Archive for July, 2013

Detroit Breakdown

July 20, 2013

Back many, many, many, many years ago, when there were two newspapers in Detroit in two separate buildings, there was a place in between there that reporters and editors would gather and drink and eat bad food. The owner was an old man named Leo and he would work the day shift. The establishment, the Anchor Bar, was the only business in an old, gutted out hotel.

But this isn’t the story of the Anchor Bar. It is what Leo always said to anyone who would listen. “Detroit will become America’s first ‘Third-world city’.

Thursday, it officially became one. Oh, it was well on it’s way when the old man predicted it, but on July 18, 2013, it became official.

Detroit is now bankrupt. The largest in the history of this country. It took 60 years, according to the Governor. I seem to think it goes back a bit further than that, but if that’s what the Nerd says, then we’ll stick with that number.

Back in 1952, Detroit was a vibrant place, the fourth largest city in America. Bigger than Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas at the time. In the 1950 census, Detroit had 1.8 million people. Today, it has 717,000. That’s a 60% drop. It once boasted a 90% home ownership rate, today, it’s less then 20.

During World War II, it was called “The Arsenal of Democracy.” Of course, then along came Barry Gordy and “Hitsville USA” and Detroit and its’ moniker would be forever known as “Motown.” But Gordy up and left in 1972 for LA and the house on West Grand Boulevard, where Smokey, Diana, Martha and Marvin recorded and “The Sound of Young America,” became the Motown Museum.

A third world city. A city decimated by racism, corruption, crime and perception. The lower east side was once described to me as “looking like Vienna after the War.” Well, that can be applied to the whole city in 2013. Whole neighborhoods, gone. Crime always in the news.  Police powerless to be effective.  A third of the city is vacant.  The way we are perceived hasn’t changed since the 1967 riots.

Who’s to blame? All of us. Those of us who live here.  And used to live here, too.  Mayors from Cavanaugh to Young to Kilpatrick.  Governors from Swanson to Romney to Blanchard to Engler to Granholm to Snyder.  City Council members, too many to list, who made a joke out of the system.  Businesses who left, people who stayed and didn’t stand up and scream loud enough.

A sad day.  Inevitable, some are saying.  Unavoidable, say others. I disagree.  Bankruptcy is always a “last resort,” but here, it seemed to be what Snyder and his lawn ornament Kevyn Orr, have wanted from day one.  You don’t appoint a bankruptcy attorney as an Emergency Manager without the ultimate goal of declaring bankruptcy.

Which is exactly what Snyder intended all along.  But a judge has stated the filing is unconstitutional under Michigan’s Constitution.  Which of course, the State’s AG is fighting…

Whether or not the filing is upheld or withdrawn is beside the point.  Detroit is in need of some serious help and bankruptcy may not be the best path forward.  The ferret from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has said no to any Federal bailout of Detroit – “Over my dead body.”  Trust me, if it was Louisville, he’d be singing a completely different tune.

This is where, once again, race comes into play.  As late as 1960, the city was 87% white.  It is now 82% black.  Even though the Metro area population is ranked 13th in the country, Detroit proper is 18th.  Dallas and Houston and several other cities have gone past Detroit in population.  Houston is now number 4, a spot Detroit held from 1940-80.

People have offered to help.  $200 million to turn the city’s school district around.  Rejected.  Urban farming.  Not so fast.  Purchase Belle Isle? No way (that, i agreed with).  But now, Orr is looking at selling off parts of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection and some of the Detroit Public Library’s more famous holdings.  The State has said no, those things are held in a public trust, but now that the Rubicon has been crossed, anything’s possible.

Consider this, this is a city that holds the somewhat dubious distinction of bidding on the Olympics seven times and not getting them.  1944, 52, 56, 60, 64, 68 and 72.  Lost to Tokyo and Mexico City by one vote.   Many contend that had Detroit won the 1968 bid, the riots wouldn’t have happened. They may be right.  But even then, in 1962, the IOC was a corrupt organization and Detroit’s slide had already begun.

We have been fooling ourselves all these years, thinking that a “comeback” was right around the corner.  It never happened.  For a million and one reasons.  But mostly because of closed minds and poisoned hearts.  I remember a woman telling me her daughter had got accepted at Wayne State on a full academic ride, but she wasn’t going to let her go to school there.  Because she was fearful her daughter might get raped or killed.  I just shook my head.

Leo died about 10 years ago.  The Anchor Bar moved a block or so from where it used to be on Lafayette Avenue.  The News and Free Press entered into a Joint Operating Agreement in 1989 and now share the same building.  The Free Press building is now vacant.  The Fort Shelby was spared the wrecking ball and is now a upscale hotel across from WDIV.  Cobo Arena, where the Pistons played (and Seger rocked) back when Mayor Bing was Dave Bing, got demolished last year. Detroit has never come back because the people want to hold on to what it was and wallow in what it is.

“America’s Third-World City.”



A Fool’s Lesson

July 16, 2013

I am not sure how to start this without it reading like I am selfish and immature.  But here goes.  I am not a fool and I know how I am perceived.  I have been told, directly and indirectly just how people feel and view me.  

And you know what?  Words and actions hurt.  I’m not a duck and what people say and do aren’t water.  

I have tried to forget and forgive those who have said and done things to me that were nothing but hurtful.  Someone said “circumstances change.”  That may be true, but feelings and biases and intentions don’t.

In the past few weeks, I have been called hateful, selfish and a “legend in my own mind.” Of which, I am none.  I have also been lied to and screwed over, maybe not intentionally, but hey.  

What did I do to deserve this?  Apparently, according to some, just continuing to draw oxygen offends them to the point where I am reviled and put down.  Or, told off.  Laughed at. Scoffed at.  Ignored. Shunned.

What is truly shocking is that no-one is defending me.  I did what I was asked to do and then when I got pissed off about the outcome, No one went and defended me about what I tried to do.  Or, rather, understood my rationale for being angry.

Seven months ago, people begged me to do this. So, I did.  And then, in the aftermath, I get shit on and pissed on by everyone who had no damn business telling me otherwise?  How about…”We’re sorry, Kent.” That might have been the magic words, but I got none of that.  Instead, I got essentially excuses and rationalizations and apologizes, and very few reasons. And lots of “cut it out,” “grow up” and “this isn’t high school anymore.”

No. It isn’t. But the behavior was very immature.

I guess the old axiom is true: “No good deed goes unpunished.” 

You know, I’m almost 55.  I’m tired of odious backstabbers and the well-meaning, do-nothings in my life.  For those who screamed I do something and then did nothing, fine.  It’s human nature to set up a fool and watch him fail.  But that won’t ever happen again.

For those who did show up at my little shindig on Sunday, thank you.  For the other 2570 who were invited, too bad.  You missed a good time.  

Do you Govern or are you Governed?

July 4, 2013

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Thomas Jefferson, July 4th, 1776.

As a descendant of one involved in that document, I find these words to be a reminder of what not only this country is about, but what humanity should strive for.

“Do you govern or are you governed?” That question is as relevant today as it was 237 years ago. And whether that question is asked in these (somewhat) United States or elsewhere, it remains central to the basic tenants that we all strive for. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.