Thursday, July 18, 2013

Escape from Detroit

Detroit Files Biggest U.S. Municipal Bankruptcy

Emergency Manager Orr Seeks to Liquidate Assets to Satisfy Creditors

A Long, Sad Decline
• Detroit's population fell more than 26% from 2000 to 2012 and totals about 700,000—down from almost two million in 1950, according to the census.
• An estimated 40,000 structures or land parcels sit vacant or empty.
• The city spent $100 million more than it took in every year since 2008, on average—borrowing the rest.
Some 36% of Detroiters lived below the poverty level between 2007 and 2011, the census found.
• In 2012, Detroit had the highest violent crime rate for a city with more than 200,000 residents, the FBI says.

Black Flight Hits Detroit

DETROIT—This shrinking city needs to hang on to people like Johnette Barham: taxpaying, middle-class professionals who invest in local real estate, work and play downtown, and make their home here.
Ms. Barham just left. And she's not coming back.
In seven years as a homeowner in Detroit, she endured more than 10 burglaries and break-ins at her house and a nearby rental property she owned. Still, she defied friends' pleas to leave as she fortified her home with locks, bars, alarms and a dog.

The Last Straw

See more photos from Detroit and listen to Ms. Barham and her neighbors talk about their troubles.
Johnette Barham leaves her old home in the Atkinson district of Detroit
Then, a week before Christmas, someone torched the house and destroyed almost everything she owned.
In March, police arrested a suspect in connection with the case, someone who turned out to be remarkably easy to find. For Ms. Barham, the arrest came one crime too late. "I was constantly being targeted in a way I couldn't predict, in a way that couldn't be controlled by the police," she says. "I couldn't take it anymore."

Ms. Barham's journey from diehard to defector illustrates the precarious state of Detroit today. The city—which has shed roughly 1 million residents since the 1950s—is now losing the African-American professionals who had stayed steadfastly, almost defiantly, loyal.
Through decades of white flight and economic distress, these diehards have sustained the city's cultural institutions and allowed prime neighborhoods such as Indian Village and Palmer Woods to stave off the blight that infects large swaths of Detroit.

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