The fate of Detroit

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013
The fate of Detroit story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - On Wednesday, one week after it declared itself bankruptcy, the City of Detroit celebrated its 312th birthday.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says Detroit's troubles, decades in the making, are only just beginning.


I'd like to be a rah-rah guy for our state's largest city. But the truth is, no matter how I twist it and turn it and shape it...I Just can't.

The City of Detroit is the result of a train-wreck 50 years in the making. We all watched it happen, one slow-motion, hair-raising leg at a time.

How many times have you seen someone shake his head and say, helplessly, "well...that's Detroit."

And there are so many things to blame it on. Blame it on incompetent or corrupt leadership. Blame it on an auto industry that seemed unable to compete with the rest of the world. Blame it on unfunded pensions.

Blame it on NAFTA that did take hundreds of thousands of jobs south. Blame it on OSHA, which required companies to spend millions to make workplaces safer. Blame it on the cost of oil from the Persian Gulf. Blame it on white flight.

Blame it on loss of tax revenue.

Blame it on what or whomever you please.

The fact is, Detroit is a gigantic mess. It is a failed city.

In 1960 it was the fifth largest, and richest, per capita, city in the country with a population of nearly two million.

Now, with a population of just 700-thousand, 60 percent of its children live in poverty. Unemployment plods along at nearly 20 percent.

Some 30-thousand current and retired city workers are wondering if they'll have any of the pension they helped pay for.

A full third of Detroit's 140-square miles—an area the size of Grand Rapids—is now vacant or desolate.

It's a city that finds it difficult to even maintain street lights.

In the city itself, there is anger and outrage at the predicament people are finding themselves if they believed the city could go on borrowing and running up bills that it never intended to pay. That day is now over.

I thought the defiant column by Mitch Albom, the celebrated Free Press writer, was terrific.

"Yeah, we're broke," he wrote, "But we got up this morning and had breakfast. Yeah we're broke. But we'll carry on...We'll still be here. We're not going anywhere."

It's nice and its easy to be defiant. But its not going to pay any bills. Its not going to bring back people who've already left. It's not going to raise tax revenues. Its not going to make leaders anymore honest.

For the record...Stockton, California, declared bankruptcy 13 months ago. And its parks are reportedly populated with drug dealers, its courts with lawsuits, its business districts with boarded up windows—with little relief in sight.

Are there positive signs in Detroit? Yes.

The Tigers are in first place. Consumer Reports says the new Chevy Malibu is hands down the best car on the road in just about any price range. Private developers want to build a new soccer stadium downtown. The state has agreed to issue $450 million in bonds to help develop a new Red Wings hockey stadium—and $200 million more to help develop 45 blocks near downtown.

So yeah...some things have the patina of progress.

But bright spots aren't enough.  Detroit is in for a long painful recovery. If, in fact, its up for it. There will be no bailouts.

We know that now.

So, in a very real way, Detroit is a new frontier—an urban frontier—waiting for courageous and creative private investment to mold something new from the rubble.

We have our fingers crossed. In the meantime...Happy birthday.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on November 27, 2015 18:34 GMT


CHICAGO (AP) -- A protest march has begun in Chicago's Magnificent Mile shopping district, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the middle of a crowd that's shouting, "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!"

Several hundred demonstrators have gathered in the drizzling rain, many with umbrellas and plastic-wrapped signs.

They're protesting the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer last year. The recent release of a video showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald has set off days of largely peaceful protests.

Protesters sought high visibility by taking the demonstrations to the city's main shopping area on what's traditionally one of the year's biggest shopping days.

An association representing hundreds of high-end retailers, hotels and restaurants in the district says it's confident authorities will maintain order for thousands of Black Friday shoppers. The Magnificent Mile Association represents 780 businesses on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue.


UNDATED (AP) -- "Black Friday" may no longer represent an early start on holiday shopping. For some, it may be too late.

One woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says her $200 budget today was the same as last year, but that it didn't buy as much because the best bargains were on Thanksgiving night.

Ashley Walton says the day for bargains is now "Black Thursday." She says she didn't go shopping on Thanksgiving because she was in what she calls a "turkey coma."

A Kmart shopper in Denver this morning had nearly the entire store to herself, and found it "sad." Susan Montoya said it's "no challenge" when no one else is shopping. She says people must have gone out yesterday or be shopping online.

Early numbers aren't out yet on how many shoppers headed to stores on Thanksgiving Day. The National Retail Federation expected about 30 million to shop on Thanksgiving, and 99.7 million on Black Friday.


BERLIN (AP) -- A closely-watched survey shows German consumers are losing confidence amid growing concerns of an economic slump.

The GfK research group said Friday its forward-looking consumer climate index dropped for the fourth month in a row to 9.3 points in December, from 9.4 in November.

GfK says consumers' willingness to buy rose, but that was offset by drops in both their income and economic expectations, partially linked to the growing number of asylum seekers pouring into the country.

Germany is set to receive more than 1 million refugees and other migrants this year and some 40 percent of consumers surveyed told GfK they believed unemployment would soon rise, most of them saying the newcomers would hurt the labor market.

GfK's monthly survey is based on some 2,000 consumer interviews.


BRUSSELS (AP) -- Greece and its creditors are close to sealing a deal on conditions that Athens must respect to obtain the next slice of rescue money.

The country has already received this week approval for a 2 billion euro loan, and is negotiating on more economic measures needed to get another 1 billion euros.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Friday the sides have "agreed broadly the second set of milestones."

She said that when the details are ironed out "this of course would unlock the disbursement of the final one billion euros still available."

That would also allow for an important review of Greece's handling of its austerity program, which is required to secure international credit.

Andreeva said the implementation of pension reforms "is a key part of the first review."


GENEVA (AP) -- A Swiss court has convicted in absentia a former employee with international bank HSBC for economic espionage and sentenced him to five years in prison.

Herve Falciani -- seen by some as a crucial whistleblower -- had refused to travel from his native France to appear before the Swiss Federal Tribunal in Bellinzona in proceedings that began in October.

France does not extradite its own citizens and Falciani appears unlikely to serve the sentence.

Falciani was on trial for leaking bank data that led to a worldwide wave of tax evasion probes against prominent clients in France and elsewhere.

He was charged with illegally obtaining data, economic espionage, breach of business confidentiality and breach of bank secrecy while working at a Swiss HSBC subsidiary between 2006 and 2008.


Glitch causes bank customers to see billions in charges

HONOLULU (AP) -- A technical glitch meant some First Hawaiian Bank customers logged on to their accounts to find that they appeared to be billions, or sometimes more than a trillion dollars in the red.

KHON-TV reports that bank officials say the glitch was visible to customers who logged on to their accounts during a 20-minute window Wednesday. They say no actual customer information or balances were affected by the issue.

Customers who logged in at that time saw outstanding balances of at least $710 billion.

Kauai resident George White says when he saw the error all he could think was, "Well, my wife is going to kill me."

First Hawaii Bank said in a statement that the issue was resolved quickly and that the bank apologized to customers who were inconvenienced.

Washington Times