I walked its streets: The tragedy of Detroit

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I walked its streets: The tragedy of Detroit

[cap­tion id=“attachment_76610” align=“alignright” width=“185”]Detroit city limit 8 Mile Road[/caption]

By John Ruberry

I spent most of last week slowly dri­ving – to avoid pot­holes – and walk­ing the streets of Detroit. Yes, I took in some time down­town, but most of my trav­els were in the for­saken neigh­bor­hoods far from the casi­nos and the sports stadiums.

When Detroit cel­e­brated its 250th anniver­sary in 1951 – it enjoyed the high­est stan­dard of liv­ing of any city in the world. Its pop­u­la­tion was 1.8 mil­lion. Now there are barely 700,000 Detroi­ters. Motown is at the top or near the top of all Amer­i­can cities in poverty and crime rates.

What went wrong? Detroit’s apol­o­gists quickly name off what they believe are causes, such as the build­ing of the inter­state high­way sys­tem and the result­ing sub­ur­ban­iza­tion, as well as the decline of the Amer­i­can auto­mo­bile indus­try. Almost all north­ern indus­trial cities were impacted by the for­mer but they man­aged, with vary­ing lev­els of suc­cess, to claw back or at least stop the bleed­ing in the 1990s. But by 2000, Detroit became the first United States city that once exceeded 1 mil­lion res­i­dents to have fewer than that land­mark figure.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_76611” align=“alignleft” width=“185”]Burned out Detroit Burned-​out home[/caption]

As for the car busi­ness, Michi­gan doesn’t have a sin­gle foreign-​owned auto­mo­bile plant, unless you count Fiat-​owned Chrysler. The states on Michigan’s south­ern bor­der, Indi­ana and Ohio, together host five foreign-​owned car fac­to­ries. You can attribute Michigan’s absence from this late 20th cen­tury man­u­fac­tur­ing shift to mus­cle from the United Auto Work­ers and com­pli­ant Demo­c­ra­tic politicians.

As for the lat­ter, from 1974 until 1994, Cole­man Young, a one­time mem­ber of the Com­mu­nist Party, was Detroit’s mayor. His acidic rhetoric con­vinced many of Detroit’s remain­ing white res­i­dents as well as many busi­nesses to flee to the sub­urbs––where they were unable to escape Young’s demo­niza­tions. While no gov­ern­ment funds were used to build the gor­geous but money-​losing Renais­sance Cen­ter, he was among its biggest cheer­lead­ers. Young was a strong pro­po­nent of mas­sive Stalin-​esqe pub­lic works projects such the also beau­ti­ful Peo­ple Mover trains down­town that was expen­sive to build and is expen­sive to main­tain – and it doesn’t move very many people.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_76612” align=“alignright” width=“250”]Packard MP Author at Packard plant[/caption]

In 2013 Detroit declared bankruptcy.

The neigh­bor­hoods out­side Detroit are pathetic sights. Vacant lots and aban­doned homes dom­i­nate most streets. Retail stores are non-​existent. Even bet­ter dis­tricts such as Cork­town and Boston-​Edison have boarded-​up homes on every block. Res­i­dents usu­ally walk on the streets as opposed to side­walks because the walk­ways are often in worse shape than the roads – and they are some­times over­whelmed by vegetation.

Out­side of the world’s largest aban­doned fac­tory, the Packard plant, a man pulled up in his old Pon­tiac Grand Am and told me, “I hope you’re a pub­li­cist. Because the world needs to know how bad it is in Detroit beyond Packard. All the schools in this neigh­bor­hood are closed.”

I promised that I would tell the world – and I’m a man of my word.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

*********************************************************************************

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Detroit city limit
8 Mile Road

By John Ruberry

I spent most of last week slowly driving–to avoid potholes–and walking the streets of Detroit. Yes, I took in some time downtown, but most of my travels were in the forsaken neighborhoods far from the casinos and the sports stadiums.

When Detroit celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1951–it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Its population was 1.8 million. Now there are barely 700,000 Detroiters. Motown is at the top or near the top of all American cities in poverty and crime rates.

What went wrong? Detroit’s apologists quickly name off what they believe are causes, such as the building of the interstate highway system and the resulting suburbanization, as well as the decline of the American automobile industry. Almost all northern industrial cities were impacted by the former but they managed, with varying levels of success, to claw back or at least stop the bleeding in the 1990s. But by 2000, Detroit became the first United States city that once exceeded 1 million residents to have fewer than that landmark figure.

Burned out Detroit
Burned-out home

As for the car business, Michigan doesn’t have a single foreign-owned automobile plant, unless you count Fiat-owned Chrysler. The states on Michigan’s southern border, Indiana and Ohio, together host five foreign-owned car factories. You can attribute Michigan’s absence from this late 20th century manufacturing shift to muscle from the United Auto Workers and compliant Democratic politicians.

As for the latter, from 1974 until 1994, Coleman Young, a onetime member of the Communist Party, was Detroit’s mayor. His acidic rhetoric convinced many of Detroit’s remaining white residents as well as many businesses to flee to the suburbs--where they were unable to escape Young’s demonizations. While no government funds were used to build the gorgeous but money-losing Renaissance Center, he was among its biggest cheerleaders. Young was a strong proponent of massive Stalin-esqe public works projects such the also beautiful People Mover trains downtown that was expensive to build and is expensive to maintain–and it doesn’t move very many people.

Packard MP
Author at Packard plant

In 2013 Detroit declared bankruptcy.

The neighborhoods outside Detroit are pathetic sights. Vacant lots and abandoned homes dominate most streets. Retail stores are non-existent. Even better districts such as Corktown and Boston-Edison have boarded-up homes on every block. Residents usually walk on the streets as opposed to sidewalks because the walkways are often in worse shape than the roads–and they are sometimes overwhelmed by vegetation.

Outside of the world’s largest abandoned factory, the Packard plant, a man pulled up in his old Pontiac Grand Am and told me, “I hope you’re a publicist. Because the world needs to know how bad it is in Detroit beyond Packard. All the schools in this neighborhood are closed.”

I promised that I would tell the world–and I’m a man of my word.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

*********************************************************************************

All of what is done including the Magnificent Seven writers like John Rubery is only made possible by you.

My goal for 2015 is Twenty Two grand which will give me a nominal living doing this.

Olimometer 2.52

That gets all the bills paid. (including my writers like Fausta)  If I can get to Forty Thousand I can afford to travel outside of New England and/or hire me a blogger to help me get it done.

Consider Subscribing 100 Subscribers at $20 a month will get the job done and then some.

Beanie : $2.00USD – weekly
Cap : $10.00USD – monthly
Hat : $20.00USD – monthly
Fedora : $25.00USD – monthly
Premium : $50.00USD – monthly
Grand Fedora : $100.00USD – monthly

 

Our June Premium for tip jar hitters of $50 or more is Elizabeth The Anchoress Scalia Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life

Subscribe at $50 or more in and receive each monthly premium shipped the date of your payment.

All Tip Jar hits of $10 or more will get a copy of Jeff Trapani’s excellent E-Book Victor the Monster Frankenstein.