Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 National/international media pushes invalid information about Detroit Previous Next
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Erikd
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Username: Erikd

Post Number: 572
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.214.106
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 6:53 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Some of the recent coverage about Detroit is so filled with mis-information, I figured a new thread was in order.

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The live broadcast of "World Have Your Say" from Detroit featured British hosts talking about the issues facing Detroit. The British hosts kept trying to tie the recent problems of the auto industry to the massive population losses in the city of Detroit. They were unable to comprehend the reality of what is really going on here.

People are not moving out of the city of Detroit because of the recent job cuts in the auto industry. There is no mass exodus of Delphi workers or white collar Ford workers moving out of the city of Detroit due to layoffs in the suburbs. The people that are moving out of Detroit are leaving for the same reason that people have been leaving for decades- crime, race, insurance costs, poor servives, etc...

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This week's column by Jack Lessenberry is another recent example of "experts" not getting it...



quote:

Edward Glaeser is...a brilliant economist who is regarded as a "genius" and the "most exciting" expert on cities. He was made a full professor at Harvard University when he was only 30; eight years later, he is also director of one of the nation's leading institutes on state and local government. And professor Edward Glaeser thinks the nation should allow the city of Detroit to slide right down the shit hole.

"Places decline and places grow," he said with an apparent shrug, in a major, adoring profile in The New York Times Magazine a month ago. "There's no reason not to let decline go forward.




The basic premise is "fuck Detroit, we can do without it."

This guy sounds like LBP's evil twin. The Detroit suburbs have been "growing" at the expense of the city for the last 50 years, and now that the city has been bled dry, the new burbs are pulling their residents and businesses from the old burbs.

The dysfunctional relationships in SE Michigan has made it nearly impossible to attract and retain businesses. The situation has become so dire, suburban and oustate leaders are starting to admit that they need Detroit to improve to help attract businesses and residents to the rest of the state.

It's pretty sad that a Harvard economist can't grasp the concept that businesses and talented people will not move to a region that features 140 square miles of burned-out ghettoes, surrounded by aging subdivisions and strip malls.
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I welcome constructive criticism and advice from outsiders, but some of these people can't even grasp our core issues...
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Lowell
Board Administrator
Username: Lowell

Post Number: 2434
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 66.167.58.14
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 10:35 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Erikd, you have been around here for a long time yet only have 584 posts. But your quality posts outnumber some with thousands more and this is another one.

The mythology and stereotypes that have grown up around Detroit are so simple and attractive that even the "experts" are seduced by them. Regarding the Harvard boy wonder you cite, I am reminded of that French sociologist in the "Detroit: Ruin of City" documentary and his simplistic perceptions.

The naivete of both is an embarassment to their reputations and they don't even realize it. Instead they reenforce the stereotypes.
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Supersport
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Username: Supersport

Post Number: 9979
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 64.118.137.226
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 10:36 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Mewonders why MGM would pony up $765 million for a city left to slide down the shitter. Mayhaps they neglected to speak with this "expert" from Harvard. Or mayhaps they did consult a Harvard grad, methinks maybe one who keeps it real living in Corktown.

Go figure...as I listen to more bullshit spewing outta somebody's mouth with a piece of paper from a respectable college thinking they got it all figured out. Fuck that guy and the horse he rode in on.

ps...keep it real E-dawg.
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River_rat
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Username: River_rat

Post Number: 97
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 198.172.203.228
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 11:03 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Why are we bashing an economist from Harvard when Detroit has a plethora of reasons and the major responsibility for the sorry state of our city and economy at this time. The real blame should rest on the shoulders of years of political ineptitude (and worse) of our own elected officials?

Blame the suburbs, blame the feds, blame the unions, blame the auto industry. The real blame is at the feet of the electorate who, for decades, has put in office what we have had, and have today.

Stop blaming others. Here comes the you know what to river rat.
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Lilpup
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Username: Lilpup

Post Number: 916
Registered: 06-2004
Posted From: 205.188.116.137
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 11:38 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

From the recent NYT magazine profile of Harvard economist Edward Glaeser (whom the author calls "the defender of sprawl, the explainer of human capital and the avenger of zoning regulations")

edit to clarify: I think this guy's theory has some fundamental flaws. A city isn't all about real estate.


quote:

In any case, Glaeser discovered that there can be more to urban success than cars and palm trees. For a city without warm weather and a car-friendly environment, skills are destiny. That is why New York and Minneapolis, with vast numbers of college graduates, have done so well. "Boston would be just another declining, cold, manufacturing city if it weren't for its preponderance of human capital," Glaeser says. And his studies suggest that the more skilled a city's population, the more skilled it is becoming, as entrepreneurs attract skilled workers who in turn attract entrepreneurs. Americans, as a result, are sorting themselves through education and geography more and more with each passing year.

The process yields losers as well as winners. Late last year, Glaeser wrote a controversial article that made a case against rebuilding New Orleans. He has since become an intellectual leader to a tiny, unsentimental, let's-not-rebuild-the-city faction. "There's some small core of the city that should be there," he says, "but the city itself has been in decline for 50 years and in relative decline for 150 years relative to the U.S. population as a whole. It's not a great spot to have a city; it's incredibly expensive to build the infrastructure to keep it there. You can't possibly argue that New Orleans has been doing a good job of taking care of its poor residents, either economically or socially. And surely some of the residents are better off by being given checks and being allowed to move elsewhere." Glaeser admits that many critics have responded to his views with shock, asserting that he is unfairly attacking the city at a moment of terrible vulnerability. "No one has accused me of hating the poor or being racist," he says. "But I have been accused of not having a heart."

It's a familiar complaint. A few years ago, in an article Glaeser wrote about poverty for Harvard's alumni magazine, he suggested eliminating public housing in the U.S. in favor of housing vouchers. His argument was attacked for being coldblooded as well as impractical. Chris Mayer, a housing economist at Columbia Business School and a frequent admirer of Glaeser's research, says that Glaeser's perspective on things tends to attract controversy and incite debate. "I think Ed does care a lot about helping the poor and about social equality," Mayer says, "but his view of how to get there is a different view than other people."

Glaeser, for his part, says he feels the same about New Orleans as he does about many cities of the Rust Belt. "I believe very strongly that our obligation is to people, not places, and I think we certainly have an obligation ethical, economic, what have you to the residents of Detroit," he told me. But he sees no economic or geographic reason to have a large city there anymore, and he views the prospects for any rebound as dim. (Detroit ranks last among cities with more than 500,000 residents in percentage of college graduates.) The city produced the cars that produced the sprawl that helped destroy the city; such tragedy might have been lessened had it produced more universities too. "There are no reasons why it can't, and shouldn't, decline," Glaeser says. "And I would say that for many other cities. There's no reason not to let decline go forward." The greatness of America is dependent in part upon regional evolutions and migrations, he adds. "Places decline and places grow. We shouldn't stand in the way of that."

Glaeser first began to think about how real estate fit into this urban order a few years ago, after he spent some time looking at the effects of skills and sprawl on cities. While Glaeser seems able to turn out academic papers at an astonishing pace he almost always writes at home, so he can smoke cigars while he types it sometimes takes years for him and his collaborators to assemble the data and equations used to support his ideas. In addition to his urban research, Glaeser has written on voting behavior, hatred, poverty and public health; a few years ago, with David Cutler, he wrote a widely discussed paper that looked at why Americans are becoming so obese. (They attributed it partly to the microwave oven.) Yet urban subjects have consumed most of Glaeser's time and attention. In the late 1990's, he began thinking less about incorporeal forces like human capital and consumerism and more about the physical nature of places buildings, roads, buses and what kind of effect that had on a metropolitan area.

In 2000, Glaeser took a sabbatical from Harvard and began to spend a few days a week in Philadelphia working with Joseph Gyourko, a real-estate economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Glaeser had already been thinking about the relationship between housing and urban poverty when one day he and Gyourko began to discuss why cities like Philadelphia and Detroit places with poor future prospects, both economists believed weren't doing even worse in terms of population. Why didn't everyone leave, Gyourko wondered, and go to a place like Charlotte, N.C., that had a fast-growing economy? This question addresses a puzzle of urban economics. Cities (think of Las Vegas or Phoenix) can grow at a very fast rate, exploding overnight with businesses and residents. Some can increase in population by 50 or even 60 percent in a decade. But cities lose their residents very slowly and almost never at a pace of more than 10 percent in a decade. What's more, when cities grow, they expand significantly in population, but housing prices tend to rise slowly; even as Las Vegas grew by leaps and bounds in the 1990's, for instance, the average home there cost well under $200,000. When cities decline, however, the trends get flipped around. Population diminishes slowly, but housing prices tend to drop markedly.

Glaeser and Gyourko determined that the durable nature of housing itself explains this phenomenon. People can flee, but houses can take a century or more to finally fall to pieces. "These places still exist," Glaeser says of Detroit and St. Louis, "because the housing is permanent. And if you want to understand why they're poor, it's actually also in part because the housing is permanent." For Glaeser, this is the story not only of these two places but also of Buffalo, Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh the powerhouse cities of America in 1950 that consistently and inexorably lost population over the next 50 years. It is not just that there were poor people and the jobs left and the poor people were stuck there. "Thousands of poor come to Detroit each year and live in places that are cheaper than any other place to live in part because they've got durable housing still around," Glaeser says. The net population of Detroit usually decreases each year, in other words, but the city still attracts plenty of people drawn by its extreme affordability. As Gyourko points out, in the year 2000 the median house price in Philadelphia was $59,700; in Detroit, it was $63,600. Those prices are well below the actual construction costs of the homes. "To build them new, it would cost at least $80,000," Gyourko says, "so there's no builder who would build those today. And as long as those houses remain, the people remain."

The resulting paper, "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," caused a stir among urban economists even before its publication last year. (It was initially circulated with a subtitle along the lines of "Why Does Anyone Still Live in Detroit?" until the authors, thinking it politically insensitive, removed it.)




(Message edited by lilpup on April 08, 2006)
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Jiminnm
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Username: Jiminnm

Post Number: 407
Registered: 02-2005
Posted From: 68.35.85.184
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 1:13 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Part of the issue is that Detroit means something different to many folks. To some posters here, Detroit means the city and nothing else. However, to many folks that live somewhere else in the US or abroad, Detroit can mean all of SE Michigan. I never fully realized that until we moved away and began talking with people who had never been in Detroit or SE Michigan. Since many here in NM came from somewhere else, I was a bit surprised that they would paint with such a broad brush even when they came from places like Chicago or LA and understood the urban/suburban differences of their home towns but ascribed something else to Detroit. I expect it's part of the perception problems that Detroit must overcome.
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Rberlin
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Username: Rberlin

Post Number: 474
Registered: 06-2005
Posted From: 65.43.45.201
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 4:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Even out state, growing up in Midland and Saginaw area, we tended to lump all the suburbs together as Detroit.
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Rustic
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Username: Rustic

Post Number: 2314
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 130.132.177.245
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 6:13 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Part of the deep and significant cultural importance of Detroit to our nation is that its name has become allegorical at many levels. (IMO a good litmus test of Detroiters is can they instantly and unconsiously switch between these different "Detroits" in casual conversation without missing a beat.)

It is very easy for a dilletante to mix up these allegorical "Detroits" either mistakenly, haphazardly OR simply to reinforce a positon they wish to make.

Consider the following allegorical "Detroits".

"Detroit" as the domestic auto industry (just like "Hollywood" represents the domestic movie industry or "Wall Street" represents the domestic financial industry). This "Detroit" changed America. This "Detroit" also has been ossifying (typically profitably, but ossifying nonetheless) for ~50 years and now happens to be struggling badly. This "Detroit" of course really exists in boardrooms, factories, design studios, union halls, bank offices, financial centers (including "Wall Street" to shuffle two allegories), showrooms, etc all over not only the SE Michigan region but NA and beyond.

"Detroit" of course is also a large metropolitian population base. This population base has been relatively well-paid and living pretty much comparable to most other large metro areas, in some ways better than many (high wages, lower COL) in some ways worse than many (worse regional infrastructure, flat local economic base). Population growth over the last 50 years has been at the low end of many metro areas but not in the bottom tier (actually comparable to Boston for what it is worth). This "Detroit" is a major media and consumer market and happens to make and produce more than it's fair share of goods cw other metro areas. This "Detroit" inspite of it's "flyover state" dullness has been and remains a disproportionately powerful creative cultural engine.

Detroit of course is also the name of the central city of this large metropolitan area. This city has been through the wringer of 5 decades of population upheval, economic divestment and regionally specific circumstances which have left a disproportionately large share of scar tissue and tumors within the city limits compared with other metro area's central cities. This situation has lead to another allegorical "Detroit" as a bombed out wasteland (As so often described on this forum.)

This central city happens to contain a large majority black population. This had lead to an allegorical "Detroit" representing black political and social empowerment and dominance. This "Detroit" can be uplifting, scary, good, bad, etc. depending on one's perspective or the point one wishes to make.

Yay Detroit, "Detroit", "Detroit", "Detroit", and "Detroit" ALL of them are terrible and wonderful places!
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Jiminnm
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Username: Jiminnm

Post Number: 410
Registered: 02-2005
Posted From: 68.35.85.184
Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 9:14 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Rustic, I was speaking more geographically, but you're right about the distinctions. For example, there is a widespread belief amongst many that I've met outside Michigan that Detroit (the city) still has many auto plants.
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Chow
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Username: Chow

Post Number: 275
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.136.148.83
Posted on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 1:22 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I noticed an interesting preconception of Detroit in Vancouver. Maybe the vast majority hadn't ever been to, or rarely spoken of, but about half of the people that I spoke with assumed Detroit was much larger and busier than Vancouver. Most people would say "Ah, big city. Vancouver must seem small." It seemed as though the Detroit they were picturing was Detroit of the 50's and 60's.

Oh yeah, what about the other half? They commented on the crime.
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Dougw
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Username: Dougw

Post Number: 1074
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 68.74.29.163
Posted on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 2:05 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Great post, Erikd.

River_rat, you're missing the point. No one on this thread is "blaming others" for the city's situation, just pointing out that some of the media/expert opinions out there lately are overly simplistic. The bit about the British show was especially typical.
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Erikd
Member
Username: Erikd

Post Number: 575
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.214.106
Posted on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 3:21 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Rustic makes good points about the different Detroits. I have heard and read numerous opinions about what is going on in "Detroit", and many of these people don't understand the differences between the various Detroits, nor do they understand how the changes in one of the Detroits impact the others.

My first post was not meant to "blame" the media, nor anyone else for our problems. My point was that I am dissappointed that people giving opinions in the media are often ignorant to the realities of the situation.

All of the Detroits are have a hard time right now, and it has put us at a crossroads. The decisions made in the near future will impact the region for decades. At this important time, we can ill afford to have our judgement clouded by by misinformed people spouting off in the media.

In order for us to make good decisions, we need to base them on solid information. I would just like to see more good information and well founded opinions presented by people in the media.

(Message edited by erikd on April 09, 2006)
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Ray
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Username: Ray

Post Number: 662
Registered: 06-2004
Posted From: 69.209.169.47
Posted on Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 3:43 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Erikd, the media coverage is worse than just getting the story wrong. Reporters like any craftsmen use tools, and the tools they include stock concepts or storlylines. Detroit is one of the stock concepts, and that's why it's the object of gratuitious slams. In an article about blight or crime, they just throw in a reference to Detroit to orientate the reader. It's like Vietnam or Beirut or Enron or other events or entities that have become iconic. We've become the icon of urban decay. It's a PR quagmire that will take years to undo.

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