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.

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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 in...as 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 August 29, 2014 17:14 GMT

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in July, with a drop in auto purchases accounting for most of the weakness. Income growth also slowed in July.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged down 0.1 percent last month after a 0.4 percent increase in June. It was the first decline in spending since January. Income growth slowed to a 0.2 percent rise in July, the weakest showing in seven months.

The fall in spending came primarily from a decline in auto sales, which took a breather in July after posting big gains in recent months, although spending in other areas was also weak.

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, so it needs to recover for the economy to keep its momentum in the second half of the year.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up in August, driven by greater optimism about jobs, rising incomes, and increasing wealth. The increase largely occurred among higher-income groups.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. Still, it has barely risen in the past year.

Consumers have sent mixed signals in recent months. The Michigan index has fluctuated between 80 and 82.5 since December. A measure of consumer confidence by the Conference Board rose this month to nearly a seven-year high. And yet Americans cut back their spending in July.

Nearly 60 percent of households in the top third of income earners say they are financially better off this month, the Michigan survey found, compared with only 36 percent in the bottom two-thirds.

US-FIAT-CHRYSLER

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. investors should soon be able to buy stock in Chrysler for the first time in seven years.

Italy's Fiat and Chrysler are merging to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Fiat says Friday that an ongoing tally of investors suggests there is not enough opposition to derail the deal.

Earlier this month, Fiat shareholders approved combining the companies. But Italian law gives dissenters the right to cash out. Fiat has said that if investors offered more than 500 million euros ($650 million) in shares, the merger would be off.

Fiat SpA will announce the final tally by Sept. 4. So far the maximum number of shares to be cashed is below the cap.

Shares of Chrysler haven't been publicly traded since 2007 when it was still combined with German automaker Daimler.

REYNOLDS AMERICAN-LORILLARD

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Federal regulators are putting Reynolds American Inc.'s planned $25 billion takeover of rival cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. under the microscope.

The nation's second-biggest tobacco company said Friday that the Federal Trade Commission has asked for additional information as part of an antitrust review of the deal.

In July, Reynolds announced the deal to combine two of the nation's oldest and biggest tobacco companies, creating a formidable No. 2 to rival Altria Group Inc., owner of Philip Morris USA.

Reynolds markets Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes. Lorillard sells Newport, Maverick and Kent cigarettes.

The companies plan to sell the Kool, Salem, Winston, Maverick and blu eCig brands to Imperial Tobacco Group for $7.1 billion to ease regulatory concerns about competition.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-TAX FORMS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal agency that brought you the glitchy HealthCare.gov website has a massive new project.

If the Health and Human Services department has trouble this time, that could delay tax refunds for many people.

Complicated connections between the new health care law and income taxes will start to surface in 2015.

HHS has to send millions of people who got health insurance tax credits this year a new tax form that's like a W-2 for health care. It's called a 1095-A.

If they're delayed beyond Jan. 31, people who got coverage through the new insurance exchanges may have to wait to file their taxes -- and collect their refunds.

Some tax preparation companies are worried.

The Obama administration says it's on task, but won't provide much detail.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Inflation has fallen to an annual 0.3 percent in August for the 18 countries that use the euro, underlining the shakiness of the continent's economic recovery.

Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, says the figure is down from 0.4 percent in July, as expected by market analysts.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, sent a modestly brighter signal as it rose to 0.9 percent from 0.8 percent.

The eurozone economy showed no growth in the second quarter as fears about the Ukrainian crisis weighed on consumers and investment decisions.

The European Central Bank has warned that inflation expectations are worsening and says it will add more stimulus if needed. Many analysts are predicting the bank will launch large-scale purchases of financial assets to pump more money into the economy.

BRAZIL-ECONOMY

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazil's government says the country's gross domestic product contracted 0.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, sending the country's economy into a recession.

The government's IBGE statistics bureau said Friday it was the second consecutive quarterly contraction of the economy.

In the first quarter of the year, GDP was reported as having grown 0.2 percent. But that figure was revised downward to minus 0.2 percent.

The IBGE says the country's GDP stands at 1.27 trillion reals ($567 billion).

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