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Rep. Hansen Clarke

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A Simple Plan for Detroit's Resurgence

Posted: 11/17/11 12:00 AM ET

It's time that we -- the people of Detroit -- take charge of our city's future.

For too long, we have seen our local tax dollars go toward excessive interest payments on debt rather than essential improvements in roads and schools. We have seen our manufacturing jobs shipped overseas with too little investment to retrain and retool workers. We have seen high local taxes stifle redevelopment and entrepreneurship.

We can do better.

Last month, I proposed a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would take all federal tax funds collected from Detroit residents and businesses for a period of five years and reinvest them in the city's stabilization and renewal. The Detroit Jobs Trust Fund would provide an estimated $2 billion to pay down the debt of the city and public schools, develop employment opportunities, enhance public safety, improve education, and rebuild essential infrastructure. In order to receive these funds, the city would be required to reduce its property tax and eliminate its income tax in order to attract investment.

Safer streets, better schools, and a more favorable business climate would directly spur desperately needed job creation. But this legislation would provide something more than an economic boost: it would provide a fresh start for Detroit. By restoring the city's finances, this bill could enable the city to improve its credit ratings and therefore reduce its costs of financing operations and investments. More city funds would go toward local schoolchildren, police, and firefighters rather than faraway creditors. In short, Detroit could get back on its feet.

If this seems like a revolutionary idea, that's because it is. This would be a first-in-the-nation pilot program geared toward restoring a city in an unparalleled state of emergency. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our area's unemployment rate of 13.1% is the highest of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Within the city, unemployment is even higher. We have, since 2007, consistently had one of the nation's highest foreclosure rates. Our school district faces a $327 million deficit and dozens of impending school closures. There's a simple reason why Detroit needs this extraordinary opportunity: No other area in America faces challenges of the same magnitude.

But no other area has the same potential for revival.

With its cluster of leading firms and facilities, its manufacturing know-how, and its world-class research institutions, the city is ready to overcome its challenges and compete globally. This is why more than 30 members of Congress -- including Candice Miller, a Republican member of the Michigan delegation -- have signed on in support of the bill.

The Detroit Jobs Trust Fund is not simply about this city's future. It's about America's. This nation needs a strong manufacturing base in order to grow out of its debts and into prosperity. And Detroit -- the Motor City, the Arsenal of Democracy -- is essential to restoring this nation as a manufacturing power.

We're all in this together.

 

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