Toronto Globe & Mail interviews Tom Sugrue on Detroit

tags: interviews, Detroit, urban decay, urban bankruptcy, decline, Tom Sugrue



Once the dynamic heart of automotive America, the city of Detroit took the humbling step of filing for bankruptcy on Thursday – the largest U.S. municipality ever to do so. On Friday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder defended his decision to authorize the bankruptcy filing....

The Globe’s Joanna Slater spoke with Thomas Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, an award-winning social history of the once-proud city, about its long decline....

What are the most important factors that contributed to Detroit’s current mess?

The first is long-term disinvestment from the city, meaning the flight of capital and jobs from Detroit beginning in the 1950s. It is employers and employees that provide the bulk of the funds for a city’s tax base. Secondly, intense hostility between the city and the rest of the state, which has a very strong racial dimension. Detroit has a long and painful history of racial conflict in local and state politics. That has contributed to the third major factor: the collapse of state and federal support for the city, which was crucial to its survival – and indeed to other cities’ survival – for a lot of the difficult times from the 1950s on forward. As a quick aside, when New York went through its fiscal crisis in the 1970s, it was bailed out by the federal government. There’s no bailout in place for Detroit today....



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