Detroit: The Next American City of Opportunity

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has been shaping the debate on what to do with post-industrial cities for the past 30 years by developing and disseminating new ideas that create economic choices and foster personal responsibility. The research of the Manhattan Institute has helped lead to the rebirth and prosperity of many cities in the United States, most notably New York City in the 1990s under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who embraced the Institute’s ideas with open arms. Most recently, the Manhattan Institute has set its sights on addressing the economic and civic problems facing Detroit. Starting with six articles dealing with post-bankruptcy Detroit and concluding with a live-streaming event, the Manhattan Institute has offered valuable policy recommendations for the troubled Motor City.


Detroit: The Next American City of Opportunity” features Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder and the Motor City’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.  The two discussed what may come next for the city as it deals with budget shortfalls, failing infrastructure, and a declining population.  Although the media and people living outside the area paint a bleak picture of Detroit, the two men are confident that the city is on the upswing despite its current financial woes. Mr. Orr believes that the city is already experiencing a renaissance citing nearly $6 billion in new investments over the last several years, 97% of downtown work spaces being leased, and at least four new infrastructure projects that will be started in the coming year.


Despite growing optimism for future success in Detroit, there is still much to be done in the city. As the governor described, filing for bankruptcy is not just about “restructuring balance sheets,” but a chance to provide the best goods and services to the people of the city. In order to enact the changes the city needs, both men agreed that policy must be changed at all levels of government, not only for the success of Detroit but for the countless other cities across the nation that are similiar situations. The change needs to start at the municipal level where citizens can see a direct return on their tax investment based on the quality of the services they receive. Trash needs to be picked up regularly, grass needs to be cut, and other minor things that people do not usually think about but still help to create pride in a community need to be accomplished. Citizens need to begin to take their own initiative to help their community grow.


Detroit’s education system also needs to be overhauled. Currently, there are 15 failing schools within the city, and many believe there is no way to reverse this cycle of endemic failure. The governor believes that by providing a choice in schools can help slow the trend. He even drew on the micro-enterprise training that starts in kindergarten and the tech training for middle school students as good starting points for future programs.

Moving forward the governor insists that the state should be a partner with the Motor City, but ultimately it’s not their responsibility to run the city–that has to fall on the citizens of Detroit.