In a press conference Friday, President Barack Obama announced a $320-million aid package for the city of Detroit. The package is not aimed at relieving Detroit’s $18-billion debt and is by no means a bailout for the city. Instead, this allocation includes federal, state and private aid that will go toward improving several aspects of the city’s infrastructure. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the state of Michigan have done little to help Detroit financially, a fact that needs needs to change if the city is going to improve. Investing in the city is a logical policy that will not only encourage Detroit’s recovery, but also benefit Michigan as a whole.
Instead of paying for the city’s debt, the federal aid will help fund city services that will help Detroit’s citizens. The aid distributes $25 million to Detroit’s firefighters, $24 million to repair the city’s bus system and more than $90 million — from both public and private sources — to demolish and refurbish abandoned buildings. This gesture demonstrates that Detroit is not merely a bankruptcy project, but a city where families and communities live and work — and aid from the government can positively impact lives. However, it does overlook the city’s school system. Detroit Public Schools is a district that has been plagued with ineffective teachers. A portion of the funding could go to attracting better teachers to the district.
Snyder and the state of Michigan need to follow Obama’s lead and invest in the Motor City in order to create jobs and make it a more attractive city to live in. Once a city peopled by 1.5 million, Detroit has seen its population decrease by more than 50 percent in just 60 years, with only about 700,000 residents remaining. Detroit is Michigan’s responsibility and the state needs to take the lead in constructing its recovery.
President Obama’s aid package illustrates that Detroit and its residents is important to our nation. This view directly counters Congress’ sentiments about Detroit — for they seem to feel no obligation to help a city whose population serves no political benefit to them. In fact, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) introduced an amendment earlier this summer that would prohibit government bailouts of municipal cities like Detroit. Bloomberg reported on Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R–Ala.) disapproval of a Detroit bailout: “What’s happening to Detroit is going to happen to a lot of our cities,” Shelby said. “They’re losing their tax base, have eroding schools. It’s a tough situation.” Because Obama couldn’t garner the support of Congress in compiling federal aid, he had to scramble to collect the several grants and private aid sources to generate $320 million. Hopefully this aid package serves as a stepping-stone in the revival of what was once the nation’s industrial powerhouse.