Visit any American city and it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see where its greatness came from—however faded it may seem to be.
Even Detroit, the largest U.S. city ever to declare bankruptcy, still retains the footprint of a great urban powerhouse. There are the broad boulevards spreading out from the city center like spokes of a Chevy's wheel; classic and modern skyscrapers towering over the banks of the Detroit River; even the neighborhoods, though ravaged by years of decay still include—here and there—a grand old Motor City home. Or there is a smaller one, still tidy, that an autoworker toiled for years to pay off.
Yet Detroit is beset with problems. Clearly, it has more than its share, but no city is without at least some of the same issues. Our series highlights five cities, but no city is immune.
In our trip across America, we found that every city we visited has a mixture of bad and good, of problems and solutions.
Take Oakland, Calif. It has always lived in San Francisco's shadow and probably always will. Residents lament the fact that the technology boom that transformed the Bay Area largely passed Oakland by. We were there to report on whether Wall Street conned Oakland—and hundreds of other cities—or if city leaders took irresponsible risks with taxpayer money. Regardless, the citizens are paying the price.
But at the same time, we found a growing effort to accentuate Oakland's positives, from a $70 million infrastructure upgrade at the Port of Oakland—the nation's fifth-largest port—to a neighborhood food program at Oakland's Faith Baptist Church, where pastor Curtis Robinson told us, "You've got to have a peaceful neighborhood in order to have economic development. Maybe if we put some food on some tables, people will get a little peaceful."