-balancing policies may have been the most prudent of any modern mayor. Meanwhile, his successor, Dennis Archer, the mayor most popular with the white establishment, turns out to have made the problem worse by irresponsibly adding city employees when the population was shrinking.

Fixing the blame is, of course, not the point, except in an attempt to lead the city to better post-bankruptcy policies. Fixing Detroit is, however, something in which everyone has a stake.

Toledo, whose economy is heavily integrated with that of the Detroit metropolitan area, would benefit economically, and otherwise, from having a healthy major city an hour up the road. That’s even more crucial for anyone living anywhere in Michigan, a state trying hard to rebuild and recapture its vanished prosperity.

That’s never going to happen, until the state’s major city stops being the poster child for urban failure. Toledo needs to watch the situation and hope Detroit finds a solution that will lead to a rebound. Better yet, we need to study what happened, and learn from it.

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