Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another Comment

Here's another comment I was unable to post at Next City, in response to this piece:

In this nice detatched discussion you're missing a couple big elephants in the room.

First is the area's racial polarization. It was one of the causes of the city's problems to begin with. It's a big reason why we have a 90% black core city and a ring of affluent burbs which are close to 90% white. It's why we have alternate downtowns like Royal Oak, when there's only one real downtown. "Rightsizing" means compressing not just the core city, but the widely scattered, inefficient region. I'd argue that the racial problem remains THE key issue for the city, as it affects all political moves and maneuvers, the tug-of-war between city and state, and so on.

The second elephant in the room is the city's history. Not just the legacy of the auto industry, which is impossible to ignore, but also the city's labor history. Are those throwing out the city's past also throwing out that part of it? Are they siding with Governor Snyder in saying that the old ways of operating are obsolete? Isn't that the inevitable conclusion when you scorn and dismiss the past?
These are questions I haven't seen discussed here-- yet for those living in this town they affect everything.

(Let me add to this, that I find the "rightsizing" idea absurd. Moving relevant pieces around within the city's boundaries, which can't be done. Can you move Palmer Park and Indian Village and University of Detroit next to downtown? Of course not. Why would you want to? The only real solution is to make Detroit an attractive place to move to-- and then get the population back. From hyper-expensive places like New York City, and from Detroit's own many suburbs and exurbs. The infrastructure is here. It doesn't need to be built. It only needs to be utilized, by the farsighted.
Brady, I invite you to visit Detroit some weekend. Drive here and we'll take a tour of the city, downtown and exurbs, so you can see the realities.)

I also suggest reading this rant I posted shortly after moving back here, "Shrinking Detroit?":

Monday, January 21, 2013

Intellectual Arrogance

Here's a response I tried to post as a comment to this article re Detroit:

But my comment wouldn't take. Here it is:

Reason why compressing the city can't work: because the viable parts of the city are spread out. They're not in one place. There are large gaps between, say, downtown and Midtown. You can't compress/downsize/"rightsize" unless you find a way to physically move these sections together. Then move Corktown next to them. This is physically impossible. What you can do is fill in the gaps. The best way is probably to forget tops-down imposed solutions and allow market forces to work. Right now land is cheap. Empty downtown office buildings are cheap. Everything can be had cheap. I live downtown because the rent is cheap. Sharp developers are buying up the land and beginning to develop it. The most valuable spots are the gaps. I live in a building filled with long-time residents, but also many of the city's art hustlers. Artists are beginning to trickle into town, because the town has atmosphere, it has authenticity, it has street cred, and it's very cheap to live here. It's also a very tough place to stay. I'd rather be in Philly. But this place has unbelievable potential for growth, like no city in America. Those moving in are pioneers. Business will take care of itself. Artists are always first, in creating any scene. Even a city.

(You'd learn more about Detroit in a week staying here than ten years spent reading about it online. There's no substitute for real-life experience.)