Detroit Woodward Avenue 1942
A friend sent me a video tonight and it opens with former Detroit mayor Jerry Cavanagh talking about his vision of the future of the model city of Detroit. Back in the day Detroit was a completely different city.
Detroit was thriving with manufacturing and car plants. The term "Ghetto" didn't describe Detroit at all. It was "The Paris of the Midwest." Then Detroit had the 1967 riots and then "white flight" began because of fear of crime and looting.
Today when I saw the same opening as the original video I thought I was posting this video to facebook. Instead it was a different video that shows all the devastation of this once great city.
This video prompted a rush of comments ranging from creepy, sad, to makes me sick to view this. Now why is Jerry's view so different from what the future Detroit really turned into? One of my personal opinions concerns the politicians that did get federal funding to help rebuild the city after the riots. It was the choices they made with those funds that led to the creation of a fantastic downtown area with the surrounding residential areas so completely ignored to this day.
The auto companies and unions knew decades ago that changes needed to be made to compete with the Japanese car makers. As I worked in 2 large auto plants in the 1970's I heard the managers and committee men talking about the "downfall" of the auto industry then. What changes were made? Very few... The auto industry continued on it's path to bankruptcy.
They sold a product that fell apart quickly where the foreign cars lasted longer with were more compact/sporty and had much better gas mileage. Basically the money went to rebuild downtown to impress visitors and entice them to do business and hold trade shows in Detroit. They spent a fortune in the 80's to increase the size of Cobo Hall.
Great idea except there were not enough sleeping rooms to accommodate big trade shows. Attendees were shipped out to the suburbs as far away as Ann arbor and Lansing the transported into Detroit to the shows. Do they do this in Atlanta, New York, or Chicago? No they don't. I have worked on shows in all those cities and many more.
Abandoned building in Detroit
But they all have "ghetto" areas to contend with economically challenged city residents. Visit Memphis, Nashville, St Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Dayton and many more and you will find the same issues that Detroit endures. Very poor residential districts hidden from business visitors.
My point is that Detroit is not unique unfortunately. Politics in my opinion is what keeps these cities down and the lack of technology that can compete with Germany and Japan. American fiddled while Rome was burning.
Our jobs and labor forces became so expensive and workers so cheap over seas that we lose hundreds of thousands of jobs annually. Rather than comment about how sickening Detroit is now or how sad it looks why not come up with ideas to build on what industry we still have? Here is a brilliant article I posted months ago about why Detroit can't cash in on it's music industry.
Read full story by Don Gonyea of NPR HERE I do have some ideas in this area and plan to build an event that focuses on the fantastic music that is booming in Detroit. More to come on that soon. in the meantime why not find ideas to promote this city versus talking about how it makes us sick to look at it. As the MC5 once sang..
THE FUTURE IS NOW Of course there are many more reasons why we have such decay in the USA compared to the way Europe had maintained the beauty of their big cities for hundreds of years but that is another story. What ideas CAN we imagine to rebuild the inner cities of America and not just New Orleans?
Death of Detroit:Harbinger of Collapse ofDeindustrialized Americaby Richard Freeman
Observing the death of Detroit, as it shrinks into oblivion and its citizens are ravaged, one is struck by a fundamental transformation: In the period 1940 through 1963, Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city in the world, unmatched in real physical productivity. But during the period 1964-2004, Detroit became synonymous with blight and decay beyond imagination...Read More