On Friday, Judge Steven Rhodes announced he will confirm Detroit’s bankruptcy plan. It is the start of a new era for the Motor City. And it is a major milestone in accelerating the recovery underway in our largest city and our state.
The bankruptcy relieves the city of more than $7 billion in debt. With the judge’s decision, the city can now also move forward and invest $1.4 billion over the next 10 years, continuing to improve and bolster services for its residents and building a solid financial foundation to grow and thrive.
A little more than a year ago, I made the tough but necessary decision authorizing Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to seek bankruptcy protection for the city. It was not the option anyone wanted. But it was the last viable option to solve Detroit’s spiraling fiscal crisis – a problem six decades in the making.
Over the years, city leaders made many attempts to fix Detroit’s financial problems. They made cuts to city services, they borrowed, and they spent. Meanwhile, the city’s population plummeted from over 1.8 million in 1950 to approximately 700,000 today. With a smaller population and less revenue coming in, it all came down to basic math. Detroit spent more money than it received, and the situation only kept getting worse.
The billions of dollars in debt that Detroit piled up had a human cost too painful to ignore. Police response times were tragically slow. Ambulance service was frighteningly inadequate. Blight plagued neighborhoods. Crime ran rampant. Streetlights were out, and trash wasn’t picked up. In short, Detroiters weren’t receiving the services they needed, deserved or paid for.
When I was elected governor, I committed to the premise that for Michigan to be a great state again, Detroit had to be a great city again. It was just that simple.
To do it, we needed help from all across Michigan. And that’s just what happened. A fair and principled judge set and followed a timeline. A unique and dedicated mediation team was relentless in its work. An overwhelming bipartisan commitment was reached by lawmakers from across the Great Lakes State. Ultimately, an unprecedented partnership between the city and all corners of the state, the generosity and belief of the foundation and business communities, and above all else, the sacrifice of the city’s retirees, forged a landmark settlement agreement, paving the way for a brighter future for Detroit and all of Michigan.
All of this work is paying off. Detroit today is home to a midtown and downtown on the grow with more investment happening daily. Young people are moving into the city, small businesses are opening, the M-1 Rail is being constructed, a regional transit authority is now a reality, and a new arena district is being built.
That investment and renewal needs to extend to the neighborhoods, too, so all of Detroit’s residents can be part of this great comeback. But everyone is taking notice that public safety is improving, streetlights are going up and coming on, blight is being removed, and trash is being picked up. Perhaps most importantly, Detroit is becoming the place to invest, work and live again.
Just because the bankruptcy trial is over doesn’t mean that our work is done. It’s just beginning. But we have a new foundation to build on and an opportunity to make Detroit — and Michigan — great again.
As we write this next chapter, we must remember the lessons we’ve learned from the past and keep our focus on the collaboration that has made such a marked, positive difference. We’re Michiganians, and together, we can do anything.
Rick Snyder, Governor