News and reflections on Detroit’s next chapter
Foundation Center President Bradford K. Smith explains that there are at least three answers to the question posed in that headline, depending on how one interprets ‘give to Detroit’ and how the numbers are crunched:
These numbers are important for many reasons, not least of which is that they provide transparency to the tax-privileged form of giving known as philanthropy. Foundations are granted a tax exemption in exchange for their contribution to the public good, so it is not unreasonable for the public to want to know how they do so. But more important is what these numbers represent.
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker reflects on the deal:
“Shirley Lightsey and Don Taylor are advocates for the city and its residents. They and thousands of their colleagues faced the tough choices on which the grand bargain hinged. And they made those tough choices. These city-makers — quiet but indefatigable leaders — were what the grand bargain was all about. And, for Detroit’s sake, we must never forget that.”
“This is the backstory of how Detroit cleared mountains of debt accumulated over 50 years and emerged with a shot at restoring basic services for 685,000 city residents who deserve better....And, ultimately, it’s the story of how, one by one, like soldiers switching sides in the midst of battle, the major players and creditors at war with the city dropped their objections and joined a “grand bargain” to save Detroit.”
“My initial reaction was, this is a crazy idea,” Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, remembered thinking as he listened that afternoon. “Eight hundred million dollars from a group of foundations? I thought it was rather over the top in its boldness,” Mr. Walker said, adding of the mood in the room: “I think there was a collective gulp.”
DARREN WALKER: Detroit is now back in the starting blocks. It is positioned well for a great future. There’s uptick in employment, small business development. Many of the indicators of economic and community well-being are improving. The question now is, what does the future hold for Detroit?
“Though foundation leaders acknowledge that supporting a city’s pension system is an unusual form of philanthropy, they say they felt compelled to act to lessen the blow of pension-benefit cuts on Detroit workers and safeguard the museum’s remarkable collection. They also hoped to save Detroit from years of protracted bankruptcy litigation that they believe would have stalled the city’s revitalization efforts just as there were signs of progress.”
Learn more about the foundation’s longstanding commitment to Detroit.