Tag Archives: rebuilding Detroit

This emergency manager phase for Detroit Should not be about loss or regret but about hope and rebirth

Yet an important phase of rebirth must be letting go…When memories of what Detroit was, or visions of what one hoped it might become are released, then we can be free to see Detroit as it is and to plan for what it can really become.

After the economic burdens of Detroit’s collapsing past are lifted, the city must be ready to finally let go of old paradigms that have kept Detroit from transforming. We are free to state the starting point.

* Detroit is not safe

Detroit will initially still be a city that few will want to move to or to invest in until a clear path is created for Detroit to grow and to prosper. In fact, many will still want to leave if they can if crime is not dramatically reduced. But Detroit can become a very livable city if opportunity replaces hopelessness and if strong incentives for a prosperous future are introduced for newcomers. These are not just platitudes but very achievable goals.

* Detroit is blighted

After Mr. Orr and Detroit’s leadership make the tough choices, Detroit will still not be the vibrant city that downtown represents it to be. But it will have pockets of strong neighborhoods and it will continue to craft a fairly clean, brownfield canvas from which to build a future. Blight will continue to be cleared. Building exteriors, yards, sidewalks and vacant lots can be vigorously maintained by incentive and enforcement, main thoroughfares can be maintained to represent Detroit’s future, key growth centers can be enhanced to seed growth.

* Detroit is spread out and unwieldy

Detroit has three times the land that Walt Disney World had when it acquired 47 square miles in Central Florida. Speckled throughout the city, Detroit’s has liabilities but many can be transformed into assets. And Detroit’s land is one of its biggest assets. The West was settled by the draw of land. Given a well-defined land use vision, clear principles of growth, strong incentives for investment, and a culture recreated to support growth, Detroit can rapidly emerge, and positive signs of growth can simultaneously spread throughout its various neighborhoods, while highlighting the call for entrepreneurs, innovators and industry to return to Detroit’s key economic centers.

* Detroit is Gentrified

In 140 square miles, Detroit’s master plan has room for gentrification. It has room for high tech, for entrepreneurial centers, for commerce, education, and art. But Detroit is already the residence for 700,000 people, many of whom have been the forgotten ones, downtrodden, unemployed, poorly educated. Many have experienced the violence of Detroit. Most are hoping for opportunity and a better life.

Many of Detroit’s residents travel outside the city each day to give of their talents. Most can produce viable products and services right in Detroit, once employed. Yet, from Detroit’s existing population, workers must be matched to work they can readily perform. High wages for low skilled work is gone. Yet, the paradigm that living wages for low skill work cannot exist in an America that must compete in the world, that paradigm must be obliterated to put Detroiters back to work. There is a way.

* Detroit has stagnated in stalemate for decades.

A dynasty of political structures that preserved Detroit’s old economy must give way to equitable sharing of political powers for a new economy. A workforce power structure of high union wages for low skill work must give way to an economy that provides a living wage for low skill work and a city that promotes education and training for higher wage opportunities. Old prejudices that allowed Detroit’s neighborhoods to be underserved must be isolated through economic incentives that change behavior until prejudiced views can be reduced by stereotypes of a new economy.

* Detroit is isolated

A metropolitan region that has walled off communities from one another must be reconnected and interconnected to allow regional collaboration and regional growth. Solutions that can bring innovators, investors, and employers, those key components of growing economies, into the heart of Detroit will require agreement from regional, state, and federal governments, as well as support from entrepreneurs, local, national, and international industries to be dynamically effective.

As age-old paradigms are let go, Anticipation and new expectations can be formed to start rebuilding Detroit’s identity and to create a productive economy that provides jobs and a thriving future for all.

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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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A Confused Oligarchy Stagnated Innovation and Starved America’s Parasite Industries, Further Weakening Detroit

A Confused Oligarchy Stagnated Innovation and Starved America’s Parasite Industries, Further Weakening Detroit….

With such a tax base as afforded by the auto industry, Detroit offered the latest amenities of cities of the era and was called the “Paris of the Midwest”. The name implies that Detroit, at one time the fourth largest city in America, had the leading livability standards of the age. We know this was not the case for many of the underserved communities within Detroit, which led to a social cancer. Yet for others in Detroit, a booming city meant rising property values, good schools plus social and cultural benefits.

In the 1970s, even though domestic competitors were not a threat, foreign competitors emerged with a better mousetrap. With OPEC’s manipulation of high fuel costs, Japanese cars found an entrance into the U.S. market. Having established a foothold, they brought in better cars that competed against the Big Three’s higher quality vehicles.

What happened to Detroit’s innovation in the face of foreign competition? It seemed that the oligarchy was dazed by the machinations of OPEC and Washington’s tepid response. Prices would rise for a bit and then fall. Successive waves of price manipulations led to multiple calls for a national energy policy that never emerged, yet signaled confusion in the American industry. All the while, America’s love of big muscle cars survived the frustrating fluctuations in fuel prices. The confusion of Washington’s signals and America’s flip flopping sentiments left Detroit faltering in strategy.

The auto market eventually shifted, but in the confusion, Detroit lost its way, waiting to respond with real innovation and instead doling out body style and grill changes as substitutes for competitive innovation. U.S. buyers now perceived that true technological shifts were coming from foreign competitors, and the big three lost market share.

Detroit saw some of this impact, and the region surrounding Detroit suffered even more. All of America was impacted as the auto industries’ parasitic industries declined with autos. Detroit’s jobs fell, resulting in declining home values as people left. Taxes then declined, followed by a cut to city services, suffering city budgets, and higher crime, all exacerbating the flight to the suburbs, as the fall of Detroit spiraled on.

Could innovation have been a key to turning Detroit around? Yes, new businesses not tied to the falling auto industry, could have replaced the void if Detroit government was not so lockstep tied to the Big Three. While cities like Pittsburgh and Akron began to find ways to reinvent themselves, Detroit clung to autos in a mutual death spiral.

Innovation is a key factor but innovation comes from people, and people want to live in a city that brings to them a vibrant place to live. Thriving cities cater to innovators by fostering livability. Detroit has recently been given the “Un” honor of being the most unlivable city, the most miserable city in America. Therefore it has a severe innovator recruitment gap.

Detroit cannot go from the bottom of the livability scale to the top without enduring years working a plan for turn around. The beginning years will entail efforts to correct the cancers that are killing Detroit. They will also include years implementing a city plan that creates a land use of a highly livable city that can be Detroit 20 years from now.

The rebuilding will begin with a concerted effort to bring the right businesses to the right locations within Detroit as outlined in the 20-year plan. The right businesses will be those that can hire the right people with the level of education that exists now, plus those that can capitalize on the assets that Detroit has now. Detroit can then grow the city piece by piece back toward a Paris of the Midwest, if that is its vision of a livable city that can be enjoyed by all its citizens.

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