This is the post where I am going to offer ideas for turning around the city of Detroit. These are my opinions, and are completely subjective. I absolutely believe that the City of Detroit can comeback. It will not be easy or quick, but it can certainly be done!
Quit Feeling Sorry for ourselves: Time Magazine ran a several stories last fall on Detroit and the problems it is encountering. One theme in the articles is how the great city of Detroit was ravaged by decline of the auto industry, the over-empowerment of the UAW, and “white flight” after the riots of 1967. A common theme for the national media is to look on Detroit and southeastern Michigan with pity, and many in this area soak up the pity and feel sorry for their plight.
Well, all of these things are ancient history. Almost every city in the US had riots in the late 1960s, yet we are the only region that still talks about how great things were before the riots, like we were destined to this fate 42 years ago?
In addition let’s face facts that the auto industry is all but gone from Michigan along with the 100k+ plus jobs for unskilled laborers. Many industries have come and gone from other regions. How much meatpacking still takes place in Chicago? Where is the textile industry?
Our region has great colleges, a nice cool climate, plenty of fresh water, no worries about wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes or other natural disasters, but we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves! Few individuals or businesses are going to be attracted to our area until we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and forget about the assent and descent of this region during the 20th century!
Fire up the bulldozers: Blight is bad! Blight gives crack heads and meth addicts a place to hide and hookers a place to work. If a residence is run down or boarded up, the city needs to foreclose on the property. They need to bulldoze the property and setup a land bank that can clean the title and offer the property for resale later.
As big of a Tiger Fan that I am, I could not in good conscience cry too loud when the City of Detroit cleared the old Tiger Stadium. Yes, there were lots of proposals to revamp the property, and for sure there were probably tons of buildings in worse shape that needed to come down. But one more empty blighted building that is brought down is one less eyesore we have to see and one less crack house the Detroit Police have to bust.
Make people feel safe: No one will move into the city until they feel safe. Detroit has a huge crime problem and unfortunately there is no way to turn it around overnight. What you can do, is take a small section of the city, patrol it like crazy, let word out on the street that the book will be thrown at anyone committing a crime in that area. I have heard from old-timers in Chicago that this is what Daley did in the Michigan Avenue corridor in the early 1970′s. I would start with the Woodward Avenue Corridor.
Build more Public Transportation: For a long time Detroit shunned public transportation because they wanted to promote automobile usage. Because the key to growth in the 21st century for our city does not lie in the auto industry, we need more public transportation. One thing that has been proposed (and just recently got Federal Funding) is the light rail to go down Woodward Avenue. I would build this ASAP and push for it to extend all the way to Birmingham.
Entice Young Professionals to live in the city: We spend a lot of political time, money, and resources trying to help our state schools educate our best young people. Unfortunately, many of these bright students graduate from a Michigan college and promptly leave the state. How do you entice young people to live in the city? Help them pay their student loans. I would institute a program where young people could deduct their student loans amounts from their property taxes.
Fix the Public Schools: In a recent test, DPS (Detroit Public Schools) students posted the worst score in the history of the test. The DPS is dysfunctional. Because of the shrinking population, there are way too many half full schools. DPS needs to undergo a consolidation of buildings. In addition, they need to institute a voucher system within the city so that the DPS can have some competition and those bright students who want a better education can obtain it. Thanks to the state appointing Robert Bobb, a turnaround of DPS has started to happen.
Ethnic Diversity is critical for all parts of SE Michigan: Detroit is 82% black and 10% white, If you go up Woodward avenue and get north of 8 Mile (the border of Detroit), you hit Ferndale which is 90% white and 3% black, the next city north is Royal Oak which is 94% white and less than 2% black, just north of that is Birmingham which is 95% white and less than 1% black!
Something is seriously wrong with this. You have generations of kids in Detroit who rarely see white people in their schools. Conversely, in many Oakland County Schools, a black person is a rarity. Meanwhile, Chicago is 37% Black, 31% White, and 26% Latino which is a good balanced mix. How do you fix this? I am not sure, but it is the toughest and most important issue on this list. Personally I would like to see the religious leaders of both groups get together to address this issue. People in this region need to realize that just because we have different skin tones; it does not make us opponents.
I love Michigan, I love Detroit, and I hope someday my children will be proud to not only say I am from Detroit, but I live in Detroit and it is a great place to be!