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Ed Driscoll

Motor City Meltdown

May 13th, 2013 - 5:19 pm

“Could Detroit Be the Next City to Go Bankrupt?“, Veronique de Rugy asks at the Corner:

Why is the city in such a terrible financial situation? Because it spends too much and it suffers from rampant corruption:

Orr, a Washington-based turnaround expert and bankruptcy attorney, was selected by Gov. Rick Snyder to oversee Detroit’s finances. In his report, Orr described the city’s operations as “dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption.”

“Outdated policies, work practices, procedures and systems must be improved consistent with best practices of 21st century government,” Orr wrote. “A well-run city will promote cost savings and better customer service and will encourage private investment and a return of residents.”

As such, we shouldn’t be surprised that Detroit has lost almost 26 percent of its population between 2000 and 2011. But don’t despair Detroit, the Light Rail is coming to you:

In January, US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a federal commitment of $25 million to the M-1 Rail project, thus tentatively setting construction to begin in the summer for the 3 mile stretch of rail between downtown and New Center. Gone will be the days when Detroit’s only rail transit is a glorified amusement park ride!

Ahh, the desire named streetcar; it’s particularly desirable, even in broke cities such as Detroit, because the potential to spread the graft around is so much more than simply buying new busses:

A transit agency that expands its bus fleet gets the support of the transit operators union. But an agency that builds a rail line gets the support of construction companies, construction unions, banks and bond dealers, railcar manufacturers, electric power companies (if the railcars are electric powered), downtown property owners, and other real estate interests. Rail may be a negative-sum game for the region as a whole, but those concentrated interests stand to gain a lot at a relatively small expense to everyone else.

It looks like Detroit could also be getting a statue of Robocop, in much the same way that similarly exhausted Philadelphia has an iconic-slash-cheesy statue of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character. But what’s fascinating is that judging by these headlines on today’s Drudge Report, real-life Detroit actually appears in far worse shape than the dystopian projections that 1987′s Robocop depicted for the city’s 21st century future:

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