Will The Last Person To Leave Detroit Please Turn The Light Off?

We have been following the political and economic demise of Detroit for years. Its leading officials from city council members to the former mayor to judges to lawyers in the city have been the source of endless scandals. They have coupled a shrinking economy with expanding levels of corruption and cronyism. Now, the city is planning to simply turn off half of the street lights to try to force citizens into a small living area — leaving much of the city abandoned and dark. We previously saw how the city’s fire chief suggested just let many buildings burn down to save the cost of firefighting.

Detroit covers 139 square miles but holds 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950. Some 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city does not have the money to fix them. The solution is to have citizens effectively fall back into a small enclave of living area — a perfect symbol of a city that is de-evolving back in time.

Other cities have decided to turn off some street lights, but not to this extent. This may be the best option in the short term, but Detroit has been in a free fall for decades. While other cities lost key industry, Detroit has long lacked competent leadership to try to lure people back into the city. The council did little to stop the gradual flight of both whites and affluent families to the suburbs. Politically, the city council and mayor were content with maintaining their political bases as the city’s economy fell and crime rose. Now the place looks like a sequel location to Escape from New York.

It is truly shocking and sad. Having grown up in Chicago, I remember Detroit when it was a thriving city. It was one of the world’s great cities. It is a wonderful location near the Canadian border and has some beautiful areas. I love the history surrounding the city. For that reason, I am very angry over its demise and frankly blame a long line of shockingly bad politicians. It is not that any politician could stop the economic slide due to the decline of the auto industry, but the Detroit leadership has lurched from one criminal investigation to another over the years. It now stands as a cautionary tale for all cities, particularly in losing their tax base and diversity in population. Many black and white families moved out of Detroit to avoid rising taxes and crime rate in what became a downward spiral for the city. That reduces jobs in the city and led to more people fleeing the city (in addition to the loss of auto jobs). With whole areas of the city now being abandoned, it is hard to see how the city can recover significantly in the near future. With much of the city being pushed into darkness and whole areas effectively a

A truly sad symbolic moment.

Source: MSN

46 thoughts on “Will The Last Person To Leave Detroit Please Turn The Light Off?”

  1. While you post I sleep. Anyway…..

    Just goes to show that private can do no wrong. Right?
    And some are too big to fail, which their dogma says they should be allowed to do. Which translates into Omama couldn’t afford for them to do so. Political fallout.

    Now the interesting questions: Will they produce a competitive product? Will it make a difference?

    And here’s straight question: Are there any black dominatied cities worth living in, not because of them, but because the way they were brought down by among other factors racial prejudice, etc.???

  2. mayfly is right

    i worked at gm dealerships in the late 70’s and early 80’s. it seemed to me the auto companies at the time were pissed at being told to cut emissions and raise mileage by the government right after removing TEL’s from gasoline. they were designed to be cheep and fall apart so the auto companies could blame government regs.

    unfortunately for them the japanese stepped in and built cars that worked well and met emission and mileage standards.

    the big three came very close to engineering themselves out of the market.

  3. Mayfly
    I did not make any points and merely asked questions.

    But if I understand you, it sounds as though the unions stood idly by while the jobs disappeared or went to non-union workers. But, I confess, I don’t believe that there was no way for them to be heard had they made offers of help. (Certainly strikes have worked to achieve some goals.) More income is better, but if too many jobs were moved to non-union factories in other states, that results in less income (than accepting lower wages would have yielded.)

  4. Mayfly,

    It is refreshing to see someone from the industry acknowledge both that quality is first and foremost a design issue and recognize that it was Detroit’s Pollyanna-ish refusal to recognize the true nature of the threat from Japanese competition that drove the nose dive of the American automobile industry. Thank you for both of your insightful comments.

  5. Mahtso

    Respectfully, and to your first point, unions are NOT responsible for quality! That’s a design issue, not an assembly issue [leaving aside industrial sabotage which is a vanishingly small phenomenon occasioned mostly by alcohol–trust me on this one]. The unions built exactly the vehicles called for–and which BRON dissed so knowledgeably (well done, Bron, even I had forgotten those catastrophes of automobile ingenuity). There is no mechanism in union-management relations in the U.S., even today (with only a very few exceptions) for unions to provide input on issues of operational direction, oversight and control.
    To your second point of “union lethargy”. Since no one in management asked them for help and there was no way for them to be heard on their offers of help…well, no… they weren’t lethargic.
    Your third point: did their higher wages impede Detroit’s recovery? Here’s an economics thought experiment: consider a distressed city; would it be better or worse for that city that a significant part of its population had more or less disposable income? If you chose more, you are correct.

  6. Gene, ‘tone, it’s tricky. I saw it as a bit hyperbolic but not untrue in the arc of my life as in, ‘that’s been going on forever’.

  7. I lived and worked in and for the City of Detroit. I was born there and my Mother was also born there, she too worked for the City.
    Back in the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and seventies Detroit had White Mayor’s and every one of the department heads where all white. The City grew and services were great. I remember the streets were swept at least 4 times a year, trash/garbage was picked up twice a week, when you took the bus it was only a 30 second wait (on main roads).
    Now the Mayor’s have been black sense Coleman A. Young and the dept. heads are all black and part of the “Cronies” that “Buy” their titles.
    The city now has the streets swept maybe once a year, garbage maybe picked up on your day, the bus just might get you to work an hour or two late.
    Coleman stole money hand over fist and Kwami was a thief that got caught.
    If you worked for the city you had to live in the city unless you worked for D.D.O.T or the water board. They had so many that didn’t live in the city they ended up changing the rules just so certin folks wouldn’t get fired.
    Glad I was able to get the heck out of “Dodge” when I did. I wished I could have done it sooner but……..I did have a job to do and I did what I could do when I was there.

  8. frankly,
    you are right. The destruction initiated by the Reagan administration continues to this day.
    I agree that the comment by Roger was a bit nasty. But you are also right that there have been worse ones.

  9. LK,

    Consider the tone as well as the fact. Sure, white flight helped create the suburbs in many cities, but “cotton fields”? Really? The Civil War was many years before the industrialization of Detroit. Also, as you note, it’s a gross oversimplification of the cause for Detroit’s decline. I don’t think the original statement was (as Mel Brooks might say) “The Sheriff’s a nigger!” blatantly racist, but it certainly read as having a racist overtone to me. I even stipulated it wasn’t the most racist thing ever posted here because, let’s face it, over time there have been some really off the wall posts here.

  10. JC and Gene, While I consider white-flight to the suburbs one of the things that helped with St. Louis’ decline, even if not the only thing, I don’t see Roger’s comment as racist. It was a fact in St. Louis. People talked about moving to the suburbs to not have to live in a neighborhood that was, or threatened to become, integrated. Many people that could afford it did so on the basis that black people wouldn’t be able to afford the same move. In St. Louis the County is not part of the city tax base, there are dozens of little township bedroom communities each with their own taxes and government. Some of them became part of an incorporated St. Louis County and some are part of a non-incorporated St. Louis County.

    A lot, A LOT of money left the city (tax base) for the suburbs and Illinois in the 60’s and 70’s simply due to integration. I was there, I saw it. Roger isn’t that far off base. In St. Louis it took laws being passed to keep Realtors from “steering” and banks from “redlining” to maintain discrimination.

  11. “They will soon have their own (more actually) gated islands, fully guarded. And you and I won’t be there.”
    idealist, this may not be a bAd thing. Those gated communities are as much a prison as a haven. A good apocalyptic read is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It is, like Jules Verne, looking more and more prophetic as time goes on.

  12. Got news for all except Woosty and Barkin’.

    You missed the apocalypse. The post-apocalyptic world is emerging before your eyes. And you stand there with your shovels and don’t understand that you are countering invisible social dinosaurs who will destroy the old.
    But who needs it. This is progress, at least they say so.

    Fumbel away. The system is broken. The levers are broken too. Only the attachment to corporatism and the holy dollar keeps us floating. I said us, not the rich.
    They will soon have their own (more actually) gated islands, fully guarded. And you and I won’t be there.

  13. JCTheBigTree,

    Worse comments than that have been made in the past, but yep, that reads as a racist comment on Roger’s part without doubt.

  14. I can accept Mayfly’s assertions about the decline of the auto industry, but what she does not address is: (1) were the unions doing anything to improve quality; (2) were the unions also lethargic in their approach; and, perhaps more to the point of this post (3) did the union wages impede a recovery in Detroit (one might also ask about the union work rules as 3′).

  15. “When the great migration of blacks moved from the cotton fields of the south and moved up north to where there were plenty of job opportunities and good wages in Detroit, the whites started moving out. From that era on,Detroit was starting decline.”

    @Roger Gunderson… Maybe I’m reading this post wrong, but if I’m not, it has to be the most racist thing I’ve read on Turley’s blog comments. I haven’t read anything anywhere near this bad on here.

  16. Bron, I can only go by what I have seen in my own city and a couple of others where I noticed it (being white I never have to give a thought to how race affects the world unless I feel like it)

    Of the 4 major highway projects in my cities 2 went straight through the heart of black neighborhoods – I was old enough to remember one being called “urban renewal”. One went entirely through rural and sparsely populated suburban areas, few people uprooted most if not all white. And one went through an old immigrant neighborhood taking about equal amounts of black and poor white homes.

    The couple of cities where I have noticed neighborhoods with highway construction they were both predominant black.

  17. @bron

    Yes, more or less.

    Some white neighborhoods were razed too, but these tended to be ethnic minorities (like Italians). I’m not saying that the interstates were devised as a means to target black neighborhoods, but I certainly think that, when the interstates were being planned in the 1950’s, especially given that many facilities were still segregated and that the civil rights movement had not yet produced the Civil Rights Act, public officials had few qualms about planning routes that affected black neighborhoods disproportionately, and that these planners gave little thought to what these decisions would do to the people who were affected. I think a certain conception of “progress” played a part too, but I think certain aspects of interstate planning and most aspects of planned neglect were essentially racist policies that have contributed to structural inequality in subsequent decades.

Comments are closed.