By John Ruberry

Early in Episode One of Flint Town, an eight-entry Netflix series that debuted this month, we discover a murder victim lying in the snow. And we see snowflakes resting unmelted on his hand–the only warmth he will offer can only come from memories from his loved ones.

Such is life and death in Flint.

Few cities of its size in the United State–probably none–have endured as much devastation as Flint has in the last thirty years. The population of  Flint, which was once Michigan’s second largest city, peaked in 1960 at just under 200,000. But the wide scale exodus began in the 1980s when General Motors–it was founded in Flint–began its rapid downsizing of operations in what is still called “the Vehicle City.”

Now fewer than 100,000 reside in Flint–with 40 percent of them living below the poverty line.

Flint is Detroit’s smaller cousin–sharing most of the same problems. But Flint’s water crisis–lead poisoning spawned by switching the city’s water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron facilities to that of the Flint River–added a tragic dimension to its suffering.

“It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Donald Trump remarks at a campaign appearance shown here. “Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”

Flint Town is a project of directors Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock. It takes a surprising choice of its focus, the under-resourced Flint Police.

“The police officers on the Flint Police Department and underpaid and understaffed, wearing five or six hats, [and] using primitive equipment,” Police Chief Timothy Johnson tells the city council in the final episode. Earlier in the series the dashboard on a Flint police car shows the odometer at 105,000 miles. The man who sits in the cubicle next to mine in my real job, a retired cop from a Chicago suburb about the same size as Flint, says that the cruisers on his force were surplussed at about 50,000 miles.

We see Devon Bernritter, a captain, lament that he was compelled to send three officers on foot patrols because no police cars were available for them. Cops are sent on calls by themselves in Flint in many situations that in other jurisdictions, because of perceived danger, two officers are sent.

Johnson utilizes the same type of resourcefulness that Soviet citizens used when facing problems with inadequate or missing equipment. Volunteers are hired to assist his officers, although unlike everywhere else these aides are armed, including a warm-hearted 65-year-old retiree whose trainer bends over backwards so he pass his marksmanship test. Guns seized in crimes are typically destroyed by most police departments. In Flint they are auctioned off.

Election Day comes to Flint Town. While not ignored, the presidential race–where the white cops favor Trump and the African American ones back Hillary Clinton–takes a back seat to a vote to extend a millage, a property tax, to provide what is of course badly needed funding for law enforcement. In the past those monies were spent, despite promises to voters, elsewhere.

Flint has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence. The latter point was something not even Michael Moore in his Roger and Me documentary could ignore. While its elections are non-partisan, Democrats dominate Flint politics.

“I always wondered why this city was in the position it was and now I see why, it’s at the top,” Chief Johnson boldly tells the city council in a budget hearing.

Blogger last autumn in Michigan

Yet the rank-and-file Flint cops deeply care about the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, despite toiling in the atmosphere of the cold-blooding killings in 2016, assassinations really, of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Is the love returned? For the most part, no.

Flint Town is rated TV-MA for graphic violence and foul language. While Netflix is promoting this batch of shows as Season One, there has been no announcement that a second season is coming. I’d like to see another helping.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

I was out of town in July when Detroit, the movie about the destructive 1967 riot and a police attack on a small group of guests at the Algiers Motel, hit the theaters. Directed by Kathryrn Bigelow, who is best known for Zero Dark Thirty and the Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker, is again teamed with scriptwriter Mark Boal. It stars John Borega, renowned for his role in the Star Wars reboot, as a torn African-American, who despite good intentions gets pulled into the carnage and the aftermath of the upheaval.

But by the time I got back home and found the time to see Detroit it was gone from theaters. Even before the Harvey Weinstein-ignited sex scandals, 2017 was an annus horribilis for Hollywood. Yes, Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast were tremendous hits, there were many notable flops, and among them was Detroit. That’s a pity because it is a masterful piece of filmmaking.

Last night I watched it by way of OnDemand on Xfinity.

The 1967 Detroit Riot is the demarcation line in history for that city, just as the Potato Famine is for Ireland and the defeat of the Armada is for Spain. It’s the Motor City’s before-and-after moment. “Ah, but that was before the riot,” or “riots,” sometimes the plural form is used, is something all Detroiters of a certain age say. Prior to the riot Detroit was America’s fifth-largest city, but now, for the first time since 1850, Detroit is not among America’s twenty-most populous cities. In 1950 Detroit was America’s most prosperous municipality, now it is one of its poorest. True, Detroit’s problems were evident in the 1950s and early 1960s, but at the time the few people paying attention to such things viewed that period as a rough patch or perhaps nothing more than a modest transitional period.

Fox Theatre one month ago

The world premiere of Detroit took place at the Fox Theatre two days after the 50th anniversary of the start of the riot, the old movie palace is the setting of one of the scenes in the movie. The film begins with an undermanned police raid of a black-run speakeasy–called a “blind pig” in Detroit–that quickly turns into a widespread tumult of looting, arson, and death. Archival news footage shows the devestation followed by a clip of Governor George Romney, Mitt’s father, announcing that the Michigan National Guard has been called out. By the end of the five-day riot Michigan state troopers and federal troops had been dispatched to Detroit as well.

Among the riot scenes is one with now-disgraced US Rep. John Conyers (Laz Alonso) urging a crowd for calm–they ignore him. Five months ago Conyers was still a civil rights icon. Now Conyers is shunned.

But most of the movie is centered on police tormenting suspects and witnesses at the Algiers, the reputed site of a sniper attack. After a performance by the Dramatics–who later gained fame for the hit “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” one of the group’s members, Larry Reid (Algee Smith), along with his personal assistant, take refuge at the Algiers, which is located just outside of the Virginia Park neighborhood, the heart of the riot zone. For a while it seems that despite the haze of the smoke from the arson fires and the constant sirens, the Algiers is the smart choice to have a party while Detroit burns. That is until an evil Detroit police officer, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), his two racist partners, troops from the National Guard, and Melvin Dismukes (Borega), a security guard, storm the Algiers in search of a sniper, who we know is Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), who simply but recklessly fired a track and field starting pistol. What follows is a series of intense torture-filled series of interrogations. Two young white prostitutes, one of them is portrayed by Hannah Murphy, who plays Gilly in Game of Thrones, are among those brutalized.

“I’m just gonna assume you’re all criminals,” Krauss tells them. One of those “criminals” is Robert Greene (Anthony Mackie), a Vietnam veteran who came to Detroit like hundreds of thousand of others before him–he is simply looking for work. Don’t forget, the blind pig raid busted up a party welcoming two other Vietnam vets home. Krauss denigrates Greene, says he “probably just drove a supply truck” while serving and accuses of him of being the pimp for the prostitutes.

Later Krauss asks the women, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves, having sex with n*ggers?” The other prostitute replies, “It’s 1967, a**hole.” But the mixing of blacks and whites was still a problem for many 50 years ago.

Blogger at the site of where the riot started

Finally and tragically the Algiers incident ends but the legal ramifications please few. Conyers appears again. And one of the characters finds deliverance.

Like Zero Dark Thirty, the feeling of Detroit is claustrophobic, which of course is intentional. The lighting isn’t perfect, that approach undoubtedly was chosen to enmesh Bigelow’s scenes with the archive footage.

Understandably Detroit is still coming to terms with the ’67 riot. I visited Virginia Park last month, while there are still many abandoned homes–this is Detroit after all–there are some new ones too. The site of the long-ago razed blind pig and the neighboring stores where the riot broke out is now a park–albeit one that no children were playing in. To be fair it was a chilly autumn afternoon. In July a Michigan historical marker was erected at that site. On the flipside, sandwiched between New Center and the mansions of Boston-Edison, where Henry Ford, Ty Cobb, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy once lived, Virginia Park’s future appears bright. Deliverance may be coming there soon too.

Besides Xfinity OnDemand, Detroit is also available on DVD. The trailer is viewable here.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week I had some time off from work and I did what few people do. Before sunrise I left home and drove to Detroit for a pleasure visit.

It was my second trip to the Motor City. My first Da Tech Guy account, from 2015, is here.

What follows is a progress report with a grade.

First of all, is Detroit back? Well, if you are like most visitors and you don’t venture beyond downtown, Midtown, Greektown, New Center, or its three casinos, you’ll say, “Yep, Detroit is a thriving city, it’s back.”

But most of the the neighborhoods, Corktown, Palmer Woods, and Sherwood Forest are exceptions, are either rundown and decrepit, or near-apocalyptic wastelands, such as Brightmoor. And as for Palmer Woods, just three blocks from its southeast corner, near where I parked my car to snap a picture of a feral dog–90 minutes later a store manager was murdered during an armed robbery.

But even in its rough patches–actually most of Detroit is one expansive rough patch–there are noticeable improvements.

The abandoned GM Fisher Body 21 plant

Two years ago I was able to walk into vacated schools and factories with only a nagging guilt about trespassing preventing me from entering. That didn’t work, I walked in anyway. Harry B. Hutchins Elementary School, where I spent an hour taking photographs in 2015, is fenced off now. The Packard plant, the world’s largest abandoned factory, has a small but aggressive security presence. I wandered around there undisturbed for hours during my previous visit. Fisher Body 21, an old General Motors factory, is a glaring eyesore at the intersection of the Edsel Ford and Chrysler freeways. While I was able to stroll into that one, the windows in the stairwells must be bricked-off. The stairways are now as unlit as a cave beneath the dark side of the moon. Only a fool, or someone wearing a miner’s hat with a supply of back-up batteries, would climb them now.

So for urban explorers such as myself, Detroit is no longer a free-range video, photography, and souvenir collection zone.

Two years ago no one with authority appeared to give a damn. I credit the attitude change to Detroit’s reform mayor, Democrat Mike Duggan–who lives in Palmer Woods by the way. Duggan was elected four months after the Motor City’s bankruptcy in 2013. Earlier this month Duggan, who is white, overwhelmingly defeated Coleman Young II, the son of Detroit’s first black mayor. The elder Young’s 20-year tenure can best be deemed as controversial. The former communist utilized race-based politics and dog whistle words–city (black) versus suburbs (white)–which kept him in office but drove businesses and of course jobs out of Detroit. He was the steward of the city’s descent. While the white population is growing for the first time since 1950, Detroit remains a super-majority African-American city. Yet Detroit voters rejected the younger Young’s own dog whistle call to “Take Back the Motherland.” Good for them.

While there still are vacant buildings downtown, two of the most obvious ones that I noticed during my first visit, the 38-story Book Tower and the former Wayne County Building, are being rehabbed. Both were seen in the premature Detroit-is-back Chrysler Super Bowl ad with Eminem from 2011. A mile up Woodward Avenue to the northwest is the gleaning new Little Caesars Arena, the new stadium for the Red Wings and the Pistons. Detroit’s NBA team has returned to the Motor City after a nearly three-decade absence. Across the street from the arena are the luxurious Woodward Square Apartments. With Ford Field, the home of the Lions, and Comerica Park, where the Tigers play, as well as some theaters and other new or rehabilitated apartments, the result is the new District Detroit, an entertainment and residential area that rivals any in the United States.

Alley in Delray

So there is a lot of good going on in Detroit.

As for the bad, let’s discuss those forsaken areas, and it goes beyond the crumbling and abandoned housing stock and the crime. Most pedestrians in “the other Detroit” walk on the streets, because the sidewalks are for the most part crumbing. Some are overgrown with weeds. Nearly all alleys are impassable. Even large trees can be found growing in some. Keep in mind that in 1950 not only was Detroit America’s fifth largest city but it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Municipal alley garbage pick-up ended decades ago and many garages of otherwise well kept-up homes are collapsing. Why maintain a garage when you can’t access it from your alley? And besides, there are plenty of vacant lots, with a bit of elbow grease, that can be converted into grassy parking lots. Rubbish can be found everywhere. Illegal dumping–much of it done by suburbanites–is a serious problem in Detroit. Side streets have many potholes and even more cracks. On the other hand, Duggan has made good on his promise to install more street lights.

Urban prairie in Brightmoor

And that post-apocalyptic neighborhood of Brightmoor? A few sections that were once packed with residents have devolved into the kind of emptiness that you expect to see from a country road, a phenomenon known as an urban prairie.

Critics from the left will lash out at me as I take measure of Detroit’s unpleasant underside and yell, “What about racism?” Yes, for decades Detroit’s blacks suffered from institutional racism. So did black Atlantans. The year after Detroit elected Coleman Young, Atlanta, whose blacks endured Jim Crow laws, followed suit and elected its first black mayor. Atlanta became the city that was “too busy to hate.” In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, which is something pre-Young Detroit unsuccessfully bid on an unprecedented nine times.

Back to the good: Most Detroiters are generally friendly people, strangers say “hello” to each other. That’s a commendable behavior I’ve never seen in any big city.

Sidewalk in Petosky-Otsego

Back to the bad: Detroiters are the rudest and most reckless drivers I’ve encountered outside of New York City. And remember, Detroit’s streets are in terrible shape, so such road effrontery is especially hazardous.

Detroit is not “back.” but it is coming back. But some unfinished business remains that could send the onetime Arsenal of Democracy back in the wrong direction. While the deadly 1967 riot and the contraction of the Big Three auto makers, as well as fiscal malfeasance, corruption, and numbing levels of crime are largely responsible for Detroit’s demise, the municipal income tax, a commuter tax, and loads of burdensome regulations also played a role. Those taxes, largely idiosyncratic to Detroit among big cities, still remain, along with those regs. And Detroit’s property tax system, according to the Detroit News, is “fundamentally flawed” and was “particularly devastating in the cycle of decline and renewal Detroit has undergone.”

“New Detroit” has emerged from the starting block but the Motor City is wearing ankle weights.

My grade for the city is “incomplete.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week the 50th anniversary of the five-day long Detroit Riot passed. Or uprising or rebellion, depending on who you speak with.

I’m going with the first one, riot. It started after midnight on July 23, 1967 in the city’s Virginia Park neighborhood when an illegal bar, known locally as a “blind pig,” was raided by Detroit police officers. After arresting 85 patrons who had gathered to celebrate the return of two soldiers from Vietnam, the cops were confronted by 200 more people who threw rocks and bottles at them. The police left and crowd started smashing windows and looting stores.

Which is why I’m calling it a riot.

Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount in 2015

It took 17,000 people, a mixture of Detroit and state police officers, federal and national guard troops, and firefighters to quell the riot. Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed and 43 people were killed. Only the 1863 New York City Draft Riot and the 1992 Los Angeles Riot were worse among domestic urban disturbances. Many of the buildings that were laid waste were never rebuilt, and 12th and Clairmount–now Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount–was like most of the rest of Detroit when I visited in 2015, forsaken and quiet.

Sure, there were solid reasons for black Detroiters to be angry 50 Julys ago. Police brutality was rampant in the Motor City, and as had thousands of blacks migrated there from the Deep South for automobile industry jobs, many whites made that northern trek too. And the latter brought their prejudices with them. Yes, many blacks had good-paying jobs with the Big Three but often they were clustered, make that segregated, into the less desirable segments of the assembly line, the sweltering foundries or the fumous paint rooms. After World War II urban renewal and expressway building came to Detroit, as it did in other major cities, but African-American neighborhoods were usually targeted for these “improvements,” which caused blacks to sardonically label these programs “negro removal.”

What the 1871 Chicago Fire was to that city, or the 1906 earthquake was to San Francisco, the ’67 riot was to Detroit. It’s a historical demarcation line. Only Chicago and San Francisco successfully rebuilt and emerged as better and more livable cities afterwards. After 1967 white flight accelerated in Detroit–and thousands of businesses followed. Jobs too. Crime soared. In 1960 Detroit had over 1.6 million residents–now there are fewer than 700,000 Detroiters.

Blogger at Detroit’s abandoned Packard plant

“The riot was the seminal moment in Detroit’s history, the point from which nothing would be the same,” the Detroit News’ Nolen Finley wrote eight days ago.

Riot or rebellion? If it was the last one, I know who lost. Detroit did.

But bankruptcy–and the confession of defeat–like an alcoholic finally admitting addiction–offers Detroit a chance to turn things around. When I stood on the corner of Clairmount and Rosa Parks two summers ago, there was no attestion of the historical significance of the site. But last Sunday a Michigan historical marker, “Detroit July 1967,” was dedicated there.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Update: DTG Welcome Canon212 readers check out my interviews from the Catholic Marketing Network both here and on Youtube, Take a peek at my new book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer, Listen to my Catholic Radio show Your Prayer Intentions premereing on WQPH 89.3 Fm this saturday at noon EST and if you are so inclined give me a hand to help my newly laid off self succeed in our layoff bleg goal (details here)

Update December 17: Today at DTG I review Kathryn Bigelow’s movie Detroit, which provides an update of sorts as I recall last month’s return trip to Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount. Also, the old retail space and with second floor apartments pictured above has been razed, a vacant lot sits there, of which Detroit has plenty.

Chicago’s South Side

By John Ruberry

I’ve been saying that Chicago will be the next Detroit for years, and on Thursday, syndicated talk radio show host–and former Tea Party congressman–Joe Walsh, was making the same prediction on his program.

Walsh was discussing a just-released pension study which the Chicago Sun-Times reported on.

Standard & Poor’s surveyed pension obligations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, San Antonio, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Dallas, Houston, Columbus, Indianapolis and Austin.

Chicago performed the worst across the board — registering the highest annual debt, pension post-employment benefits costs as a percentage of governmental expenditures and the highest debt and pension liability per capita.

And there is more:

The report noted that the “median weighted pension funded ratio of 70 percent” for the 15 cities “underlies a wide range of positions with Chicago only 23 percent funded across all plans and Indianapolis the most well-funded at 98 percent.”

Chicago’s pension burden is $12,400 per person–more than double that of New York City and it has the lowest bond rating of those 15 surveyed cities. The S&P report says that in 2015 Chicago “only made 52 percent of its annual legally required pension contribution.”

If you are looking for more bad news you came to the right place. More than five times as many people live in New York and Los Angeles combined–but there were more murders in Chicago last year than the total in both of those cities. As for Chicago’s population, it’s at a 100-year-low. Leading the exodus are middle class blacks.

CPS school on the West Side that closed in 2013

Chicago’s jobs program for people with education degrees, better known as Chicago Public Schools, has been cited by other middle class ex-Chicagoans, including your humble blogger, for decades as the main reason they abandoned the city. CPS bonds are rated as junk. Lack of money may lead to the last thirteen days of the school year being cancelled–and the CTU may add a fourteenth with a one-day strike in May to protest that early shutdown. Yep, I don’t get it either.

CPS officials have been battling the union for years to force teachers to pay more into their own pension funds. Yeah, they can afford it–of teachers in the largest school districts, CPS teachers rank in the top three in pay. But hey, the union members probably are thinking, “Why should we pay more when we have so many taxpayers who can foot the bill?”

But that’s the mindset that got Chicago into its mess. Oh that, and public-sector unions contributing heavily into the campaign funds of Democratic politicians.

Critics of my Chicago-is-the-next-Detroit hypothesis point out that large corporations have been moving their corporate headquarters into Chicago of late, the most prominent examples are ConAgra relocating its HQ from Omaha to Chicago and McDonald’s, which will move back to the city after four decades in suburbia. But no one can say how many of these corporate big shots will live in Chicago.

Two years ago Chicagoans were slugged with the largest property tax increase in the city’s history to pay for, yes, unfunded pension liabilities. Last year Chicago water and sewer taxes were hiked. Remember what what I wrote earlier, Chicago’s pensions are only 23-percent funded. Does anyone think that there aren’t additional massive tax increases in Chicago’s future? And when the producing segment of Chicago is even more depleted–chased out, that is–how will Chicago pay for street repair, schools, and snow removal–as well as adequate police and fire protection?

The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that public-worker pensions cannot be reduced.

Blogger in downtown Chicago

Here’s what I base my Chicago dystopia projection on. Defenders of the status quo place blind faith into their hope that Chicago can somehow hang on until enough pensioners die, which probably won’t be until the middle of the century. They offer no credible solutions. Nothing. They’re as delusional as Gerald O’Hara meticulously counting out his Confederate bonds in Gone With The Wind–“All we have left”–after General Robert E. Lee surrendered.

There’s a way out–changing state law so municipalities and government agencies can declare bankruptcy, which is something Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ reform governor, favors. But the Democrats and the public-sector unions will never agree to that.

John Ruberry, who moved from Chicago to the suburbs in 1999, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Southwest Detroit
Abandoned home in Southwest Detroit

By John Ruberry

Yesterday Donald Trump continued his outreach to black and inner city voters by speaking at Great Faith Ministries in Detroit’s Barton-McFarland neighborhood. Even on the Motor City’s low standards this is an especially depressed part of the city, three years ago the area just east of Barton-McFarland was named the most dangerous neighborhood in the United States.

Rather than focusing on over fifty years of Democratic failure in the Motor City–Detroit has not had a Republican mayor since 1963, Trump uncharacteristically took a modest tone at Great Faith.

“But today I just want to let you know that I am here to listen to you, and I’ve been doing that and we had a fantastic interview with Bishop [Wayne T.] Jackson.” Trump said from the pulpit. “It was really an amazing interview. He’s better than the people who do that professionally. It’s true, it’s true. He’s better.”

“Our nation is divided. We talk past each other and not to each other.” Trump continued. “And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what is going on. They don’t know — they have no clue. I’m here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways.”

When is the last time Hillary Clinton, in one of her increasingly infrequently public campaign appearances, said she was there to learn?

Trump decried the sidelining so many African America youths with “unfulfilled potential…tremendous potential,” adding, “Our whole country loses out when we’re unable to harness the brilliance and the energy of these folks.”

When Trump was finished speaking he received a standing ovation.Trump Pence

Donald Trump will not win a majority of the black vote in 2016. He won’t even come close. But unlike recent Republican nominees, the political newcomer is campaigning outside of his party’s comfort zone. As a political newcomer, Trump doesn’t reflexively subdivide Americans into different voting blocs. There is too much this-is-a-black-problem-in-the-ghetto type of thinking in this country. What’s wrong in the inner city is an American problem.

Trump gets it.

Related post:

I walked its streets–the tragedy of Detroit

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Trump lawn signBy John Ruberry

The mainstream media, which of course is no fan of the Republican Party and its nominee Donald Trump, in what must have been an act of collusion, almost immediately dismissed what I thought was an A- acceptance address as a “dark speech.”

Oh, why just an A- from me? I thought Trump’s speech as a bit long, and that he should have used the safety part of the speech at 11:00PM Eastern/10:00PM Central when non-politicized viewers, many of whom only vote in presidential year elections, would be tuning in searching for the local evening news.

Trump did something in last week’s speech that the MSM, and many Republicans, including this one, have been calling on the GOP to do for decades: make an appeal to urban voters.

Democrats run nearly all of America’s largest cities. Some, such as Detroit and Chicago, haven’t had Republican mayors in the lifetimes of most of the people reading this post. However, the turnaround of one city, New York, was achieved only because of the doggedness of one determined man, Republican Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of America’s largest city from 1994-2001. NYC was viewed as ungovernable prior to the arrival of the “Mayor of America” at Gracie Mansion.

Burned out Detroit
Southwest Detroit

Maybe only New Yorkers understand. Manhattanite Trump does.

From his acceptance speech:

This administration has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs. It’s failed them on crime. It’s failed them at every level.

When I am president, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally.

Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child America?

Brilliant stuff.

Rand Paul, who like his father is generally the Republican that leftist media know-it-alls hate the least, received wide-spread praise for making a campaign stop on Chicago’s South Side last year. But such plaudits were easy because Paul was not the Republican nominee and Trump is. It’s circle-the-wagons time for the dishonest media, because the general election is now only a few months away.

Burned-out three story frame
Chicago’s South Side

Despite Trump’s reach-out to urban voters, he will not win a majority of the black vote. He won’t receive even fifteen percent of it. Trump will not win Illinois or Maryland’s electoral votes. But Trump spoke like a leader, not a candidate, as he accepted the Republican nomination for president.

The GOP political newcomer may be able to peel off enough black votes to become the first Republican presidential candidate to win Michigan since 1988.

I believe, maybe it’s just a hope of mine, that a majority of Americans are looking for a leader, not a partisan hack to steer us through troubled times.

As for the cities, we’ve tried it the Democratic Party way for over fifty years. Detroit is an urban ruin. Chicago and Baltimore are headed that way.

Trump wants to heal the rot.

And Trump, yes, really wants to Make America Great Again. All of it.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. He regularly ventures into inner-city Chicago for blogging material and has traveled to Detroit.

Grixdale
Grixdale

By John Ruberry

Type “Detroit revival” or “Detroit comeback” into your Google search box and you’ll collect a lot of hits and discover glowing yarns about the turnaround of what was once one of America’s greatest cities. Here’s one from Forbes just last week. There is even a Pure Michigan TV commercial about Detroit.

But as John Adams once famously wrote, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Yes, there is a Detroit bounceback underway but it is centered in downtown and the neighborhoods that border it. That’s it.

Then there are the facts.

The fiscal year for Detroit Public Schools ends on June 30. On July 1 there is no money for summer school or physical upkeep, unless the state rushes in for a rescue. Such a rescue should not be confused with a proposed $720 million one that will deal with DPS’ long-term debt.

Adding an exclamation point to the problems of DPS last week was a former school principal who pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks from an allegedly crooked supplier. A dozen other DPS officials, most of them former principals, have also been charged with collecting kickbacks.

Abandoned Detroit school
Abandoned Detroit school

When I visited Detroit last summer I ventured into the neighborhoods outside of its downtown ring. Places like Grixdale. This is a typical 21st century Grixdale block that in 1950 that had twenty homes each with wage earners with fat wallets: Two occupied homes, two abandoned homes, the rest are rubbished filled vacant lots with coarse weeds.

Detroit has some millstones that will impede its recovery. Its commercial property tax rates are the highest in the nation and city services are substandard. Detroiters are burdened with a municipal income tax and possible future Detroit residents who want to dip their toe in the Motor City water by taking a job in the city are subject to a commuter tax. And Detroit is still a very violent city.

Just last week a study was released that discovered that Detroit has the least storefront concentration of any big city.

Look for the Detroit comeback, such as it is, to proceed very slowly.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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Black Lives MatterBy John Ruberry

You very likely have heard about the Black Lives Matter movement, the hard-left screamers who regularly disrupt political gatherings and even attack people who proclaim “All Lives Matter.” One BLM leader called All Lives Matter a “new racial slur.”

A wrong turn into a dead end has been made from the sentiment of Martin Luther King, who proclaimed in 1963, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

But Black Lives Matter is a political movement.

Last Monday a black Chicago teen, Pierre Loury, who was carrying a gun, was shot to death by police on the West Side as he climbed a fence during a foot chase. BLM quickly mobilized a rally attended by 200 or 300 so protesters the following night

On Friday afternoon a few miles from the site of the Loury shooting, a one-year-old named Khloe was shot in the neck while she was sitting the back seat of the car by assailants in a moving vehicle. There was a small peace rally at the site of the shooting yesterday–but no Black Lives Matters activists were visible.

Four years ago Khloe’s sister was wounded by gunfire three blocks from Friday’s shooting at a lemonade stand she set up.

Also on Saturday a six-month old girl was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in Detroit, which may have ties to an Easter Sunday deadly shooting of a 3-year-old girl.

Pastor Ray Anderson, an African-American, was one of the organizers of a Detroit anti-violence rally held shortly after that murder. He said there, “I think that right now it’s a clear call for our community to really be outraged at the violence and the murder,” adding, “We talk about ‘black lives matter’ — and we get in an uproar when it’s white on black or law enforcement…but this is something: Probably 95 percent of the violence is black on black.”

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

True, very true.

Of course BLM activists care about the murders of babies, but because there is no political angle to these heartless crimes, they ignore them.

Perhaps they should rename their group Only Certain Black Lives Matter.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

South Loop Downtown
Chicago’s downtown

By John Ruberry

Two unwelcome pieces of bad news punched Chicago in the face last week. A state pension reform law for two municipal pension plans was unanimously ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Also last week came news that the Chicago metropolitan area saw the biggest population drop of the nation’s metro regions. Chicago proper gained a miserly 82 new residents, just enough to fill two CTA buses.

Last year, as part of a rescue for two other city worker pension plans, Mayor Rahm Emanuel  signed into law the largest property tax hike in city history.

Chicago’s bonds are rated as junk, as are those of the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools.

On New Year’s Day Cook County, where Chicago is, raised its portion of the local sales tax to pay for–you guessed it–underfunded county worker pensions.

Illinois’ worker pension funds are the worst funded of the 50 states.

CTA bus
Half of Chicago’s new 2015 residents are on this bus!

This debacle, to use former Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s ham-headed attempt to rename terrorist attacks, is a man-caused disaster, the root of which is public-sector unions contributing millions to politicians, mostly Democrats, who lavished these pension benefits on government employees, even though they knew that they were unaffordable.

Chicago has many other problems. Los Angeles and New York have more people but Chicago topped them in murders last year. Many Chicagoans, because of the Laquan McDonald fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer, are extremely distrustful of law enforcement.

McDonald was failed by Chicago’s schools and the state’s social services agencies.

On Friday members of the Chicago Teachers Union will stage an illegal one-day walk out. They want a big pay raise in their next contract. Chicago Public Schools’ financial situation is so dire that Illinois’ reform governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, favors changing state law so CPS can declare bankruptcy. CPS’ pension fund is a sinkhole too.

Why stop with CPS when it comes to bankruptcy?

Abandoned West Side apartments
Abandoned West Side apartments

As for those schools, in 2012 about 80 percent of CPS 8th graders weren’t proficient at grade level in math and reading, despite most schools having “academy” or some other fancy moniker in their names.

Outside of a beautiful downtown and a picturesque lakefront, clearly there aren’t too many reasons for people to choose to live in Chicago–or stay there. Most of the people moving in are foreigners–naive people who haven’t heard the bad news yet about the city. If you really enjoy the lakefront and the Loop, well, you can always vacation there. Just don’t venture too far away from the city’s center.

Chicago only has bad options to work its way out of its mess. Another historically large property tax is one possibility. One 2015 mayoral candidate suggested a commuter tax as a revenue source. Ask Detroit how its commuter tax is working out. The hardened leftist who runs the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, suggests a municipal income tax as a city cure.

Detroit has one of those too.

Better options are amending the Illinois constitution to make pension reform easier or, as I touched on earlier, changing state law so governmental bodies can declare bankruptcy.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

Chicago needs to move quickly or it risks becoming America’s next Detroit.

Or perhaps it’s already too late.

Related post:

I walked its streets–the tragedy of Detroit.

John Ruberry, a lifelong Chicago area resident, blogs regularly at Marathon Pundit