Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At Least We're Not Detroit

In keeping with videos on the failure of major cities that are sufficiently and sadly humorous to make it into Michael Moore's new movie,

Bob Herbert sees the pain behind the humor, commenting on Conan O'Brien's jokes about Newark.
Conan was just trying to be funny, but the reality behind his late-night humor is horrifying. In Detroit, the median sale price of a house has hovered around $8,000. Seventy percent of all murders in the Motor City go unsolved. Joblessness is off the charts. The school system is a catastrophe.

* * *

The inner cities have been in a recession for decades. They’re in a depression now. Myriad issues desperately need to be addressed: employment, education, the foreclosure crisis, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, health care (including mental health treatment and counseling), child care for working parents and on and on and on.
Sure, but there are two problems: We're not going to pour the money into the cities that it would take to fix these problems and, even if we were, there's cause to question whether that would be enough. I'm perfectly prepared to take Herbert up on his challenge to "think more seriously about what’s really going on in cities like Newark", but the answers I have (clearing out the dead buildings, consolidating cities like Detroit into areas they can afford to govern, etc.) don't really turn things around - they just make the status quo more sustainable.


  1. ". . but the answers I have (clearing out the dead buildings, consolidating cities like Detroit into areas they can afford to govern, etc.) don't really turn things around - they just make the status quo more sustainable."

    . . .and (although I know this wasn't your intent) sound a little like the old drivel about building a wall around them . . . or under our new Iraqi model, through them to make them more governable.


  2. The Iraqi model? We appropriate some of the best territory in the city, encompassing the Presidential Palace... er, Manoogian Mansion... and declare it an autonomous Green Zone, and build concrete walls that partition the city to separate various... 'factions'? And then we do something really clever, like appointing L. Brooks Patterson as special envoy, and... what could possibly go wrong?

    You remind me of the Dan Okrent article on Detroit - how when he was a boy there was literally a wall between some Detroit neighborhoods (although apparently nobody on Okrent's side realized that it was causing resentment on the other side.) Although we're supposed to believe that Okrent's neighbors were shocked (shocked, I tell you) by the Detroit riots, perhaps things like that wall should have been a clue? Ain't hindsight grand:

    "Most of us thought Detroit was pretty wonderful back in the '50s and early '60s, its mighty industrial engine humming in top gear, filling America's roads with the nation's signifying product and the city's houses and streets with nearly 2 million people. Of course, if you were black, it was substantially less wonderful, its neighborhoods as segregated as any in America. On the northwest side, not far from where I grew up, a homebuilder had in the 1940s erected a six-foot-high concrete wall, nearly half a mile long, to separate his development from an adjacent black neighborhood. Still, white Detroit believed that the riots that ravaged Los Angeles in 1965 and a number of other cities the following summer would never burn across our town. Black people in Detroit, enlightened whites believed, had jobs and homes, and even if those homes were on the other side of an apartheid wall, their owners had a stake in the city."

  3. Jokes about Iraq and Grosse Pointe aside - would your consolidation plan involve classic condemnation (where we pay them the going rate for their homes, about 8K in Detroit) or would it set-up some kind of deal where they can take the 8K or get moved into a "comparable" home "inside" the "consolidated" zone?

    Would the city/State have the authority to do this under existing law or would a new law need to be passed?


  4. With the Michigan constitutional amendment limiting eminent domain.... I hate to speculate as to what would be involved. I expect we would be starting with 125% of market value, or a $10-$12,000 home in a different neighborhood.

  5. Hmmm it would cost a small fortune to fund "worth while" change and it just happens that G-S just paid out 20 billion dollars in bonuses because of what a good job their managment has done of raping the economy and tax payers . . . it's probably a good thing for them that we are a nation of laws and we only talk about killing and eating the rich . . .


  6. Take a look at a Detroit "Green Zone"



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