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    Aruba, October 29, 2013 - A court case began Wednesday to determine if Detroit will become the biggest ever US city to be declared bankrupt. City officials say the move will help Detroit solve its crippling debt problems, but unions and pension funds are strongly opposed.

An extraordinary court case that could decide the future of one of America’s most iconic cities began on Wednesday as a trial set to determine whether Detroit will be allowed to file for bankruptcy got underway. Detroit, once a symbol of American industrial might and the home of a thriving automotive industry, filed for bankruptcy protection in July this year, becoming the biggest ever US city to do so.

At stake is the chance to restructure and reduce Detroit’s estimated $18 million in long-term debts that administrators say is crippling the city - though not without the cost of cuts to workers’ pensions and health benefits.

‘Mountain of evidence’ shows Detroit is insolvent

In order to benefit from bankruptcy protection city managers will need to convince Judge Steven Rhodes that the city is insolvent. 

In Wednesday’s opening statements, the lead attorney for the city, Bruce Bennett, said consultants retained by the city will present a “mountain of evidence” during the trial that will show just that.

“This is one of those cases where the data speaks very clearly and persuasively on its own. It needs no gloss,” he said.

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to attest to Detroit’s immense financial difficulties. At the last count, the city was home to some 78,000 abandoned buildings, just 40 percent of the street lights work and the number of public parks has dropped from over 300 to about 60 in recent years. As jobs have dried up, an exodus of residents has seen the city’s population shrink to less than 700,000, from a peak of 1.8 million in 1950, and only 53 percent of property owners paid their 2011 property taxes.

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