"The fall and maybe rise of Detroit, America's most epic urban failure, from local native and Rolling Stone reporter Mark BinelliOnce America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neo-pastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists--all have been drawn ...
"The fall and maybe rise of Detroit, America's most epic urban failure, from local native and Rolling Stone reporter Mark BinelliOnce America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neo-pastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists--all have been drawn to Detroit's baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier. With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native and Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Throughout the city's "museum of neglect"--its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie--he tracks the signs of blight repurposed, from the school for pregnant teenagers to the killer ex-con turned street patroller, from the organic farming on empty lots to GM's wager on the Volt electric car and the mayor's realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center.Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning--what might just be the first post-industrial city of our new century"--
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Are we all doomed to Detroit?s fate? Is this what we can expect for the future? Will we need a person riding shotgun to travel in our automobiles in broad daylight? Will we take civic collapse as the new norm? In the face of these developments I am surprised at the docility of the American people. Taking author Mark Binelli?s reportage to heart we are all going to be in for a quite a rough time; because as Detroit goes, so goes the nation.
Private decisions have public consequences. Corporate board rooms are the battlegrounds of the future. Every plant shutdown is another nail in our coffin. Just how can we sustain ourselves with so many jobs being shipped overseas? Even one of Detroit?s own, Henry Ford, had the sense to know that if he didn?t provide work, and provide his employees with a good wage; they wouldn?t be able to afford his product.
This book is scary stuff. The author has the bittersweet task of presiding over the funeral of his home town. Gloating tourists, (with cameras), have made it a new thing to trek through ruined buildings, hoping to capture the apocalyptic landscape, (before what, the ultimate destruction?) Are the voyeurs taking their images to heart, in some sort of impending doomsday mindset, or merely having fun at someone else?s expense?
Of course for people who live in Detroit, it is not an adventure, it is the daily struggle to survive; with disappearing city services. It is not unusual to wait for hours for emergency personnel, (if they show up at all). Whole areas are being taken off the electrical grid. Schools, libraries, police stations, and fire stations are being shut down. Unionized civil service work is being downgraded to benefit-free low-paying peonage. Violent crime is rampant.
In the face of this nightmare the author holds hope. He sees a glint of daylight in the artistic class. He is hoping that the example of the New York Soho/Brooklyn Renaissance will take hold in Detroit, (with the concomitant neighborhood stability and rise in property values). But can that do the trick? Manhattan has always relied on a diverse economic base, (finance, fashion, entertainment, etc.) When clothing buyers stopped ?looking for the union label? there were other industries to pick up the slack. (In fact, many of the former ILGWU-represented work sites in NYC have reverted to domestic sweat-shop status, a domestic ?contracting-out?, if you will, which, in a perverse way, has kept the industry here, in a somewhat limited capacity.)
Mayor Bing, (and all Detroit politicians), have taken downsizing in stride. Less is the new more. We are all being asked to lower our expectations, (as if the Great Recession didn?t make that point already). The real question is how far will it go? How much longer are we willing to leave our fate in the hands of the investing class, when they don?t care to invest in us? Will Adam Smith?s ?invisible hand? really be there to protect us? I think not. The ?hand? is now slapping us in the head. Do you think that will bring us back to our senses, or are we like lambs marching to the slaughter?
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