With $320 million of federal, state and private aid in hand, top White House officials came to Detroit and vowed to help the bankrupt city fight crime, improve mass transport and eradicate blight.
The money is mostly grants from federal or state programs for which the city is qualified, or for which it needed red tape cut to speed access. Some is expected from private businesses and philanthropy groups. President Barack Obama also has appointed Don Graves deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department, to oversee Detroit’s recovery, said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.
“We only have one goal, and that is to have all of Detroit working together for one Detroit, with the Obama administration as a key partner,” Sperling said today.
The city, once an auto-manufacturing powerhouse, declared the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy in history on July 18 after years of decline in which its population fell by more than half, to 700,000 from 1.8 million. The city has more than $18 billion in long-term obligations and is plagued by unreliable buses, broken street lights and long waits for police and ambulances.
Sperling led a delegation that included Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. They met for more than two hours privately with about 70 city and state officials, as well as community leaders who included Mayor Dave Bing, a Democrat; emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who appointed Orr in March.