Nearly half, 47%, of Detroit property owners did not pay their property taxes for 2011, reports the Detroit News. On 77 blocks only one property owner paid his or her taxes. This is a good piece of enterprise journalism: the News examined 200,000 pages of property tax documents. It’s also a good illustration of the dire condition of Detroit’s city government. I’ve been writing a review of Charlie LeDuff’s terrific book Detroit: An American Autopsy for the the Claremont Review of Books. LeDuff, a former reporter for the New York Times and the Detroit News and now with Fox 2 television shows the human cost of Detroit’s miserable condition. The numbers in the News story show the fiscal cost. Detroit has a city government that is at one and the same time expensive (a 2.5% city income tax) and ineffective—a literally lethal combination. It’s likely that Governor Rick Snyder will appoint an emergency fiscal manager to take control of the city government; he has already done so for the Detroit Public Schools.
You can see the starkness of Detroit’s decline in another set of numbers. In 1950 the Census Bureau reported that Detroit had 1,849,568 residents (I was one of them). In 2010 the Census Bureau reported that Detroit had 713,777 residents.