Detroit is Dying: Can This City Be Saved?

The city of Detroit is dying, Thousands of jobs have been lost in the car industry alone. Almost 50% of the city is unemployed. Detroit can be saved but it will be a tough fight to win.

From the very beginning when the French first established a fort at the site, what was to become one of this nations largest cities to present day, Detroit, has always been a city that has had it struggles.

From battles with Native American in it earliest beginnings, Detroit has been the site of battles, fires, a stop on the underground railroad, some of the bloodiest race riots in history, the home of gangsters, Motown music, crooked politicians, and a booming car industry.

It is the car industry that made Detroit, and it is this same industry that may in part cause the death and destruction of this vital part of the American economy and history.

From the time Henry Ford, first introduced the Model T in 1908, Detroit took the lead in American car manufacturing earning the city the title of “Motor City” and for good reason. The car industry has from it's onset been the single largest source of income for this once popular city. Automobile manufacturing has provided jobs and incomes for the citizens of Detroit, for Michigan and for the nation for more than 100 years.

When jobs grew scarce in other parts of the country, people moved to Detroit where they could find good paying jobs on the assembly lines of Ford, Chrysler, and GM.

Finding ready work and good wages, the people stayed and Detroit grew spreading out into large suburbs that formed a metropolis of over 1.8 million people by the 1950s.

There were times when Detroit stumbled and even crumbled followed by periods of urban renewal. Through it all Detroit survived and in most ways thrived.

Like most large cities, Detroit offered examples of the best and worst of Urban living, sometimes in connecting neighborhoods at one and the same time. But for all it's endless problems, Detroit was a city that lived and breathed and was home to over a million people, Rich and poor, from all races, and from all backgrounds. It was a city that was uniquely American.

However, since the year 2000 Detroit has seen a sharp decline in it's population. Fifty percent of the city's population has left, unemployment has risen to 28.9% and estimates say that the actual unemployment and underemployment rate for the city may be as high as 40%.

There have been more than 300,000 jobs lost by those working in the car industry since the year 2000, many of those jobs were in the city of Detroit and it's suburbs. While the rest of the nations economy has started to make a slow recovery there is still a danger that all of the Big three car manufactures on which Detroit's economy depends may fold.

If that happens, Detroit is doomed.

There are factories and entire neighborhoods that are sitting empty. There is talk of bulldozing parts of this city, to try and stop some of the decay and prevent the rising crime that these empty neighborhoods seem to bring to life.

But bulldozing will not solve the real problem. With almost half the city's citizens out of work Detroit could turn into the nations largest homeless area. Detroit already has more homes in foreclosure than any other city and with no jobs available there will be more. Those who can afford to do so are fleeing the city in droves. Those who can't afford to seek a life any where else will be left, jobless, homeless, and hopeless.

The effect that the car industries problems have had on Detroit are enormous, and weakened the city to a degree that it will take decades to recover. If the car industry in Detroit fails completely it will kill the city of Detroit, maim the entire state of Michigan, and cause a ripple effect that will affect the jobs and livelihood of the entire nation.

The loss of Detroit in many ways will be the loss of the American dream.

Can this city be saved? With all the problems facing Michigan in general and Detroit specifically is there anything that will stop Detroit from become the first major city in the United States from becoming a ghost town?

The answer is yes, but it will take more than wishful thinking and the prayers of Detroit citizens who are left in this decaying city. It will take a united effort on the part of all Michigan Residents, the State and local governments and help from those outside the state as well to save this crumbling dinosaur.

The politicians in Lansing need to start thinking of effective ways of getting Michigan back on its feet again. The time is long past for administrative quick fixes of the past. They need to take a hard look at what is happening to this state and work towards solving those problems.

Those who hold offices in Detroit, need to either quit playing unethical politics and get real or get out of office. The need to think of the city first and their pocketbooks last.

The city needs people of vision. Yes, they need to bulldoze. With the number of people that have fled Detroit the city needs to downsize. But in those areas that are bulldozed they need to build green spaces, and put up public works of art. Such places are known to bring hope to the communities, and to also bring in new business.

Make no mistake, new business needs to be attracted to Detroit. No longer can the city afford to rely on a single source of business and survive. Even if the car companies recover, they will be much smaller and hire less people than they once did. Attracting new business is vital to the city's recovery.

We also need to clean up the cities schools. Not just talk about cleaning them up but actually do something about it. Get the weapons, the drugs, and the people who deal them out of those schools. Hire teachers and administrators whose first priority is educating the children who want to learn and to succeed.

It all has to start with the citizens themselves. No matter what their education level, no matter what their income, they need to band together, start helping one another, start cleaning up their neighborhoods and making the changes they can.

They need to show the city, the state and the country that they are not ready to give up on Detroit. That they will fight for it and are ready and willing to work to make it the city that they know it can and should be.

It won't be an easy fight to win. But it can be won. One neighborhood, one community at a time.

It is also a fight that must be won. For the sake of Detroit, for Michigan, and for the nation.






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Posted on Oct 19, 2009