The history of Detroit and the their downfall I've always found intriguing and downright fascinating. So when I started researching Detroit and what led to the downfall and failure, I couldn't find a single source that explained it completely. Not one. So what I had to do was go to lots of different places to get all the information I needed. Not only national media websites but documentary videos on YouTube. The amount and detail of info I've put together cannot be found anywhere else. So I believe you will learn, and also be shocked at all the players and their greed and down right ignorance and stupidity.
The demise of Detroit is a riveting yet fascinating story to me. And to millions of other Americans. There are lots of video new and old that document the city. And in the course of my research on Detroit, I never found one place that had all or most of the reasons for the downfall. So I spent days and many hours locating good info on the many reasons Detroit failed. I was looking for facts not lies. The slow yet inevitable downfall of Detroit is a sad story. A story that absolutely fascinates many to no end. So I wanted to do research and examine why Detroit has failed. I only want to bring facts here. No half truths and no sugar coating. Many economists and others could see this coming ten miles away. The major parties that played a role in the collapse of Detroit were government, unions, citizens, global competition, and auto executives. These are the obvious players.
In 2013 80% of Detroit residents are black. About 50% are unemployed. Around 2/3 never graduate high school. Drugs are the number one product that keeps much of city afloat. Others may emerge in the course of my research. Most of the blame is on government. What they did and didn't do will shock you. At the height of the economic boom here, Detroit was once the fourth largest city in America. Also a lot of people do not realize that about 85% of Detroit's growth came before 1930. Many of the buildings are still there. Another fact is Detroit has been run by Democrats for most of its existence. And by black Democrats since 1974. Many of the facts here will probably provoke outrage and denial by many people, because many are unable to recognize or acknowledge reality. People unable and incapable of handing the truth. Not everyone has common sense. So let's examine Detroit.
Detroit was founded way back in 1701 and was controlled by France and later Great Britain. But in 1796 General George Washington took the city back and it became under American control. Then by the mid 1800's Detroit started building and repairing ships. By the late 1860's the city was exporting marine steam engines. Industries here flourished and produced metal, iron, paints, brass, and copper products. At the end of the 19th century, Detroit had a sophisticated machine industry. This made it a perfect place for the automobile industry to start. The first internal combustion engine emerged here for boats, so this was significant advancement in developing automobiles. The Olds Motor Company (later Oldsmobile) was created in 1901, and Ford Motor Company was created in 1903. Soon other auto manufacturers followed. And with it came jobs. Lots of them. And many required little education. For decades many blue collar workers came to Detroit to work. And most had little education. You didn't need education to do most of the jobs in this city. Just an able and strong body.
Demographics: Some say Detroit's decline really started in the 50's. The population was once around 2 million in 1950. But in 2010 it had dropped to around 700,000. Perhaps less. Also in the 1950's the white population of Detroit declined by roughly 23%. However during the same decade, the black population increased to around 200%. And in the mid 1960's blacks in Detroit were roughly 40%. The black population further increased after the 1967 riots when more whites left. Whites wanted no part of living in Detroit. With this change in racial population came more crime, social problems, and discrimination. More blacks equaled more problems for the city.
The 1943 Detroit Riot: In 1943 race riots happened all across America. In Los Angeles, St. Louis, Baltimore, New York, and other places. But the June 20-22, 1943 riot in Detroit was different. It started by white resistance to the blacks flooding into jobs in the factories during the increased war effort. In the end twenty-five blacks and nine whites were killed, and hundreds were injured. Millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed. What was very clear was how far apart the races were in many segments of the country, even as many in America were fighting and dying overseas. But according to the Detroit Historical Society, 17 blacks were killed by police, but no whites were. Whether this info is 100% accurate can be debated.
The 1967 Detroit Riot: Also known as the 12th Street Riot, which happened in the early morning hours of July 23 1967. When police raided an unlicensed after hours bar called the 'Blind Pig', they were not expecting to arrest that many people, but instead found over 80 people giving a party for two returning Vietnam Vets. While the police were waiting for additional transport vehicles, a crowd gathered outside in protest. Reportedly after the police left vandalism erupted then fires. The violence then spread to the Northwest side of the city, then to the East Side. Within two days the National Guard, then the 82nd Airborne were called in on the fourth day. As the military sought to gain control violence escalated. After five days, 43 people were dead, over 1100 injured, and over 7000 were arrested. Many experts have agreed on the causes of the riot. They include political, economic, social, police abuse, economic inequality, black militants, and quick demographic change. According to a Detroit newspaper survey, many cited police brutality as the number one cause of the 1967 riot.
Busing And Desegregation In Detroit: In 1969 the NAACP in Oakland County files suit that Pontiac schools are segregated. In February 1970 a U.S District judge orders Pontiac school district to start busing to achieve integration. School officials appeal and succeed in delaying the busing order. In April 1970 the Detroit school board adopts a desegregation plan changing attendance boundaries of twelve high schools. Many legal battles ensue over desegregation. That forced many whites to go to horrible schools in poor neighborhoods instead of schools closer to their homes. So this led to many more white families selling their homes at a loss and moving to the suburbs so their kids could attend good schools once again. Also In 1971 desegregation caused 62 Catholic schools close.
Detroit Mayor Coleman Young: The role that government played in ruining Detroit was huge. Corruption, fraud, incompetence, and greed went on for decades. But under Mayor Coleman Young from 1974-1994, he accelerated the decline of the city. Young did little to nothing to help Detroit. What he was really good at was making excuses for Detroit. The same Coleman Young who was a former organizer of the UAW. The same Coleman Young that was booted out by the union for being too radical. Many white people who worked in the Coleman administration say blacks were promoted more than whites even though they had less experience. In 1982 there were six federal investigations involving the water and sewer departments in Detroit. Since the mid 70's the city failed to meet federal water standards. Also imagine a mayor persuading people to raise taxes on themselves while Detroit cuts services. Many former white residents say Young wanted to make Detroit an all black city for his own personal gain. Well he certainly succeeded at that.
And since Young was mayor for twenty years while the city was in financial decline, the statement that he used the city for his own personal gain was obviously true. He sure didn't try that hard to help Detroit. And since he was a former union guy, he made it possible for huge union influence and negotiations that allowed generous pay and benefits including pensions that the city is still feeling today. Many reports were that Mayor Young liked keeping race relations fractured. Detroit's former police chief Ken Weiner was found guilty in 1991 of a 1985-86 pyramid scheme that milked investors of millions of dollars. When Weiner was arrested in 1989 he had blank checks, credit cards, and valid flight coupons. Weiner who left the department in 1986 was a partner with Mayor Coleman in the investment company, which dealt in gold and diamonds. He was a central figure in the investigation of 2.4 million dollars disappearing from the police department. Mayor Young cited the fifth amendment in refusing to testify at the trial. Also in May 1992 a Federal jury convicted Detroit's former police Chief William Hart of stealing $2.6 million in taxpayer money over seven years. The money had been intended for undercover drug operations. Even after
Hart's conviction, Mayor Young was praising him. "As far as I'm concerned, Bill Hart was a good man and a good cop," Mayor Young said. "He rendered good and faithful service to the people of Detroit and his nearly 40 years of faithful service cannot go unrecognized."
Another interesting item was when ABC Primetime Live went to Detroit to examine how bad the city was. The story aired on September 8th 1990 when Young had been mayor for 17 years. Count it 17 years. During the interview Young told the reporter "To attack Detroit is to attack black." Then Young was asked "Are you proud of Detroit?" He responded "Sure I'm proud of Detroit. I wouldn't be here if I were not." Then Young was asked "Is Detroit a safe place to live, a good place to live, a good place to raise a family?" Young responds "It's as good a place to live, I think it's as safe as any other city. There's not a body on every corner. And the average citizen in this city is not confronted with the fear of his life. So don't bring me that crap about Detroit. We are no different, we have the same problems as any city in America." Mayor Young also said the reason Detroit is so bleak is because it's so black. "In this country black people are victims of racism," Young says. "It's not accidental that the cities around the nation that have the largest percentage of blacks have the largest percentage of poverty and the largest percentage of crime and the largest percentage of unemployment." When the reporter told Young that the city looked like a war zone Young responded, "It was this way when I became mayor. Neighborhoods collapsed because half the goddamn population left".
In 1990 unemployment in Detroit was 11.6, and the national average was 5.6. Infant mortality was 19.7 per 1000, and the national average was 10.1. And poverty was 30%, compared to the national average of 12.8%. Also in 1990 Detroit was 70% black.
Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: This guy was the king of extortion, bribery, fraud, corruption, lying, and mismanagement. He was basically a thug in a suit. His lists of escapades are very long. The things he did and the lengths he took them are shocking. He was mayor January 2002 thru September 2008. For starters, a reported sex party at the mayor's mansion in 2002 was never officially proven, (Many say the party never happened. However, police officers on the mayor's Executive Protection Unit testified in court it did happen. Everyone knows cops will lie about events, not reveal them.) however strippers were involved and one of them, Tamara Greene, reportedly was beaten up by Kilpatrick's wife Carlita when she came home unexpectedly and found Greene giving the mayor a lap dance. Greene was later targeted and killed as she sat in her car with her boyfriend (the boyfriend survived) in the early morning hours of April 2003 in a drive-by shooting. There had been an earlier attempt on Greene's life, and it was suspected that she was killed by a Detroit police officer because she was going to testify about the party and Kilpatrick. The car used in the shooting was white and the bullets were 40 caliber, the same as used by the Detroit Police. Greene's son in a lawsuit alleged a cover up by Kilpatrick and the city for destroying documents and demoting or firing six investigators who investigated Green's death. The police chief Ella Bully-Cummings was appointed by Kirkpatrick in November 2003. Coincidence?
Also a text messaging scandal involving Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty emerged from a whistleblower lawsuit involving former Detroit police chief Gary Brown. It was proven that Kirkpatrick and Beatty, both married at the time, were having an extramarital affair that was revealed during some 14,000 text messages between September 2002-October 2002 and April 2003-May 2003. In 2008 Kirkpatrick was convicted for lying in a civil trial during which he denied having an affair with his former chief of staff Christine Beatty and plotting with her to fire the deputy police chief. Former chief Brown and fellow defendant officer Harold Nelthrope won the case and was awarded 6.5 million, but it was reported that the city increased it to 8.4 million. On September 4 2008, Kilpatrick pled guilty to obstruction of justice and no contest to assault on a police officer. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to step down as mayor, pay $1 million in restitution to the city, and serve 120 days of jail time. He also lost his law license and state pension, and will serve 5 years probation after his jail term is over. Also In March 2013 Kilpatrick was found guilty of 24 criminal counts including racketeering, extortion, bribery, and tax evasion. Also found guilty were Kirkpatrick's dad Bernard (tax fraud) and friend and contractor Bobby Ferguson (racketeering). Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. On 10-10-13 Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years.
Former City Council Member Monica Conyers: Conyers was sentenced in 2010 to 37 months in prison after pleading guilty to accepting at least $6000 in 2008 in exchange for her vote on a $1.2-billion sludge-hauling deal with Houston-based Synagro Technologies. Cash bribes and trips to Las Vegas were part of the deal between an executive with Synagro and Detroit officials which also included then Mayor Kilpatrick. Supposedly this started in 2001 and reached a peak in 2007.
Sam Riddle: Sam worked as an aide to former Detroit council woman Monica Conyers. In 2010 Sam pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, extortion, and filing a fraudulent tax return, and was sentenced to 37 months in prison. He admitted passing money to Southfield councilman William Lattimore, and confessed to conspiring with Monica Conyers to extort money from people doing business with the City of Detroit. At his corruption trial, prosecutors played portions of wiretapped recorded conversations Sam had with his former boss Monica Conyers, the former Detroit city councilwoman and wife of Congressman John Conyers. The words Sam used were "irrational," "crazy" and possibly "beyond medication". Sam also said on the tape about Conyers "This bitch is a trip. We’re not dealing with a normal person".
Another likely example of government ineptitude was former Democratic Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm from 2002-2010. Granholm always spoke in public how wonderful and improving everything was in Detroit. She was always willing to speak about herself on TV as the right person to save everything. She was never honest when speaking about Detroit. I never heard her say Detroit had overspent and over borrowed. I never once heard her say that Detroit had the highest property taxes in America for a long time. I never heard her once say what she was going to do to help Detroit. And for Granholm not to acknowledge these things showed her dishonesty. But she was a politician. Lying is what many do. However many do not realize that it was Granholm's treasury department who OK'd Detroit's use of long term bonds to pay for short term projects in 2005. Also in 2009 Granholm appointed the former head of DC School Board Robert Bobb to turn around the Detroit public school system. His salary? Around $425,000.
Many people within the school system did not like Bobb and the many changes he made. So after his two year tenure the school board had a higher deficit than before. Roughly 16,000 students left which cost Detroit over 58 million. Perhaps the task was too daunting in the first place. Also the Detroit Board of Education sued Bobb saying he overstepped his authority when he implemented his academic plan. The board won the lawsuit in December 2010. Granholm probably didn't push Detroit that hard to get their city on a good footing. You have to start somewhere don't you? And what about former democratic Governor James Blanchard from 1983-1991 and Republican Governor John Engler from 1991-2003? I'm sure they could share some blame. 1983-2003 was right in the middle of many of the major problems with Detroit.
Unions: Many economists agree the UAW (United Auto Workers Union) definitely bears a share of responsibility in the decline of Detroit. Organized labor has had a presence here since this city was founded in 1701. However auto unions flourished starting in the mid 1930's. Creation of the UAW (United Auto Workers) was in May 1935 in Detroit. Auto manufacturers were famous for treating their workers badly and paying them low wages. General Motors was the first to organize with the union in 1936, then Chrysler a month later. Ford Motors had a group of men called the 'Service Department' or internal security. This was run by Harry Bennett at the Rouge plant. He ruled through threats and intimidation. Bennett reportedly controlled over 3000 reported crooks and retired policemen in the Service Department. Henry Ford finally gave in to the UAW in 1941. Bennett was fired by Henry Ford II in 1945. The UAW also played a big role in left wing politics and the Democratic Party.
The UAW was famous for getting high pay and pensions for auto workers. Beginning in the early 70's changes in the global economy with competition from Japanese and European auto manufacturers, and very bad decisions by American auto executives, led to slowing sales and big changes that were to affect auto unions. German and Japanese car makers went south to get away from American unions. With rising fuel prices after the 1973 oil embargo stated many years of layoffs and wage cuts by the unions. Then came CAFE standards. First enacted by Congress in 1975, the purpose of CAFE is to reduce energy consumption by increasing the fuel economy of cars and light trucks. So the cars with the V-8's and style Americans loved turned into boxy, ugly, unpopular and unreliable cars from American car makers. As well as being horrible to look at they were less reliable than the Japanese cars. Thus Detroit lost huge market shares. Then shortly after 2000 the health care costs of union retirees started hitting the Big Three hard. Lots of money was being diverted away from the automobile development and it could not be sustained. Renegotiating with the unions should have been done sooner. Again bad decisions by auto executives.
UAW Jobs Bank Program: Many might forget or maybe never heard of the United Auto Workers Jobs Bank Program. This is a do nothing but still get paid program. Created in a 1987 agreement with American auto makers, this agreement says that no eligible employee will be laid off over the term of the agreement, except under the following specific circumstances. 1- Reduced customer demand, a maximum of 42 weeks over the life of the agreement (commonly known as loss of market share) 2- Acts of God or other conditions beyond the control of management. 3- Conclusion of an assignment known in advance to be temporary. 4- Plant rearrangement or model changeover. Eligible employees can not be laid off because of new technology (robots), sourcing decisions, or company implemented efficiency actions. There are generally three states of layoff: Temporary layoffs where workers know their return date, indefinite layoffs where workers get 48 weeks of unemployment benefits and a supplemental from their employer equal to 100 percent of your salary. After 48 weeks workers are re-employed by the Job Bank, at which time they receive 95 percent of their salary.
American Car Manufacturers: All automotive experts agree American car companies made lots of bad decisions that cost them lots of jobs and money for decades. I remember the junk produced in the 70's. It was terrible. Quality was nonexistent. And a very bad period was under General Motors Roger Smith who was CEO from 1981-1990. Under his leadership the company lost market share rapidly and built terrible cars. His plant restructuring was a disaster and required huge increases of additional workers. GM market share dropped from 37% in 1987, where it was 43% in 1985. In 1988 GM introduced midsized cars after six years in the making. All are plagued by high manufacturing costs, quality problems, and safety concerns, and customers never warmed up to them. In 1989 Saturn was launched and GM hoped to rebrand its image with smaller less expensive cars. But the cars did not sell well at all for the company. All told it's estimated GM spent 90 billion to retool itself using more robots and computers. Many said that idea was ahead of its time.
Unfunded Pension Liabilities: Detroit has promised retirees lavish health and benefit packages for decades. Even when revenue and the population were in decline. Everyone knows cities that are successful and grow can handle reasonable types of pension payouts over unsuccessful ones. There was no way Detroit could keep paying out pensions with the city spiraling downward. Today pension payouts have left less for the city to provide essential services to the people.
Property Taxes: For decades Detroit raised property taxes on the people for decades while doing reckless borrowing and expanding the size of government. When property taxes became unrealistic and unbearable many abandoned their house and fled the city. A city council member in 2013 once said "Of course property taxes are too high, but what do you replace them with?" With mentality like that running Detroit for so long no wonder things went bust. The Brookings Institute found that when taxes get so high it backfires, there is no incentive to invest, and city services are cut and weakened. In 2011 Detroit ranked first in tax rates among the 50 largest U.S. cities, and last in property value. In 2011 Democrat Mayor Dave Bing has acknowledged the city's property taxes are inflated and proposed increasing the city's income tax rate and boosting surcharges on utilities. The state turned him down. In 2012 roughly 47% of property owners didn't pay taxes.
The Rev. Jim Holley said on ABC Primetime Live that aired November 8, 1990 that he blames whites for deserting Detroit, but that mayor Coleman Young's hostility has kept whites away. "Whites have the money, blacks have the political power, the political power and the money have not been on the political track in the last 17 years, and as a result you know our city is falling apart. Racism has played a tremendous part in terms of setting Detroit back. But at the same time I think it's only fair that no white man in the world can do as much to us in the city of Detroit as we have done to ourselves" Rev. Holley said.
One former resident recalled that in 1978 the Detroit metro area was still segregated. Most suburbs had small sections of blacks. Almost all blacks lived in the city and most whites lived in the suburbs. However many middle class blacks fled the city for a better life, better services, safer neighborhoods, and better schools. That led to Detroit being populated by more poor and low income people, which are blacks. For decades many whites never wanted to help Detroit. It is estimated that 50% of the people here are illiterate, and about one third are on welfare. Many experts know that there are not enough qualified and quality people to rebuild Detroit. If lawsuits filed by union pensioners are successful, it will further decline the city in the future to deliver services, digging an even deeper financial hole.
Detroit Citizens: So what percent of people that have lived in Detroit should share in the downward spiral? Any? How many have been motivated to improve their neighborhoods, educations, and lives? For decades. We've heard for decades there are no jobs in Detroit. What about skills? Drive around Detroit and see how many people have applied themselves with training and skills. I've learned a lot on my own using the internet. Wouldn't libraries have computers? And how many have been living off the system and taxpayers in Detroit? Many residents and former residents speak of crime and drugs running rampant in Detroit continuously since the early 80's when cocaine then crack cocaine started. What I vividly remember was seeing on TV when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans of the people that didn't heed the warnings to get out, only to find themselves on roof tops waiting for government to come and pick them up in boats, then feed them, then clothe them, then put them in housing. Bad choices lead to those scenes. Sure bad luck can play a part, but how many people can we believe have had nothing but bad luck and live in one city alone? Detroit.
Peter Karmanos Jr. was born in 1943, and grew up the son of Greek immigrant parents who owned a diner on Detroit's west side. He did not start speaking English until he was in grade school. He was educated in the public school system and bought his first computer as a teenager. He co-founded Compuware with a $3000 tax refund in 1973. In 2012 he told a group of Detroit Economic Club Members what is wrong with Detroit today that wasn't wrong with it when he received his education in the Detroit public school system in the 1950's. Karmonas said Detroit's problems mostly stem from racism, an artificially small Detroit, and a public employee union that refuse to give up benefits that the city can no longer afford. "When I went to school in Detroit it was the top rated school system in America," Karmonas said. "We had almost two million people by 1960, 90% living in homes they owned, which is the American dream. I felt lucky to live in the most dynamic city in America. And then I started watching my hometown crumble. We had a riot in the city because African-Americans were disenfranchised. They had no say in anything that went on in the city. The prime reason people moved out of the city was racist to begin with. So we've had a 40 year migration out of the city. Now African-Americans have taken over institutions. They have had to take over failing policies from years before. But at least they know they have a say in what's going on in the city".
So Peter Karmanos Jr. claimed that blacks felt disenfranchised for decades in Detroit. That blacks felt they had no say what went on for a long time. Well blacks finally had their say and were totally connected with Detroit starting when Coleman Young was elected mayor in 1974. And blacks have run the city continuously for 39 years as of 2013. And what did they do to Detroit? What do blacks have to show for their effort and expertise? Many of them stole money, mismanaged the city, were corrupt, and rewarded their friends and family. The evidence is shocking. They wanted more say. They received it. They've been in charge. They've been running things. And look at what they did to Detroit. Not whites. Blacks. These questions and observations are rational honest questions are they not? Many experts point out Detroit borrowed too much, spent too much, and taxed the residents too much. And it came to a head. Those are facts.
Basically there are two Detroit's. The downtown that is thriving and bustling with good restaurants and many things to see and do, and the abandoned and low income residential areas. The downtown has a good police presence which makes it safer, and the residential areas live in major poverty with very little and poor services (electricity, sewer, water, police, road maintenance, etc.) Detroit cannot even provide basic services for most of the residences. Drugs might be the best selling product in Detroit. Also police hardly ever respond or it takes them forever when people call 911 in the low income areas. Dead people have been found in the vacant houses and in trash piles along side the roads. So how is this city going to rebound? People can come in and buy property at low prices with big dreams but then what? I wouldn't want to live and work in a place where electric is routinely supplied to about 40% of buildings, and where water and sewer systems are horrible. Then add the high risk of being a victim of crime.
Update: On December 3, 2013 Detroit became the largest U.S. city to enter bankruptcy. Detroit has 18 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities. There are 23,000 city retirees receiving pensions that will be affected by the ruling. Also the city owes roughly 100,000 creditors. Judge Steven Rhodes said the path will be painful for Detroit. There is no question that a lot of assets will be sold during this process.
In conclusion, many believe Detroit had its chance to continue be a good city and they blew it. They blew it big. Everyone I mentioned here had a hand in the city being destroyed. Everyone. Of course some played a much larger role. Detroit is a great example of what happens when greed and corruption runs rampant. And unchecked. And honest people can't lie or spin the fact that black liberals ran everything in Detroit since 1974. And the world sees the results. Without question Detroit is a pathetic disgrace and embarrassment to itself. And to America.
This blog took a lot of work. Lots of reading and lots of research. And the information I learned about Detroit was truly jaw dropping to say the least. There are so many blogs written about Detroit's trouble. And almost all of them are pretty pathetic. Sorry but it's true. If people are going to write about something, include lots of information to help people learn. Not just a little here and there. I'm not a writer by trade, but I think I did a pretty good job here. Lots of details and info. I would love to visit Detroit. As a photographer and videographer, I could spend weeks documenting the city. From the new and historic to the bad. But Florida is too far away. And I don't fly. Maybe one day though I can make it. Thanks for seeing.