Thursday, January 1, 2015

Completed: Detroit City is the Place to Be

Dear Jenny,

Okay. I am officially one day late for completing my 2014 TBR postings, but hey -- it's our blog, so we make the rules, right?

One huge problem I had this year was actually writing about the books as I read them. I don't know why, but that happened to a full half of my books. Sooo... I finished this book in June and failed to write about it then. Ugh.

Just re-read my preview post (from February -- this was book 2.14!) (I was a mess in 2014, Jenny. A mess!) and was amused by the "party store" discussion all over again.

Onto the book...

This book purported to offer "solutions" to the problem of Detroit, but I gotta say... there wasn't much along those lines. After a strong "local flavor" start that I enjoyed, this book went in-depth into the history of Detroit and, by extension, Michigan. It's not this author's fault that I have read a lot of Detroit and Michigan history over the past two (nearly three!) years, but I must admit that I was a little bored during that part.

Then, we get to the hope/promise/solutions... and they're mostly the same ol' same ol' that I've seen going on around here. The artists are coming (which is cool, but let's face it -- this town needs more cabbage than the DIY'ers are going to bring in.) (And I'm a DIY'er!) And the farmers... again, super cool. And with 139 square miles and less than 700k residents within the city limits, there is plenty of space for farming. But... I gotta repeat myself with the money problem there. I mean, in a utopian world, the city of Detroit could actually grow enough food to support itself. But let's be realistic -- it's always going to be easier for a person scraping by and working two jobs to stop at McDonald's for dinner than it is for them to tend, grow, and harvest their own produce (which they then have to prepare and cook!)

Flipping through my bookmarks in this book, I am basically struck by this: It's bad news after bad news:
  • High school graduation rate in Detroit proper is 25% (!!!) [114] The DPS says that that number does not account for students who "who leave the district for charter schools, other school districts or who move out of the area." Hrm... that still doesn't make it sound great, people.
  • A popular slogan introduced a few years back was, "Outsource to Detroit." From the book: "Detroit's working class had now been so thoroughly pummeled that the city was grateful to be considered competitive with the Third World. This passed for good news in 2010." [174] Oof.
  • Aaand... The high rise complex in the movie New Jack City is based on a real location in Detroit [206] Oh, greeeeeat.
And that goes on and on. In a nutshell, Detroit is in the shitter. The actual city of Detroit, that is -- it's surrounded by affluent suburbs, of course... that's a different story.

As I told you when I saw you, this book introduced me to the only truly imaginative sentiment proposed for this city, which has also been soundly and thoroughly rejected by every Detroit-area citizen I have even tried to float it by in the past 6 months. Seriously, Jenny, I can barely finish the sentence without someone saying, "That will never happen." or "It wouldn't work -- no one would go for that." Even if I precede the statement with my own disclaimer of "I know this could never possibly happen here, but I thought this was an interesting idea..." People will not even entertain it, Jennifer. They won't hold it in their minds for a single, red-hot second. I've really want to discuss this concept with someone, but I'll tell ya right now -- it won't be with a Detroit area resident.

So... here it is:

If all of the suburbs of Detroit were combined under the "Detroit" umbrella (aka "Greater Detroitopolis" [102]), this would change everything. While Detroit proper only has 700k citizens, the 'burbs have a total of 3.7 million people, which, if combined into one city, would make it the 3rd most populous city in the US. Not only that, but there are suburbs of Detroit are that are some of the wealthiest areas of the country. Soooo... if the rich and the poor pooled all of our resources and population... well, you see why this idea cannot even get a nod, of course. I mean, we're talking socialism here and no one wants to buy into that business. Well... at least... the "haves" certainly do not.

And this article that you directed me to (charmingly [and appropriately] titled, "Drop Dead, Detroit!") perfectly illustrates that mentality.

Other than that idea, which I really do find novel (even if I am not allowed to talk about it within the confines of the Metro Detroit area... heh) this book didn't really bring a lot of information to the table that I had not heard/read before. It's a good primer for someone who has no idea what is happening in Detroit and I did enjoy the writing, but I feel like it was somehow over-sold as a cure for what ails us.

Aaand... another post done! (Two more...)


1 comment:

  1. K,

    It's funny, because I keep thinking a lot our conversation about Detroit annexing the surrounding 'burbs. So even though your Detroit-area people won't entertain it, I found it to be a super interesting discussion. I'm going to ask my brother if he has any books to recommend to you about this topic. Lots of cities do it, but they have to have the political power and might to pull it off; in this case, the power dynamic is reversed, with the suburbs holding all the cards. It's fascinating!

    This is definitely a book I'm glad we talked about, not just that I read about here.