As a Michigander for the past 21 years, I’ve heard my share of Detroit criticisms, jokes, and put downs, both from within and outside the Great Lakes State. While fingers can be pointed at the lack of past civic and political leadership in Detroit, our collective actions (or lack thereof) can certainly share in the responsibility. Some may scoff at such a notion, but here’re a few reasons why:
- As a nation we elected leaders who adopted a tax code and laws that advocated, promoted, and accelerated flight from cities and suburban sprawl. Many in this nation continue to support such policies. Granted, this affects every city, but that doesn’t mean it was beneficial for them unless they had scads of excess land for new subdivisions or the ability to annex freely.
- As a nation, we collectively turned our backs on inner cities and the residents thereof many years ago, only seeing fit to reverse course when the notion of revitalization became profitable.
- As a state, Michigan has some of the most arcane home rule laws that created thousands of 36 square mile “kingdumbs” (pun intended) that fight with each other like cats and dogs and seldom do the right thing.
- This nation very nearly turned its collective back on the auto industry due to political self-interest.
- As a state and nation we allowed expressways, poorly placed factories, urban renewal projects, sports stadiums, and other projects to carve up and displace perfectly healthy inner city neighborhoods, leaving a tattered and disjointed landscape.
- Residents/politicians living in outstate Michigan from Detroit would short-sightedly say, act, and vote as if Detroit was not their problem too.
- In Southeast Michigan, leaders and residents alike outside of Wayne County often could care less what happened south of Eight Mile.
- Source: detroittransithistory.info
- One of the best interurban transit systems in the nation was torn up and replaced by diesel-belching buses that have as many endearing qualities as a lump of coal.
- Corporations ran away from the city in the ’60s and ’70s…with some finally seeing the light of their actions and returning to Detroit in the ’00s and ’10s.
- Half of Detroit’s professional sport franchises left for the ‘burbs with one, the Pistons, still playing practically closer to Flint than Detroit.
- Far too many lenders and insurance companies red-lined inner city neighborhoods.
- Shady lenders who offered inner city loans foreclosed on homeowners the first chance they got.
- Absentee landlords let their properties decline into disrepair and blight.
- Politicians shied away from making the tough decisions, and rhetoric replaced reason in far too many discussions and decisions concerning Detroit.
- Too many people in Southeast Michigan acted like the city was an island unto itself, when, like it or not, their collective futures have been inexorably linked to Detroit’s fate.
- Up until recent years, the national media tended to solely focus on the bad news about Detroit. There are many great things about Detroit, and piling on does nothing to reverse problems: it only reinforces misperceptions and stereotypes.
Shall I go on?
– Rick Brown
Filed under architecture, Crime, Economic Development, Featured, Great Lakes, Politics, Public Transportation, Race Relations, Real Estate, Sports, sprawl, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty
I know this isn’t strictly Rust Belt-related, but I’m sure many readers of this site are fans of The Wire as much as I am.
So here’s a link to an excerpt of an interview creator David Simon did with The Progressive magazine. The entire piece is not available online, only in the print version of the magazine.
I think my favorite part is when Simon says:
“This show, if we do it right, is an argument for the city. For the idea of American urbanity, for the melting pot, for the idea that our future can’t be separated from the fact that we are all going to be increasingly compacted into urban areas, though we’re different in race and culture and religion. And what we make of that will determine the American future.
I listened during the last election cycle to the rhetoric about small town values and where the real Americans live. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never heard such bullshit in my life.’ Rural America’s not coming back. That idea was lost with the Industrial Revolution. And yet with more than 80 percent of Americans living in metropolitan areas, there are still demagogues who want to run down the idea of multiculturalism, of urbanity, being the only future we have. We either live or die based on how we live in cities, and our society is either going to be great or not based on how we perform as creatures of the city.”
This article from Chicago Magazine tries to examine Chicago (and by extension Illinois’) culture of corruption in politics.
Among the reasons cited for the state’s problem: old habits die hard, no will for reform, mob connections, racial tensions and more.
What do you think after reading this?
How many of the same things apply to your city?
Filed under Crime, Politics
As goes the Rust Belt, so goes the nation?
According to The Washington Post’s The Fix, that may be the case in the 201o midterm elections.
The Post cites four key governor’s races: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that make our region “the central proving ground for both parties heading into the 2010 midterm elections” as well as Senate contests in Ohio and Illinois.
Five of these six states currently have Democratic governors, according to the paper.
Why are we so important? Four of the six are among the top 20 states unemployment-wise, all have large numbers of electoral votes.
“Democrats have reason for optimism in both 2010 and 2012,” The Fix believes. Obama won all six in 2008.
“With the notable exception of Michigan, Republicans are considered underdogs to win the remaining five governorships next fall. Still, the economic state of the states almost certainly gives Republicans an opening to argue they can do it better, and the historic volatility of open seats is not to be discounted. Watch the Rust Belt governors’ races next November. They should provide a window into the minds of voters heading into the 2012 presidential election.”