Beaten up and left for dead, the city of Detroit finally appeared to be climbing back to its feet earlier this year. The auto industry was off life-support and a Super Bowl commercial, courtesy of Chrysler, created national buzz by favourably depicting Motown as the gritty, down-but-never-out heartbeat of America. And then reality set in. Recent U.S. census data showed that Detroit’s population had plummeted to 713,777 residents, down 25 per cent from a decade ago and its lowest level in 100 years, as families—both black and white—fled the city’s poverty and urban blight for affluent suburbs.
For city hall, the new numbers mean even more abandoned houses and vacant buildings to maintain on a dwindling tax base. Worse, there may now be less money coming from state and federal assistance programs, many of which use a population of 750,000 as a cut-off, which is why Mayor Dave Bing is demanding a recount. Others argue it’s time for Detroit to begin the tough slog of reinventing itself, consolidating some neighbourhoods and razing others. “It is time for all of us to realign our expectations so that they reflect today’s realities,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told ABC News. “We cannot cling to the old ways of doing business.”