Politics & Prejudices
How to save Detroit
Bing's address, hard realities and a modest proposal
Published: March 2, 2011
Detroit hasn't, we should note, asked for an emergency financial manager, or given any indication that it might. But I can't help thinking of a conversation I had with Joe Harris a few years ago. He was the city's auditor general from 1995-2005.
He told me that sooner or later, it was inevitable. Detroit could delay things a bit with smart management, perhaps. But the city no longer had the resources to pull itself out of this.
Harris, incidentally, is now EFM in Benton Harbor; and may have been given that job as a sort of audition for the really big one to come. But there is a way to avoid all that.
The only way that makes sense. Former mayor of Albuquerque David Rusk noted years ago in his classic little book Cities Without Suburbs that the only cities that do well are "elastic cities," that can keep expanding their territory. Luckiest of all are those city-county units that have thriving metropolitan governments — Nashville, for example. Miami, Indianapolis. Imagine that happening here.
Imagine a Detroit that consisted of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The Legislature could create such a super city. What's more, it should. All these places are really Detroit.
Proud Detroiters and selfish suburbanites would resist this, of course. But there really is no other way to create a city that works, that would have the money to educate kids properly and do the sort of things necessary to turn the city around.
Will this happen? Not right away, and maybe not for many years. But until Detroit is a truly functioning city again, there's no way Michigan can ever be rich and great again.
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