Politics & Prejudices
Coming off the island
While Michigan's political leaders meet at Mackinac, task force releases report on Detroit blight.
Published: June 2, 2014
Speaking enthusiastically, flipping through a well-crafted PowerPoint show, Duggan riveted his audience with how he’s been selling vacant lots to homeowners who agree to keep them up.
Houses are being sold; red tape cut, absentee landlords sued. The mayor said new streetlights were going in at a rate of 500 a week.
Possibly most encouraging was his announcement of a summer job program for 5,000 high school students next summer. Duggan said the city would share the costs of paying the kids with those companies who make an effort to hire them.
That could be the vast game-changer Detroit needs, Cockrel said afterward. “Tearing down blighted buildings isn’t enough when you have people whose lives are blighted inside.”
There are folks whose families have been on welfare for three and four generations, who have minimal education, with no tradition of work or any idea how to find it. Saving them may be hard.
Saving the next generation is essential. Detroit hasn’t yet been fixed. The bankruptcy settlement is still far from a sure thing.
Yet suddenly, with the city down and out, we’re seeing a rare new willingness to admit the old ways aren’t working.
This is an exciting and scary time — maybe the city’s only chance to turn things around. Detroit is still losing people.
Nobody comes here for the schools, or safe streets.
Yet things are getting better. There’s a chance of reversing course, for the first time since the flight to the suburbs began.
Detroit has a chance. If we’re strong enough to take it.
Bizarre irony: The United States of America spent well over a $1 trillion on our decades-long Iraq war, which works out to more than $2 billion a week. For that, we bought more than 100,000 corpses, ours and theirs.
A visitor from Mars might think it would make far more sense for Washington to give Detroit one week’s worth of Iraq spending, to clean up our blight and give us a fresh start.
However, nobody, not even U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, would dream of asking the Obama administration to do that.
Thank God we’re too sophisticated to think of such a thing.
> Email Jack Lessenberry