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Mayors Take a Lesson from Detroit

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Detroit’s meltdown and ensuing bankruptcy are obviously a great tragedy for the city of Detroit, but for the rest of us there is a silver lining: the Motor City’s plight is a wake-up call to other struggling cities and municipalities across the country.

The AP reports that a number of mayors, from NYC’s Michael Bloomberg to Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, have all responded to Detroit’s crisis by looking at ways to shore up their own cities:

“It’s the lesson of kicking the can down the road. You can put these things off. But at some point the bill comes due,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in an interview. “People ask me sometimes what keeps me up at night. The prospect of being one of those cities is what keeps me up at night.”[…]

“We would be foolish to ignore the factors that drove Detroit to bankruptcy,” Bloomberg said in July, shortly after the Motor City took its landmark step. “I believe that the Detroit experience holds lessons for every American city.”

It’s good to see that America’s mayors are taking the pension crisis seriously, but the most heartening thing is the fact that they are beginning to a shift away from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans. As the AP notes, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Detroit are all considering shifts to 401(k) style plans, while Providence has already done so. As we noted this morning, these plans are a better option for workers and cities alike. If we were to take only one lesson from Detroit, this should be it.

[Stephanie Rawlings-Blake photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • USNK2

    Alas, Mayor Bloomberg is a lame duck who never bothered to negotiate new contracts when he was supposed to.
    Now, the voters of New York City are apparently ignorant enough to vote for deBlasio, who does not even know the definition of fiscal conservative, and is willing to negotiate new labor contracts with retroactive pay, which would add another SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS to the already larded budget.
    Bill deBlasio wants to re-invent Detroit in a NYC that only took twenty years to recover from when Bushwick (Brooklyn) burned. And, BdB lives in Brooklyn. Does he even know where the South Bronx is???

    • Corlyss

      Years ago when he was on Book TV’s In Depth, David Horowitz remarked on his pal Newt’s firmly held belief that voters would reward Republicans for their more transparent and efficient government habits. “Leftists and Democrats and Liberals,” he said, “regard politics as war conducted by other means. Republicans regard politics as a management problem. Gingrich said, ‘If we manage things right, people will elect us.’ The opposite is true. You get to be the victim of your own success.”

      Voters think more or less efficient government is the norm, so there’s not too much difference between the manner in which the two parties govern and run the apparatus of government. So after Republicans get things in shape, the voters think, “Well, okay. They got things going. They’ve been in long enough. We’re tired of them. Let’s let the Democrats have a turn. That’s only fair.” When they do, Democrats get in, give away the farm, restore chaos, and people don’t draw the connection between the two sets of conditions. With the last presidential election, we have an electorate bordering on the juvenile, that still blamed Bush for the economy, the wars, the Indonesian tsunami, Katrina, and lastly Sandy. I have to acknowledge the Dems are masters of deception and blame-shifting. But do dumb voters have to make it so easy for them???

      • crabtown

        I’m wondering if we’ll see another bailout discussion like the 70s. It seems they have to learn their lesson every 30 years. I think Jefferson was on to something.

        • Andrew Allison

          A generational thing?

        • Corlyss

          Well, if you recall, there was a Republican (read adult) in charge when NYC came with its begging bowl. Ford said ‘no’ and NYC worked out the problem itself. Unfortunately, a Republican is not in charge now. Dear Leader, consummate liar that he is, will say something that sounds like ‘no’ but, behind the scenes, he will shovel out the cash to Democratic cities, just like he did with Detroit.

      • USNK2

        Mike Bloomberg is a liberal Democrat who ran as a Republican in 2001 because he could not fight the Dem machine in their primary. Then Mayor Mike changed to Independent, but Term 3 was wasted on silly stuff.
        Now he is surprised that the Working Families Party is about to take over, with deBlasio and James having beaten the machine Dems who rely far too much on avoiding primaries (no one has been allowed to primary Andrew Cuomo since 2002), and discouraging turnout to protect incumbents. Schumer could not get 100,000 voters out on Oct. 1 even though he wrote snail mail letters to likely voters.
        In the 1970’s fiscal crisis, Wall Street was the old ‘gentleman’ model, before leveraged buyouts and hedge funds turned it into a giant casino that can move, and they will move away even faster in 2014 when crime returns to Manhattan if deBlasio wins.
        The NYPD will be moving away even faster than the billionaires.
        Who wants to be a cop, with a lawyer second-guessing every move?

        • Corlyss


  • Beauceron

    “It’s the lesson of kicking the can down the road. You can put these things off. But at some point the bill comes due,”

    You have to give it to them. Democrats have a huge set of balls. Conservatives have been saying that for decades, and the Dems made a lot of political hay portraying them as uncaring, hateful stooges. Now the Left has had an epiphany: you have to pay for things, being deeply in debt is bad, making promises you can’t possibly keep will come back to haunt you.– even if your lies get you elected.

    I’ll bet anything Madam Rawlings-Blake is a passionate, unquestioning defender of ObamaCare.

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