Newsmaker Interview
4:53 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Cockrel: 'Bankruptcy likely scenario for quite a while'

Now that the City of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, everyone is speculating as to how the city got to this point. 

As a former member of the Detroit City Council, Sheila Cockrel says, "The tendency on the part of some people who don't live in the city, who are not African American, who live in the region, or live in the rest of the country, want to point to a deficiency in leadership. That is absolutely incorrect."

Cockrel, who is currently a faculty member in the Honors College at Wayne State University, tells her students that poor leadership is partly to blame, but she says there are a number of other factors: disinvestment, de-industrialization and the migration of capital out of Detroit which has caused a severe reduction in revenue.

"When you take a tax base out, you don't have a viable financial basis to provide services," she says.

Cockrel served on the Detroit City Council for 16 years and says bankruptcy has been the most likely scenario for quite a while.

"...to be fair here numerous treasurers, governors, mayors, and councils all could have taken a look at this and intervened earlier, but that didn't happen. And it's easier to say it's all going to work itself out, and this is a short-term plan, and there will be a long-term fix, so let's put it off," she says.

Cockrel hopes the city can rebuild itself. She says Detroit is an "iconic" American city with "gritty, hard working people." And quoting from Detroit's motto, she says, "we will rise from the ashes of this financial crisis." 

Related Program