If you want to understand things on the ground in Detroit -- and how woefully the city government fails to provide a basis for civilized life in most of the city's 139 square miles, read this piece by Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson.

It helps to explain why people with jobs and families — mostly whites from 1970 to 1990, mostly blacks from 1990 to 2010 — have been moving out of the city. High crime, tolerated if not celebrated by longtime (1974-94) Mayor Coleman Young has made property in most parts of Detroit worthless.

In 2011, according to an investigation by the Detroit News, 47 percent of Detroit property owners did not pay property tax. This means declining revenues which, combined with considerable mismanagement, produces the dreadful situation that Stephen Henderson describes.