Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted in federal court Monday, March 11, on 24 counts of corruption, including racketeering, extortion, bribery, and mail, wire, and tax fraud charges. Kilpatrick was found guilty of illegally using nonprofit funds and state grants for personal expenses, while using his office for years to enrich himself and co-defendants through shakedowns, kickbacks and bid-rigging schemes.
The Kilpatrick verdict is just the latest blow to Detroit. It occurs at a time of extraordinary crisis in for the city. Public finances are in the red for billions of dollars in obligations.
As such, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is likely to appoint an emergency financial manager (EFM) in a matter of days, making Detroit the largest city in the country to be taken over by state government. The public school system is already under state EFM control.
Detroit’s level of violent crime remains the highest in the country, according to the FBI. Yet, the city’s financial problems have forced significant cutbacks to the police force and darkening of street lights. As high crime and 15% unemployment forces people to leave the city, this has lowered the tax base and strained Detroit’s finances further.
Half of property owners are overdue with their property taxes, and home prices, already at historic lows, plummeted 35% during the past three years to a median of $40,000.
The continuing problems propelled Detroit to the top spot in Forbes Magazine’s 2013 ranking of America’s Most Miserable Cities.
But Kilpatrick and budget woes are only are only a symptom of what ails Detroit. Traditional family values are nearly extinct, and as such, the city is being wiped out.
Traditional two-parent families and the productive taxpaying citizens they produce have fled. Detroit’s population is half its 1970 levels, falling 25% since 2000.
According to the Census Bureau, of Detroit’s 269,000 households, only 21% are married couple families. Meanwhile, 31% are headed by women with no husband present, and 40% were non-families. Of the babies born in Detroit in the 12 months prior to the Census Bureau 2010 survey, 75% were born to unmarried women.
In total, 35% of Detroit households get food stamps. One of three residents lives in poverty, and median household income is only $26,000. Tens of thousands of houses and buildings are vacant, and abandoned.
In the Detroit public schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 7 percent of the eighth graders are grade-level proficient or better in reading, and only 4 percent are grade-level proficient in math. The under-educated children of the past are today’s adults, who are under-educating today’s kids. The on-going cycles of poverty perpetuate.
Indeed, abandoned buildings, public corruption, high crime, unemployment, a failed education system, and a $327 million budget deficit with more $14 billion in long-term debt, are all powerful symbols of what advancing social decay has done to the city.
Dependence on government to fix the problems is not the answer. That’s proven by Kwame if nothing else. Self-reliance, a spirit of independence, and a renewal of values that support family and strength of moral character would be a better start.