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Michigan Releases Detroit From Financial Oversight

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Five years ago, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. Now state oversight of the city's finances has ended, and Detroit is getting its financial footing. But as Sandra Svoboda reports, not everyone is happy with how this was done.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Resolution 2018-13 is now passed.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Thank you. Congratulations.

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SANDRA SVOBODA, BYLINE: With a unanimous vote, the 11-member Financial Review Commission freed the city from most of its state monitoring. A monthly review of the city's reports will continue, but formal oversight of Detroit's budgets and contracts will end unless new deficits begin.

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JOHN HILL: This is a day that we all had hoped would come. Nobody knew that it would come this quickly.

SVOBODA: That's Detroit's chief financial officer, John Hill. He credits several smart fiscal moves for delivering Detroit from its precarious position, including shedding billions of dollars in health care costs for retirees and improved financing to pay for city services. But the city is also employing fewer workers, including police officers.

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HILL: We've increased our income taxes substantially over this period of time.

SVOBODA: Detroit also is collecting more property taxes from homeowners. All of these actions, however, have led to credit upgrades that have helped lower interest rates, borrowing costs, and the city now has a budget surplus. But not everyone feels positive about the city's financial comeback. Helen Moore is with the National Action Network. For years, she has opposed the state's involvement in Detroit and spoke at the commission's last meeting.

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HELEN MOORE: I'm going to say something that probably suits me very well - good riddance.

SVOBODA: Moore says the bankruptcy did not provide justice for residents of the city, who still have insufficient services, high poverty rates and little economic development like the downtown business and entertainment districts have experienced. She had clear instructions for the state oversight commission and city leaders.

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MOORE: Look around you. I want you to see the real people that live here and are suffering under what's going on. We don't live downtown. We live in the neighborhoods. And we are not getting what we deserve.

SVOBODA: City officials counter that the restructuring prevented a total financial collapse. For NPR News, I'm Sandra Svoboda in Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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