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Detroit fights back against plummeting population

Detroit has lost one-fourth of its population since 2000. Mayor Dave Bing will fight the US Census Bureau's numbers, which are important in determining federal and state aid. Meanwhile, the city is working to attract new residents by concentrating services in recovering neighborhoods.

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Last year, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to up to five years in prison for violating the terms of his probation stemming from his conviction for lying under oath about an affair with his chief of staff.

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In December, Mr. Kilpatrick, his father, and three others were named in a 38-count indictment involving millions of dollars in kickback schemes from contractors, non-profit donors and others.

Mayor Bing, a retired National Basketball Association all-star point guard who spent most of his career with the Detroit Pistons, took over City Hall in a special election in May, 2009.

Bing knows he has his work cut out for him.

Part of his “Detroit Works Project” includes a plan to reshape the city by removing blighted homes and encouraging people to move into recovering neighborhoods by concentrating improved city services there. As part of rebuilding Detroit, Bing and other city officials hope to attract 200 Detroit police officers who now live in the suburbs.

In addition to a series of public forums, the city is looking for help from philanthropic organizations, business leaders, and banks.

Bank of America helps out

This week, Bank of America officials pledged to donate 10 refurbished vacant homes for police officers who move to the city and to demolish 100 abandoned houses, donating the land for green space or urban farming.

“We are trying to be creative and see how we can be part of the solution,” Kieth Cockrell, marketing president for Bank of America in Detroit, told the Detroit Free Press. “I am inspired by what Mayor Bing is doing in the city.”

Detroit successfully challenged the 2000 Census. As a result, 50,000 residents were added to the city’s official population.

Still, most observers believe it will take more than that to turn the city around.

“Reality can no longer be denied,” writes Free Press columnist Tom Walsh. “No sane person can expect a return to the Detroit or Michigan that once were. Now the imperative is to rebuild, to create something fresh, to quit the bickering and get on with life.”

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