We now know just how bad off Detroit really is

Federal government steps in to hold Detroit's hand in revitalization effort

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®
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DETROIT - When I say repeatedly in this blog the City of Detroit is a jobs and benefits program masquerading as a service provider it really doesn't tell the whole story.

No, even a municipal bankruptcy with $18 billion worth of debt, an unemployment rate in the 20 percent range, embarrassingly poor emergency services and vacant homes nearly equaling the number occupied, we still don't get the full breadth of Detroit's troubles. No, it is when the Federal Government comes in and is asked [in essence] to put training wheels on the bureaucrats and guide them through exactly how to successfully do their jobs; that's when it finally hits home.

Many in Detroit City Hall or other City facilities seem content to just pick up a paycheck. This is not an indictment of everyone there. Yes, the technical systems and a lot of the equipment in the City do not work well, if it works at all. But someone ought to be more than a little embarrassed when the feds come to town and take a bow for "freeing up, unsticking or repurposing" federal grant dollars when what they are really saying is they were forced into doing on-the-job training for those tasked with cherry-picking the hundreds of millions of federal dollars previously made available to Detroit.

A phalanx of federal employees have been quietly sent to the City of Detroit to tour, look at systems, see where there are problems and try and figure out why, when most every other city in America can at least figure out how to pick up the free money, Detroit can't seem even to do that! When a Federal Official says of helping out Detroit, "We're getting real resources but we are making certain that they're going to be well used strategically," that's politician speak for we haven't been anxious to send money to Detroit because we know it won't be spent properly.

Let's put it another way: Everyone who works in the private sector these days knows that employers are expecting everyone to do [actually accomplish things] more and do it for less. The speed at which everyone works is now faster, the demands on time tougher, the new technologies are pushing everyone to be more conscious of things like marketing opportunities by reaching out electronically. Customers with less money are still expecting more though they have less money now to purchase things. They are in a life and death struggle with maximized value. This puts greater pressure on companies with any hope of making a profit into getting smarter, better, faster and for less paid out.

Not so in Detroit City Hall! Heck, the audit report put out Thursday says law enforcement needs to get in there to figure out how independent contractors who apparently are still on the job and do not qualify for benefits are getting unemployment checks. That's as sadly inventive as it is impressive! This ought to outrage Detroit residents. Yet, you do not see any protests over these issues.

So, what to do? Well the Obama administration has adopted a new mantra: "inaction is not an option." Detroit has sunk so low, is so needy and dysfunctional, it is going to get what amounts to an intervention. The President has assigned an assistant deputy treasury secretary to come and live in Detroit and oversee the coordinated revitalization effort. He will supervise technology teams, grant writers and other experts to ensure progress. They will work alongside State of Michigan employees and even those in the business and Detroit's philanthropic community to get the redevelopment ball rolling. There is a new blight commission that will go to work on knocking down vacant homes and businesses and them reimagine a new city and start rebuilding neighborhoods someone would want to live in and feel safe.

No, there are not billions of dollars available, and the political circus in Washington, D.C. will ensure there is nothing that even has a whiff of "bailout" to it finds its way down Woodward Avenue. So now, since the City of Detroit is either unwilling, unable or both, others will force the kind of working conditions everyone outside of City Hall has been operating under for at least the last five years.

Better, quicker, smarter, faster, within budget and, should I add, within the law? What a concept?

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