Experts Dissect Detroit Crisis

Natalie Y. Moore, Detroit News, Jan. 5

DETROIT—A 50-year continuous dive in population and the burden of some costly city departments has thrust Detroit into a crucial financial predicament that officials said they plan to tackle this year.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s two-day Detroit Economic Forum, intended to help the city rethink urban government, opened Tuesday at Wayne State University.

The first task on Day One was to identify the dismal conditions the city is facing. Thus far, the 2005-06 budget is forecast to face a $214 million shortfall.

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• Detroit’s population has dropped from just below 2 million in 1950 to about 900,000 today.

• 12 percent of the revenue generated is from property taxes.

• The per capita cost of city services is $1,600 for residents.

“If this were a private world, you’d be down in federal court (for bankruptcy),” said Van Conway one of the panelists who spoke on Tuesday. Conway is founder of Conway MacKenzie & Dunleavy, a Birmingham-based company that gives advice to struggling businesses.

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