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Financial Crisis Just a Symptom of Detroit’s Woes

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As officials negotiate urgently with creditors and unions in a last-ditch effort to spare Detroit from plunging into the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history, residents say the city has worse problems than its estimated $18 billion debt.
 
“The city is past being a city now; it’s gone,” said Kendrick Benguche, whose family lives on a block with a single streetlight, just down from a vacant firehouse that sits beside a burned-out home. The Detroit police’s average response time to calls for the highest-priority crimes this year was 58 minutes, officials now overseeing the city say. The department’s recent rate of solving cases was 8.7 percent, far lower, the officials acknowledge, than clearance rates in cities like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
 
“I guess I’ll be glad if someone else takes over and other people run this thing,” Mr. Benguche said. “The way I look at it, the city is already bankrupt.”
 
Kevyn D. Orr, the state-appointed emergency financial manager for Detroit, has said that the chances of filing for bankruptcy, a possibility that could be decided as early as this month, stand at 50-50. On Wednesday, Mr. Orr is expected to lead 40 representatives of Detroit’s creditors on a bus tour of the city and its blight to let the bleak images of empty lots and shuttered firehouses make the argument that creditors should accept pennies on the dollars owed.
 

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