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Root Cause Analysis Of Detroit’s Problems Leads to the Following Growth Principles


Detroit will finally have to face her problems that have been endemic to the city for the past century. if Detroit continues to deny, or worse to defiantly continue her stalemate of opposing political philosophies, the city will finally pay for its stubbornness by imploding into a smaller footprint. The remaining lands will either return to their historical township designation or they will be absorbed in part by surrounding cities. The absence of a viable solution will create a dramatic end to this once vibrant city’s history. The vultures will descend on Detroit’s assets in the aftermath to divvy up what could otherwise have been the basis of Detroit prospering once again.

Why is it that Detroit’s problems have grown for the past 60 years without correction? Many talented people have strategized and struggled to reverse the city’s declining trend. Yet, the city is finally in severe crisis, and is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It turns out that some of Detroit’s largest problems, which absolutely must be solved to save the city, are actually symptoms of other “root” problems, which have gone unchecked for 60 years. Until we expose these root causes, we cannot hope to find viable solutions that will turn around Detroit’s plight. And once exposed, Detroit’s political, business and civic leadership must finally commit to implementing system-wide solutions that up to now they have ignored.

We know the problems that Detroit is experiencing. Yet leaders have fruitlessly spent billions of dollars on solutions that have not reversed them. If money and effort are spent on solutions that do not address the problems that are the root of all remaining problems, then their efforts are in vain, for the root will then continue to nourish its branches of destruction, and Detroit will persist in continuing its decline.

What are the root causes of Detroit’s problems? Let’s list symptomatic problems first and then peel the onion deeper and deeper until we reach some root causes:

Symptomatic Problems:

A. Detroit Citizens are leaving the city in epidemic proportions, creating a hollowed out city.

Symptomatic Causes:

No jobs
High crime
Poor Schools
Lack of city services
Lack of livability qualities

B. Detroit Government cannot afford to provide the City Services that a city government is required to provide and will not be able to sustain itself without drastic changes.

Symptomatic Causes:

Smaller population to tax
Fewer businesses to tax
Decreased property values
Poor collection of taxes that are owed

C. The citizens that remain in Detroit are forced to live in what Forbes magazine calls the “most miserable city in America”

Symptomatic Causes:

Terrorized by crime
Live in blighted neighborhoods
Have low paying jobs or no jobs
Send children to schools that don’t educate them
Are denied basic city services
Wait too long for emergency services
Lack decent transportation to city amenities
Live in obsolete housing

Now, each of these symptomatic causes only scratches the surface of describing the cause of Detroit’s problems, and each symptomatic cause has more deeply rooted causes. For instance, one symptomatic reason people are moving out of Detroit is because there are no jobs. Certainly the trend started with the loss of auto and armament jobs but many more jobs have left since. Why?

• Some jobs leave Detroit to follow people that are leaving
• Some jobs are eliminated as businesses such as national grocery store chains refuse to
cater to the distillation of remaining citizens.
• Some business decry the lack of City services
• Others leave because of high taxes
• Some leave to find educated potential employees
• Other businesses are uprooted because their owners are unhappy with Detroit’s

Yet even these more deeply rooted causes are symptomatic of even deeper causes:

• Grocery stores claim that a lack of population density, higher crime rates, and a lack of
qualified employees make them unprofitable.
• The City claims that higher taxes on businesses are necessary to offset others that have
left and that city services have been cut because of falling city revenues.
• Detroit businesses have found that the existing potential employee base has a low
degree of education, that 47% are functionally illiterate, and that most have worked in
jobs that did not provide high skill level training.

And yet, even these more deeply rooted causes have deeper causes. Those that point to the city’s high crime rate, for instance, state several reasons for the higher rate:

• Black subculture of violence
• Street gangs
• Drug trafficking
• Poor policing

Yet these are all symptomatic of even more deep root causes. For instance, the black subculture of violence goes back to:

• Colonial times of slavery
• Post civil war terror and oppression
• Treatment of blacks in Detroit during the transition into the industrial era
• The failure of schools to educate
• For the failure of businesses to provide a living wage
• For intergenerational, institutional racism that has denied blacks equal opportunity for
jobs and housing, for neighborhoods, decent healthcare, and equal protection under the

So Institutional racism drops out as one of the root causes of the downfall of Detroit. Once this analysis of root causes is complete, then a set of solutions can be generated to combat these root causes. However, as in all systemwide solutions, any set of proposed solutions must create a desired outcome that is best for all citizens of Detroit to be optimal.

A cursory root cause analysis suggests a few patterns of future success for the city of Detroit, without creating the plan for how to achieve these patterns. Some might even suggest that these patterns are unachievable. Yet, remarkable solution sets can be created once the objectives are outlined.

In isolation, my initial assessment suggests the following. I will next compare this solution set to recent historical patterns of solutions and contemporary solutions being proposed.

Based on the constraints of what I expect to be true, to solve the immediate issues of turn around, Detroit will have to:

• Restructure existing debt
• Soften expectations of entrenched unions
• Reduce unsustainable city pensions
• Enforce collection of current taxes
• Resize from the now unsustainable level of city services
• Create fair alternative to foreclosures

To stop stampeding exodus, the city will have to:

• Dramatically and quickly reduce high crime levels
• Limit the impact of the illegal drug market
• Lower city tax rates to compete for business and new homeowners
• Provide alternative to failing schools

To quickly reduce high crime levels will require:

• A dramatic early increase in law enforcement in transition to sustainable levels of crime
• That the city provide freedom for potential emigrants to seek viable alternatives to public
education while Detroit public schools are dramatically overhauled so that all kids have
an incredibly higher probability of academic success
• That the city immediately begin to provide highly probable access to higher education or
to higher paying income jobs to transitioning upperclassmen and to graduating high
school seniors.

To rebuild, Detroit will have to begin to:

• Initially repopulate the city with jobs appropriate to the educational and job skill level of
its population, which will begin with a high number of illiterate, uneducated, unskilled
persons in the workforce
• Transition from failing schools that will start with very poor results even if they transition
to success
• Provide highly probable, well paying jobs to students who graduate from college and
from high school
• Create a plan for compact city service zones and reduced services in outlying areas that
can transition with increasing population.
• Exercise a city land use plan that incorporates a citywide pattern for a livable city in all
neighborhoods as the city repopulates.
• Immediately dialogue with surrounding cities to formulate an understanding of what
benefits (and potential threats) are availed through cooperation, collaboration, and
synergies with surrounding governments.
• Reform government services to eradicate institutional racism and multigenerational
diminished expectations
• Assess all Brownfield properties for assets that may have intrinsic value for any potential
reuse as part of a citywide plan to use assets, including land as draws for new
businesses and workers.
• Rid city of blight through integrated coordination of credit, loans, and jobs, tied to blight
enforcement and city confiscation for redistribution.
• Create a viable foreclosure alternative tied to credit, loans, and jobs.
• Create citywide access to credit for city’s public and private growth.

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