Friday, January 07, 2011

[Detroit] Glimmer in Detroit

Glimmer in Detroit: If you have kept up on my commentaries about Detroit over the years (click the Detroit tag over to the right), you may have come away with the idea that I am a very pessimistic person. Not really. I am broadly optimistic, but specifically pessimistic. This jibes with my experience in life. There are many more failures than successes. This is a simple result of the fact that it takes numerous failures at anything before you succeed. Which is to say, statistically speaking, you will probably fail.

With respect to Detroit, they really have had made only one attempt to make the place livable and it has lasted 50 years. That attempt has consisted of essentially bribing whoever they can to stay or move into the city, and to label anyone who points out the problem with that nothing but a hatefully hating hater. Needless to say, as a continuing strategy, it hasn't turned out terribly well. So in my model of "many failures-one success" they have been on their first failure for half a century.

Now it appears that they have gone finally getting on to the next attempt. The impetus here is Mayor Dave Bing -- who I will happily go on record about: he is better than the city deserves -- and his plans to drastically downsize the city to make it remotely workable again.

Let me attempt to paraphrase Bing's thinking. The policies and stewardship of the city have been a disaster. Civilized life has become so tenuous that any drastic change is doomed to failure because it simply cannot be executed in a reliable manner. Whatever programs and policies the city administration could come up with wouldn't really matter because there is no conduit for implementing them. Key example: What good are anti-crime policies if police cannot cover the ground needed to enforce them? What needs to be done is to, quite literally, downsize and restructure the city. The plan for this and some of the challenges are especially well described in a Time magazine article, and more succinctly over at the Wall Street Journal.

It seems to me a reasonable plan of action. It's certainly worth a try, which is more that can be said for the bribe-and-jive tactics of mayors like Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick. Of course it means doing things like displacing widely scattered people -- literally removing them from their homes and relocating them -- which has already caused self-styled "community activists" to cry "Oppression!" I guess the worst that comes out of it is we will have tangible proof of whether I am right or wrong about the people not deserving Dave Bing.

For a couple more recent takes on Detroit see:As for me, I have a tiny glimmer of hope for the city of my birth, although it remains almost completely shrouded in the blackest pessimism. And I have an open mind about making 2011 the year I returned to Detroit, for the first time in at least a decade. Maybe for the Tour de Troit bike ride if they hold it again. (Notice that the Detroit Police require them to keep the route a secret. Like they say downtown, Welcome to the big D.)