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 September 19, 2014 17:24 GMT

ALIBABA-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alibaba's stock is surging as the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse begins its first day trading as a public company.

The stock opened at $92.70 on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, up 36 percent from the initial $68 per share price set Thursday evening.

At that price the company would be worth $228.5 billion, more than companies such as Amazon, Ebay and even Facebook.

On Thursday, Alibaba and the investment bankers arranging the IPO settled on a price of $68 per share. The company and its early investors raised $21.8 billion in the offering, which valued Alibaba at $168 billion in one of the world's biggest ever initial public offerings.

But after a two-hour trading delay due to strong demand, it opened much higher than that price. If the stock closes at $92.70, the IPO will have raised close to $30 billion.

LEADING INDICATORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A gauge designed to predict the economy's future health rose in August but at a much slower pace than in July.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.2 percent in August, the seventh straight increase. But that was much slower than the revised 1.1 percent gain in July.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein says even with the slowdown in August, the index shows the economy is still gaining traction.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates rose in nearly half of U.S. states in August, even as employers in two-thirds of the states added jobs.

The Labor Department says unemployment increased in 24 states, fell in 15 and was unchanged in 11. Hiring picked up in 35 states, while it fell in 15.

Unemployment rates can rise even when hiring increases if more people start looking for work and don't immediately find jobs. The figures suggest hiring was broad-based across most regions of the country last month, even as nationwide job gains in August were the weakest this year.

Georgia reported the nation's highest unemployment rate, at 8.1 percent, followed by Mississippi at 7.9 percent. That's the first time Georgia has had the highest rate since the Great Recession ended.

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-ECONOMY

LONDON (AP) -- Businesses and investors have reacted with relief to Scotland's decision to reject independence from the United Kingdom.

The No campaign won 55 percent of the votes cast in Thursday's referendum. The 10-point victory margin was wider than expected -- most opinion polls on the eve of the vote showed a narrower 4-point victory.

British stocks responded positively to the news Friday, with the FTSE 100 index up 0.3 percent. Royal Bank of Scotland shares were up, and the bank, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, said it was "business as usual" for its customers.

Some had warned that if Scotland left, uncertainty over the future value of the British pound and government debt would have rattled the U.K economy.

In the currency markets, the pound was solid too, rising to a two-year high against the euro.

EXXON-RUSSIA DRILLING

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil says it will stop drilling an exploratory well in Russia's Kara Sea in compliance with U.S. sanctions against Russia over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine.

Exxon planned to drill the well between August and October. The latest round of sanctions called for the removal of U.S. workers on projects in the Russian Arctic by Sept. 26.

Exxon says it has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to wind down operations, but it is unclear whether the license will allow Exxon to stop drilling on the schedule it had already laid out. Exxon could not be immediately reached for comment.

PABST BREWING-SALE

NEW YORK (AP) -- The maker of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is being sold to Russian company Oasis Beverages for an undisclosed sum.

In addition to its namesake beer, Pabst Brewing Co. makes Colt 45, Old Milwaukee and Schlitz. Pabst was acquired in 2010 by C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., which is known for investing in food brands.

Pabst Brewing, now based in Los Angeles, traces its roots back to 1844 in Milwaukee. Since purchasing it in 2010, Metropoulos has enlisted comedian Will Ferrell to market the company's beers. Pabst Blue Ribbon has also grown in popularity in part for its blue-collar appeal and cheap price.

Oasis is buying Pabst with TSG, an investment firm known for its work with consumer products companies. TSG Consumer Partners will take a minority stake in Pabst.

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