33 Comments

  1. dp in ypsi
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve spent a lot of time driving through neighborhoods in Detroit. Last year, when the artists in this Dateline piece were first interviewed on NPR, I drove up that that neighborhood, one block in either direction is a far fetch from stable. Those folks have a lot of guts.

    A few years ago I worked for a company that inspected city owned homes that were abandoned. It was surreal seeing the remnants left by squatters: processed food packaging, children’s toys, and gratuitous amounts of drug paraphernalia and dog feces.

    I was not surprised when the picture of the leg frozen in ice was published on the front page of the Detroit News (1/29/09). The statistics (education, crime, corruption, etc) are terrifying and witnessing the disintegration of modern society is awe-inspiring, and by no means enjoyable.

    There are, however, many versions of reality in Detroit.

    If you have a chance to go out to Belle Isle this summer, do so, one can almost hear the bands playing in the gardens from generations past. Look into the great history of our state’s largest city. Visit the pockets of revitalization. Take an out-of-town visitor for a tour of a neighborhood before going to the Tigers game.

    Detroit restaurant week is going on now. Type that into your favorite search engine, or perhaps look into the fabulous 555 Gallery (formally of Ypsilanti) or look up “The Lot Detroit”… perhaps the Russell Industrial Center. Amid the chaos, there is an undercurrent of rejuvenation near every burnt out block.

    Last year I volunteered at Jazz Fest for the first time, I’ll be there again this year… maybe this is a way to rebuild your relationship with our fair city.

    Detroit is an amazing city, steeped in history, struck by a confluence of social, economic and global changes and a fair dose of neglect and ineptitude. The city is ours, as we are a part of this region. Just because our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents abandoned the city by/for whatever means, doesn’t mean we have to honor their legacy of apartheid. Take responsibility and do whatever you can to change this city for the better.

  2. Kim
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    What I hate the most about the “Detroit issue” is how racists use it to make the case that blacks are savages, and that this is what happens to a city when they’re in charge. The reality is much more complicated than that.

  3. Edward
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It would be hard for Bing to look bad coming after Kwame. And it’s good to know that he’s in contact with Obama. There’s no way the feds would have pumped money into Detroit under the previous administration, but maybe they will now, once Bing is done cleaning house.

  4. lorie thom
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Chris Hansen was a reporter here for years. I think a bunch of his work is overly sensational but this piece was mostly on the money.

    I have an even more negative view of the city and its decaying milieu than what Mr. Hansen presented. The people there have had some pretty good candidates to choose from for their leadership both on council and in the mayor’s office – they have declined to elect them until they had a mayor and council member get convicted of serious crimes while in office and some light was shed on how bad the corruption really is in their city government. Rotten to the core.

    Bing is good, it will be interesting to see how far he gets. Even if he is a raving huge success, he can’t fix the schools.

    I have had occasion to drive through Detroit and some of my old stomping grounds near Highland Park a few times in the past two years. It is devastating to see. Yes, there are a few isolated places that are wonderful for a time (I agree that Belle Isle is wonderful on a spring day) but even those places are really ugly when the sun isn’t shining.

  5. K Tory
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    It would have been better if Hansen had set up Kwame and Riddle To Catch a Predaztor-style, going into the homes of young girls.

  6. Steph's Dad
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I love the stories about the dozens, if not 100s of Detroit employees who never showed up to work, but were paid just the same.

  7. Posted April 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    No one wants to talk about the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing?

  8. Posted April 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I though a Tea Partier or two might want to chime in about his heroism in the face of unbearable federal oppression.

  9. Jon
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    You like what you hear because he is telling you what you want to hear. Bing has a habit of promising people what they want and then doing the opposite.

    Here are a couple of examples of his campaign promises:
    Shut down the Detroit Incinerator
    Keep Police Chief Barren in his position
    Make the tough choices of what to cut to balance the budget’s $300 million-plus budget deficit
    Bring more transparency to city government

    Here is the reality after he took office:
    Extended the contract on the incinerator for several more years
    Fired Chief Barren, widely viewed as the best police chief in recent memory
    Sold $250 million in bail-out bonds to stave off receivership for another year. Budget deficit still pegged at more than $300 million
    Moved the press room from right outside the mayor’s office to the basement of city hall.

  10. Edward
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Those things might be true, Jon, but I’d suggest that the list of positive things that he HAS done during his first year is significantly longer than this list of broken promises.

  11. Aaron
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I was in Detroit last Friday for the Detroit Music Awards and on Saturday at the Bohemian National House.

    Fridays outing reminded me that the city still has some life to it… the event was at the Filmore (aka State) and it is such a wonderful venue and there were many people and great music. Didn’t even get hit up for change when walking to and from the car. Seeing the stadiums, Fox Theater, and making a short trip to the Majestic Cafe I had a great time and felt safe.

    On the other hand Saturday going to the Bohemian House really gave me a chance to drive through some spooky neighborhoods… a couple areas was like being the the movie The Warriors… on the other hand it was nice to see many people make it to the event where I got to see some great Detroit music to benefit Detroit artist Gary Grim Shaw.

    (http://www.metrotimes.com/blog/musicblahg.asp?perm=1066)

    Still despite some life in the city yet… it is sad to see such decline being a Detroit native… I would suggest checking out the “good” pockets and festivals though as downtown, Greek town, and the festivals are all pretty safe in my opinion.

  12. Jon
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Respectfully Edward, please, list them. And I want real accomplishments everyday residents would appreciate, not rhetoric.

  13. Edward
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I don’t live in Detroit, and I only follow Detroit politics at arms length. As someone who clearly follows Detroit politics more closely than myself, I’m sure you can poke holes in the following list, but these are a few of the impressions of have of Bing and what he’s accomplished thus far.

    Bing has begun the process of cutting city staff to a size more in keeping with the falling population of the city.

    Bing has made the “right-sizing” of Detroit a priority.

    Bing has initiated a series of summits on education, land use, public safety, health, jobs and youth.

    Bing has set out to renegotiate union contracts with the city.

    Regardless of where the press room is located, the Bing administration is more transparent than that of the Kilpatrick administration.

    Bing is moving forward with a plan to raze 3,000 – 10,000 abandoned homes.

    And, most importantly, he seems to be running out of a sincere love for the city, and not to fill his pockets.

  14. lorie thom
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    how ’bout just simply he isn’t a thieving crook?

  15. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing… Mark,
    My family was in Wash. DC the day of the bombing. There were armed snipers on the roof of the White House. All tours were cancelled that day. Sirens screamed through the streets, it wasn’t till we left the city and turned on the radio we figured out all the weirdness. Devastating.

  16. Jon
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Well Edward, I won’t poke holes into your argument. I will just point them out to you.

    “Bing has begun the process of cutting city staff to a size more in keeping with the falling population of the city.”

    We are way beyond the point of beginning to rightsize city staff. Bing promised little to no learning curve so he could aggressively go after right-sizing city government. So far he has only cut a couple hundred positions in a workforce that still measures well in excess of 10,000. Cuts won’t do anymore. All of city government needs to be reinvented, something Bing promised to do a year ago when he was first elected. Detroit has only received minimal reorganization, so it’s still pretty much business as usual here. If the city is teetering so close to bankruptcy (and I believe it is) then why isn’t the city aggressively trying to merge DDOT with SMART or working out some sort of partnership with Metro Parks or the Riverfront Conservancy to manage Belle Isle? Plus, I know everyone will argue that the city needs more public safety employees on the street as a top priority. But how do you do that when you’re constantly “right-sizing” the city’s workforce and revenues are falling precipitously? Bing hasn’t even hinted at an answer to that question yet. I will give Police Chief Warren Evans credit that he is making the most out of what he has. I have seen a much more visible police presence and he is making great strides in tackling the perception of crime in the city, too. Bottom line, Warren Evans is an ass kicker and wants to be mayor one day soon. If he can tame the crime dragon, he will probably win when Bing steps aside.

    “Bing has made the “right-sizing” of Detroit a priority.”

    Bing has talked about it for a year, but he has not taken any steps toward doing so or even revealed any sort of plan for it. He speaks in generalities. That’s about it. I agree that such a policy is important, but that’s going to quickly turn into one big mess when the city starts to tackle it.

    “Bing has initiated a series of summits on education, land use, public safety, health, jobs and youth.”

    Detroit is way beyond the summit phase. It needs action on these items much sooner rather than later. City leaders have been studying and talking about these problems for decades. When are we finally going to try something original? Bing was elected a year ago. What is he waiting for?

    “Bing has set out to renegotiate union contracts with the city.”

    That’s a given. It had to happen because of the budget deficit. Wake me up when he actually negotiates a contract with the city that makes sense. I have a feeling I will be sleeping for a while before this happens.

    “Regardless of where the press room is located, the Bing administration is more transparent than that of the Kilpatrick administration.”

    Bing’s Communications team is run by Karen Dumas, one of Kwame’s staunchest public supporters before and during his perjury scandal. A lot of Kwame’s lieutenants are still in city government, including Norm White who was the city’s CFO for years under Kwame and oversaw the creation of the current budget’s mess. I’ll give you a concrete example of a lack of transparency. The Bing administration didn’t deliver the city’s proposed budget until the last minute before he presented it to City Council. That was the first anyone outside of the administration saw it.

    “Bing is moving forward with a plan to raze 3,000 – 10,000 abandoned homes.”

    This policy is tilting at windmills. Bing plans to raze 3,000 structures this year and 10,000 by the end of his first term. However, the official estimate of abandoned buildings is between 30,000-40,000. Some outside estimates peg that number between 60,000-70,000. Regardless the number is huge and growing rapidly every day. The city has never demolished more than 2,600 homes in one year and usually does less than 1,000. Even if Bing magically doubles his goal, it will make little-to-no noticeable impact on the situation for the foreseeable future by using this dated and ineffective policy. If the city is serious about tackling the blight problem it would create economic opportunity by lowering property taxes (which make up only about 8 percent of the city’s revenue) across the board and setting up incentives ($1 homes) for people to renovate in areas the city wants to save.

    “And, most importantly, he seems to be running out of a sincere love for the city, and not to fill his pockets.”

    As Chris Rock once said in one of his comedy routines, “You’re supposed to do that.” And there are those who believe becoming mayor was fortuitous bridge for Bing’s legacy. His businesses were overly leveraged and going bankrupt when he was running. His housing developments were falling victim to the real-estate bubble. We now know that Bing Steel, which was liquidated last year, has left numerous debts totaling seven figures. We don’t know what’s going on with the rest of Bing’s manufacturing businesses (there’s that transparency thing again) or even if they’re still in business. I don’t think he’s lining his own pockets though because he’s not living in the Manoogian and still only taking $1 for salary. But Bing should dispel those rumors and just put all of his cards on the table. I think he would get more cooperation from more people if he did so.

  17. Jon
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    This story also sheds some light on what’s really going on with Detroit’s budget and Bing’s rhetoric.

    Report: Bing’s attempts to reduce Detroit budget deficit fall short
    http://detnews.com/article/20100422/METRO01/4220442/Report–Bing-s-attempts-to-reduce-Detroit-budget-deficit-fall-short

  18. Edward
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for taking the time to respond in such detail, Jon. It’ll likely take me some time to get through it all, but I will. And I do appreciate your taking the time.

  19. Meta
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Ron Williams on Alternet:

    After all the political rhetoric, all the corporate funded white papers and messed up mainstream media coverage, Detroit is the truth. Detroit is the end result of a global economic system unfettered by labor or environmental standards. The city is the deadly consequence of capital freely moving across the planet, forever in search of a lower common denominator of working conditions, pollution and corruption.

    Add an utter lack of vision (and too often integrity) on the part of the local business and political leadership and the result has been an urban implosion unmatched in scale and depth anywhere in the United States. The amount of suffering and heartbreak is so acute and so real that it can take your breath away.

    So does Detroit still matter? Or should we just bulldoze what is still standing and scatter the remaining residents across the country like the Bush administration did to the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Blame it on the post-industrial hurricane called global free market capitalism.

    Part of the answer lies in the city’s history. Detroit was the Silicon Valley of the industrial age with people starting automobile companies in their garages instead of tech companies. The world may not have defeated fascism and genocide without the “Arsenal of Democracy” running full tilt with countless women doing the heavy lifting. It was the place, more than any other, that gave real power to working men and women through collective bargaining. It was a crucible of Black pride and Black political power. And Detroit is birthplace to some of the best R&B, blues, jazz, rock & roll and hip hop the world has ever heard.

    DO NOT underestimate the capacity of this city to achieve great things.

    The rest of the article can be found here:
    http://www.alternet.org/story/146577/green_detroit%3A_why_the_city_is_ground_zero_for_the_sustainability_movement

  20. lorie thom
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    While I generally appreciate Ron Williams’ view; He ignores the reality that even IF the auto industry still had the economic strength it once had that money would NOT be in the City of Detroit and would not stop the implosion he so aptly describes. The automotive industry has had boom times in the past 40 years and that did not stop the implosion or even really ease it.

    Detroit leadership sold out neighborhoods (e.g. Poletown) to make way for auto factories that were never really that viable in the long term and now have those rotting hulks.

    The race hatred on both side of the black -v- white argument combined with incredible level of corruption in the city’s recent leadership (Mayors, City Councils, City Departments via permits and inspections, School Board…and on and on) ensures that money thrown at Detroit is very difficult to justify. Some say the corruption is a result of the hatred. That may be but doesn’t make it viable. While I don’t think of Bing as a saint, he is better than the thieving crooks that ran that city for generations. Mayor Archer as an exception.

    So what do you do with a city that continually elects crooks to such authority for so long based on race?

  21. Jon
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    “So what do you do with a city that continually elects crooks to such authority for so long based on race?”

    OK, let’s do away with the idea that big city corruption is an anomaly confined to the city of Detroit. Do you really think there is more corruption in Detroit than say Chicago or name any other major metropolis in the world? And yet Chicago is seen as a beacon of hope for the Midwest, and rightly so. Chicago is a great big city. The difference is the effectiveness in leadership, and not just political leadership. Largely, an area’s political leadership is a reflection of its business leadership. Political leaders take their cues (and too often their orders) from the region’s business class. Detroit and to a greater extent Michigan’s political leaders are a reflection of the failed thinking and culture of the domestic auto industry chieftans, its dominant industry. The leadership at Chicago, San Francisco, New York are all reflections of the far more diverse, innovative business cultures in those regions.

    I’m not excusing Detroit’s corruption. Kilpatrick, Conyers and the rest are getting off way too easily. I am saying corruption, as disgusting as it is, is not the determining factor in failure of a region. Sometimes it that their crooks are just better leaders than ours.

  22. Jon
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    More stellar rumblings and whatnot about the Bing administration:

    Three top officials out at DWSD

    “In one version of the story, Turner, Ellenwood and McCarty resigned for budget-related reasons – as in, they weren’t happy with some of the administration’s budget plans, particularly the use of DWSD funds to plug the city’s budget deficit. Detroit Uncovered says Turner resigned because she was overruled on a contract. You could note that Scenario A and Scenario B are not mutually exclusive.”

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/section/c?template=profile&uid=157308&plckPersonaPage=BlogViewPost&plckUserId=157308&plckPostId=Blog%3a157308Post%3a190c63df-45ca-40bd-b0ad-b3628b02c4c6&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckScript=personaScript&plckElementId=personaDest

  23. lorie thom
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Jon, I certainly see your point and I agree that corruption is not exclusive to Detroit. My point is the openness and the pervasiveness. Detoit has worse level than the others – it doesn’t run.

  24. Jon
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    More fun stuff from the Bing administration. Notice where one of the top guys who ran the Bing Group into the ground landed and for how much.

    Mayor’s shakeup brings in former aide at Bing Group
    http://detnews.com/article/20100423/METRO/4230414/Mayor-s-shakeup-brings-in-former-aide-at-Bing-Group#ixzz0lyjIFEqC

  25. Jon
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    “Detoit has worse level than the others”

    So you’re telling me the Chicago politics, the Daley machine and politics as a whole in Illinois don’t measure up to the openness and the pervasiveness of Detroit? How many of the last half a dozen Illinois governors go to jail? Did any of them not end up being indicted? This is not an anomaly.

  26. dragon
    Posted April 24, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
    Upon the pallid bust of Pallas just about my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
    And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
    Shall be lifted—nevermore!

  27. lorie thom
    Posted April 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    @Jon, I get what you are saying and yet… the answer to your question is yes, I believe the corruption in Detroit City Government in terms of say a ratio of corrupt -v- clean city employees and elected officials is better in the City Chicago. The corruption in the City of Detroit (Schools and City) is that dense that pervasive and common. Bing admitted as much in the interview.

  28. Jon
    Posted April 24, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    @lorie, Do you have anything that back up that assertion besides the words of the man who is negotiating with the city employees? I’ll bet you I can match indictment for indictment what goes on in Detroit with something similar going on in say Chicago or Baltimore or name your major metropolis.

  29. dp in ypsi
    Posted April 25, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    More goodies to add to the conversation:

    http://www.clickondetroit.com/flashpoint/index.html

    Today’s episode was quite interesting, I’m sure the complete show will be posted soon.

  30. dp in ypsi
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Reasonable commentary from Jack Lessenberry (4/26/10): http://jackshow.blogs.com/

  31. dp in ypsi
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    It would be wonderful to be a part of a great post-industrial migration.

    I have several friends from Maine and Vermont who were complaining about how boring and lacking in diversity their respective states are. Wouldn’t it be neat to coordinate a planned resettlement of several neighborhoods in the city?

    Kind of makes me wish I had a real estate license in Michigan so I could market to post-industrial urban pioneers. Do you think Americans still have the guts for this kind of raw adventurous risk-taking?

  32. Jon
    Posted April 29, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I think they have the guts for it, but only if there is more than adequate reward for them to take that chance. That is not overwhelmingly evident in Detroit right now. A large part of that void is the lack of political courage to pursue new policy ideas, such as an across the board property tax cut. Remember how Bing kept talking about how he wanted to downsize Detroit? How does that Public Enemy song go again?

    Bing staff backs off talk about downsizing Detroit
    Instead, focus is aimed at stabilizing neighborhoods
    http://www.freep.com/article/20100429/NEWS05/4290435/1001/NLETTER09/Bing-staff-backs-off-talk-about-downsizing-Detroit?source=nletter-news

  33. Mr. X
    Posted April 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m guessing you mean “Don’t Believe Hype” and not “Sophisticated Bitch”.

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