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A Few Thoughts On The Mayor's Q&A

Spent the weekend out of town so I nearly missed Sunday's interview with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing in the Detroit Free Press. It was worth catching up on and even encouraging in some places (although I think the man has enough on his plate without also taking on control of the schools).

My favorite part was this nugget about right-sizing Detroit:

Absolutely, we have to downsize. The land banking authority will enable us to get the data we need to make the decisions. There are areas in the city that are totally depopulated. For those people who are there, it's going to be a job trying to persuade them to move. But that has to happen. We can't afford to continue to give them the services they need.

I think the mayor is thinking right on this one, of course, and on his support for urban farming. Detroit has to handle its land issues more responsibly and with a clearer vision toward the future. I also agree that, when it comes to moving some people, it's going to be "a job." From Black Bottom to Corktown, municipal land management plans have often conflicted with ideas about homeowners rights in Detroit, and it will be interesting to see how the city handles relocating even those in some of the most desolate neighborhoods.

I guess it's good too that the mayor is announcing right off that the city is ready to "persuade" folks to relocate. I hope there'll be something like real incentives, "carrots," for residents to leave their homes, especially since "sticks" like eminent domain can turn things ugly. Of course, I'm sure he's also hoping that telling you straight out that the city doesn't really have the wherewithal to serve the three houses on your block where 25 others once stood might be incentive enough.

I guess the only part that I didn't think was that great was the last portion, where I thought he tip-toed around Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's shots at the city:

He, in the past, has been flippant and said some things that Detroiters thought were negative and derogatory to our city. I know him differently, and I have the ability to go to him, one-on-one, and have a conversation.

Mmm...No. It's not that Detroiters "thought" some things he said were negative and derogatory. It's that some things L. Brooks Patterson said were negative and derogatory (and, yes, flippant). You certainly don't have to hate the man for it, but cracks about owning Buicks vis a vis other human beings isn't a good look. And I'd like to think the CEO of Detroit can acknowledge that as straightforwardly as he can address other very real local issues as, say, the need for greater civic responsibility among Detroit residents.

Lastly, I suppose I get why contemporary Detroit mayors make a big deal about being able to "go to" suburban leaders, but do they really get much mileage out of that anymore -- on any side of 8 Mile Road? Whether it was Coleman or Kwame, haven't they all had access? And they've all crowed about it in one way or another -- even when they've totally misused it. I mean, I do appreciate the bridge building potential Bing holds out. The mayor certainly should be extending a hand to other metro Detroit leaders, irrespective of party affiliation. But since bridges run two ways, I also look forward to the day when many more political figures like Patterson are boasting about their ability to "go to" the mayor of Detroit for productive dialogue, too.

I don't want to sound more critical of the interview than I really am. Overall, I still thought it was a good read...and that the mayor showed some real foresight. It'll be very interesting to see how his right-sizing efforts unfold next year and beyond because, other than crime and schools, I can't think of anything more pressing.

Good to be back...Can't wait to hear you tell me your thoughts about the interview, land management issues, city/suburban political dynamics or whatever else. What'd you take away from it? Were you encouraged or not?

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  • 1

    I enjoyed it also, Darrell.
    I get the feeling it's because he's a sports hero, but Bing seems to get more respect and we believe in him a bit more than maybe he's earned to this point... but I'm all for positivity with a leader versus guilty until prove innocent.
    You hit the nail on the head w/ regards to right sizing Detroit and I've felt for a long time that it's something Detroit is going to be forced to do to in order to survive. Without sounding cold hearted, people in those areas do not have an inalienable right to services. The way I see it, if your area does not pay for those services in tax dollars, why are we still doing it? It'd even be different if we could reallocate excess dollars from another area to do so, but with a 250 million dollar deficit... that ain't happenin.
    Enjoyed the coverage, thanks a lot.

  • 2

    The mayor is right, urban Agriculture must happen. The emptiest neighborhoods like Brightmoor are prime candidates. So let's not leave the empty burned out houses. let's hire Detroiters to tear them down and prep the land for small scale vegetable, fruit, mushrooms, chicken, etc market farmers. We are operating a youth market garden on ONE city lot and made $2700 this year which was distributed among the youth as profit sharing. Multiply that with 100,000 empty lots and do the math: $2,700,000,000 ?? wow is that right? And all that fresh food? And all that money spend in the local economy? Whjat are we waiting for?

  • 3

    I appreciated some of the Mayor's interview on turning Detroit around, but I have mixed feelings about the rightsizing ideas floated by the contributors.
    Instead of completely turning the city's back on some of the more "desolate" neighborhoods of Detroit, why not take the steps that would encourage some badly needed residential redevelopment. It would begin to rebuild the population one step at a time, but you wouldn't completely lose decent space, at the cost of growing some carrots, of course. Not that its such a bad idea, it's just that we know folks who grew up in those neighborhoods and are still holding on, even though there's only 5 houses on the block being lived in. But the land and historical significance should matter.
    Then again, on the other hand, unless you address the economic crisis spurred on by a reliance on one industry which has produced a near lawless, terror- crime filled town, then how can you begin to attract the investment it would require to redevelop such land? And also reivigorate the economy? The most eye-opening piece in Sunday's Free Press was the one detailing the correlation between the dismal economy and crime patterns in Detroit and why its efforts to lower crime wil always be haunted by the rigid economic realities facing Detroit. 33% of city residents are at the poverty level? When people I have known all my life are packing up and moving to West Bloomfield or Grosse Pointe, or, worse, bunkering in and getting CCW permits to strap up in order to deal with any potential bodily threats to them or their families, the crime problem to me, should be priority one. We can get green when the city makes it safer to be green.
    How the Mayor and Chief continue to tackle this problem is of paramount importance to the city in its efforts to restore whatever civic life it once had and so desperately needs now. The Mayor is right when he said that turning Detroit around is a twenty-year undertaking. Who's going to be around to see it at this rate?

    • 3.1

      You are 'right on'......!

      Detroit is a CITY - and any dream that does not seek to realize its development potential as such - and turn it into a Big Green Coop Farm (my terminology) is both myopic and unworkable...

      Sounds like some of my 70's memories have escaped from their cranial tomb.. like 'groovy, man...' or more like Viet Nam - where they "had to destroy the village in order to save the village..." Forced relocations of those Urbanites choosing to remain in their homes and impede the Agrarian March to peace, brotherhood, and cooperative solidarity? Welcome to Detroitvladistock?

  • 4

    All I can say about the Mayor's interview is Thank God he's in there and willing to make the tough choices and decisions that need to be made to get Detroit moving. Hopefully he can lead the way to getting this once great city off dead center and start the rebuilding process. We've been down far too long.

    I agree that just because people live in many otherwise long abandoned neighborhoods does not mean that they have inalienable rights to stay there if they can't pay their way. In this economy, unfortunately, the rest of us can't pay it for them, either. It may be tough to move them out, but it's got to be done and it's got to start soon.

    If we don't get started now, we're finished.

  • 5

    Mayor Bing is the best thing to happen to SE MI in decades. He brings amazing foresight and vigor to the office that one may not have expected. He is making responsible and necessary decisions to improve the city. The economy, schools, and urban planning are just what the city needs to improve its two largest problems crime and racism/segregation.

    As a recent graduate I'll be looking to buy a house in a few years and would love for the city to have improved so that I could confidently purchase a home in Detroit without having to go to the suburbs for groceries, needing a CCW, or suffering from limited government services and high cost of living.

    GO BING!

  • 6

    Actually "going to the suburbs for groceries" is a long standing myth that hasn't been true in Detroit for awhile.

    There are many low cost, healthy options for groceries in the city. Sure there's no Meijer, but there are plenty of other options. HoneyBee's and Randazzo's are just a couple that come to mind.

  • 7

    Well I hope that there will be cooperation with all the departments of the city government to make a difference with the city of Detroit.

  • 8

    hope is in the air, and change is in the way, good luck.

    Appreciating Fears

    Have a Nice Weekend!

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