I was born in Detroit and grew up in the city during the 60’s and 70’s and have been in the metro area periodically throughout my adult life–with exceptions because of my career.
After listening to the Mayor’s state of the City Address, here are my thoughts on its past, present and future.
My parents migrated to Detroit in the 50’s and settled initially in an apartment on the east side. After I was born, my family spent my early years near Central High School. At an early age, I remember neighborhoods with trees, stores and families with children out and about enjoying city life.
In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for my brothers and me to be out and about riding bikes, playing in the backyard or just playing games in the streets with other neighborhood kids.
In the late 60’s, we moved to Northwest Detroit–a neighborhood full of professionals and well-kept homes. Neighbors included doctors, bankers, engineers, city employees and even sports, TV and Motown stars. In fact, I was Aretha Franklin’s paper boy, a neighbor of one of the Four Tops and Soupy Sales lived not far away.
It was also a diverse neighborhood where you could go out and have all of the services needed within a reasonable radius. For example, it was not uncommon to see us walking to the corner store, taking the bus everywhere, playing at local parts or enjoying our neighbors on the front porch. We were always playing baseball, basketball and/or football in the streets, on someone’s lawn or in a neighbor’s backyard.
In those days, the city had services, including lights, that worked promptly, neighbors watching out for others and people who worked and supported their families.
And, rarely did we have to be concerned about our safety.
Fast forward to today
I recently drove around parts of the city and was quite dismayed by what I encountered. Some of the neighborhoods were quite frankly, ruined. The parks were not fit to even sit and enjoy nature’s beauty and trash, in parts, was tossed between abandoned buildings. I’m in the city a lot for a variety of reasons and, like most of us, I visualize a strong, vibrant city still on the move forrward–because we are, in my eyes, still the Motor City.
While I understand times have changed, including economic forces, globalization, et. al–however, I was still surprised by the dichotomy of the city:
1. A city’s core where there’s as rebirth with young people filling the streets along with a an emerging, vibrant mid-town area where it was tough to find parking while fighting through traffic, and
2. Neighborhoods which have been decimated to the point where some were actual mini ghost towns with boarded and abandoned homes and streets once filled with families, children and traffic.
While dismayed, I view opportunity for the city’s future and this is where the Mayor’s State of the City address fits in.
In my opinion, this was the crux of Mayor Duggan’s recent comments.
That is, focusing on providing basic city services (lights, bus service, trash pickup, blight removal, et. al.) and making the city’s neighborhoods safe and thriving again. You see, Detroit will never be the city of two million again–however, it can be a more efficient, caring city for its residents and those who visit, by focusing on offering products and services which appeal to city dwellers and suburbanites alike.
Detroit needs to be run as a business and a successful business has a strategic plan with the following compoents:
- Key Objectives/Strategies/tactics
- Implementation Plan
- Strong Financials
- Ability to tracking results
What I heard was a Mayor who’s vision is to make Detroit a livable city in the future (like the 60’s and 70’s) with products (potential city car insurance) and services (lights, public safety, education and transportation) and finally, strong financials.
While most speeches are “pie in the sky”, I really had a different feel about this one. One that is actually realistic, achievable and gives past, present and future Detroiters, hope–Detroit’s hope.
Good luck, Mayor!