Detroit bankruptcy: How did it get to this point?

DETROIT – It's no secret that Detroit's been struggling with its financial disaster for several years.

It's been debated for a long time whether the problem was really as bad as claimed and who was at fault for it.

But core question is: How did Detroit get to bankruptcy?

There is no one person responsible for Detroit's troubles - Its vacant and decaying housing, its boarded up businesses, its bloated bureaucracy.

Former bankruptcy judge Ray Reynolds says it was a long-term team effort.

"We as voters have failed to discipline our elected public officials. We were very glad to ride the gravy train as long as everybody could borrow money and keep this thing going. Now we have to face the fact that those were all bad decisions," Reynolds said.

In the early 80s, then Detroit Mayor Coleman Young found the city on the edge of Chapter 9. Rather than restructure, he came up with the city income tax.

Mayor Dennis Archer opted not to battle the unions on concessions.

Convicted felon and also former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick broke out the city's credit cards – and not just for himself.

In his time as mayor, he borrowed more than $2 million, including more than a billion against the city's pension funds.

Current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is no shrinking violet.

He racked up a third of a billion dollars against the city's pension funds.

What did these mayors buy? Mostly labor peace.

Turnaround consultant Larry Gardner says as things deteriorated, more than a million people – white and black – fled.

"And when you have a population that's exiting, and you have more people collecting benefits than you do coming back to replenish the system, you know, mathematically it doesn't work," Gardner said.

Detroiters pay the highest taxes in the state, yet get the worst services.

So now that the city is in Chapter 9, the clock ticks, the meters run, the attorneys get paid. But, where will the city go? Will it choose to stay where it is or reinvent itself and become another great American town?

SPECIAL SECTION: Detroit files for bankruptcy

About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.