Column: Is Detroit in its end times?
My grandmother used to talk about the end times, and would scour current events and the weather for evidence of the Biblical signs foretelling the Earth's final days.
I find myself doing the same thing with the city of Detroit.
Last week, Mayor Dave Bing provided a clear signal of the city's coming apocalypse. Faced with an existential moment demanding life-or-death decision making, the mayor instead stalled for time.
Detroit is out of time, and Bing's failure to act decisively to turn back the cash flow crisis makes it inevitable that an emergency manager will be appointed by the state to make the hard decisions and common sense reforms that should have been made decades ago.
It won't be pretty. And it may not save the city.
Bing won't slash the 2,300 employees, including 800 police and firefighters, that need to go now to replenish the city's coffers because he's rightly fearful that the impact on services and safety will accelerate the exodus from Detroit. His counter is to promise 1,000 layoffs soon. Not enough. The emergency manager will mail far more pink slips.
Bing is hoping he can avoid mass privatization of city services, including the bus system, by bringing in outside managers to make them more efficient. It's too late for that. The emergency manager will outsource any service that can be provided cheaper by someone else, and buses likely will go.
Bing hasn't put any of the city's "jewels" on the auction block. The emergency manager will hold a fire sale. Say goodbye to City Airport, the city's power plant, and anything else that isn't nailed down. Selling assets to clean up the balance sheet will be Job One.
Bing has been overly patient with the city's unions, hoping they'll ultimately come to Jesus on giving concessions on health care, pensions and pay. They won't. The emergency manager will tip over the bargaining table and achieve those savings with the stroke of a pen.
The emergency manager will save the city from bankruptcy, for a moment. But because of decades of denial, it will be salvation by fire.
There will be fewer amenities, fewer cops on the street, fewer reasons to live in the city. The abundance and affordability of suburban homes will be hard to resist. Those remaining in the city will fight changes every step of the way, particularly because it will be an "outsider" ordering them.
Despite a new burst of youthful energy and enthusiasm for Detroit, no one can look out and see a point at which property values, income tax revenues and population stop declining.
The manager can cut costs and spending, but there's little that can be done to stabilize revenue.
So the cutting will continue.
It will be like chasing water down the drain.
Maybe nothing the mayor could have said or done last week would have altered the city's course. But because he said and did nothing, Detroit's fate seems tragically sealed.
http://www.detnews.com/article/20111120 ... -end-times?
I think we all agree that Detroit, at least Detroit as we currently know it, is over. Kaput. Finis.
There will be vigorous disagreement about the Next Detroit, and I have no doubt many thousands will fight the inevitable. But, like fir trees on the mountainside during an avalanche, those that cannot bend only snap and break.
In February, 1000 city workers will get laid off. That is the first wave. More will follow.
Funding will cease for all cultural arts, including the DIA, the zoo, and the Charles Wright Museum. While the DIA might be able to limp along from endowment money and the donations of wealthy old widows in Birmingham, the zoo and the Wright museum will almost certainly shut their doors.
Recreation centers will be shuttered, and just like dozens of schools that have been boarded up recently only to have scrappers and vandals gut their insides, one time anchors of neighborhoods will become unusable hulks and criminal hideaways.
The same will happen to hundreds, no thousands, of homes, businesses, and churches whose owners withstood the exodus tide of the past several decades hoping that someday, if they stay and contribute, life in Detroit will return to greatness.
I have a vision of New Detroit. Mark my words and hold me to this account over the upcoming months.
New Detroit will be a fraction of Old Detroit. The boundary will be cut by major landmarks such as the river and freeways (My prediction is the city will be framed by I-94, I-96 I-75, and the river). The shape will be perfectly symmetrical. Anything outside the Box will not be Detroit.
Few people will actually live in New Detroit (under 100,000). Instead, the city will function as a hub for business, commerce, entertainment, and health care. There will be little to no focus on providing municipal services to vast neighborhoods; from this point, only sources of revenue (casinos, sports arenas, and corporate entities) and immediate residents will recieve city services. The municipal departments will mirror cities of similar size, like Lansing and Kalamazoo.
In many parts of Old Detroit- Del Ray, Brightmoor, Grandale, Grixdale, Krainz Woods, on and on- you will be on your own. I know it may seem that way now, but you'll soon wish for the good old days after the water and sewers get shut down, electricity gets severed, waste removal ends, and police, fire, and EMS cease operation.
Most of you will move. To New Detroit. To the suburbs. To another state. Anywhere but where you were.
Some of you will stay put, and perhaps incorporate your enclave into a self-supporting city like Hamtramck. I could see this occurring in SW/ Corktown, Old Redford, and perhaps the University District. Some neighborhoods will have enough pride to muster the resources to have basic services such as police, fire, and garbage removal.
And in all the other parts of old Detroit: they will look like a cross between a bad science fiction movie and a third world hellhole. Fires burning in the perpetual darkness, territorial bands of heavily armed thugs roaming the streets, every building will be looted, heaps of trash everywhere, bodies strewn about, and tanks posted at egress points to keep the visagoths at bay.
I don't see it happening any other way.