Thursday, February 25, 2010
Detroit in the News
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Michigan Central Station - built 1913, closed 1988
Mayor Dave Bing, elected last year in the wake of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's contretemps last year, has proposed a novel way of trying to stave off the death of Detroit. Like a surgeon removing gangrenous flesh, Bing plans to encourage people still living in desolate neighborhoods to relocate to ones that stand a chance of survival.
Immediately I'm saddened by the plan but I'm also realistic enough to recognize its logic and potential. According to the city's survey of itself 1 out of 3 lots is abandoned or empty. The population's fallen from a 1950 high of 1.8 million to just over 900 thousand today. At the same time the total Detroit metro region has risen from 3.7 million to 5.4 million.
The disaster that is Detroit rests at many peoples' feet; the white people who fled, the auto industry that failed to make cars that could compete with Japan's, the unions that bled the auto companies, and the people left behind who elected incompetents and crooks in desperate hope of staving off their city's destruction. I'd add the federal government but what was it supposed to do - force people to remain in a burning and collapsing city or just pour billions down a municipal rathole?
So sadly, I commend Mayor Bing for coming up with a novel way to try and save his home city. Cities across the country have been losing people for years to the suburbs and beyond. There's nothing that could have prevented the reduction of Detroit in the face of that and the changing global economy. But still, Detroit's slow death hasn't been a natural one but an abetted one.