Sunday, May 19, 2013

Developing Detroit

Positive and Just Economic Development for a Prosperous Detroit? YES. Gentrification? NO.
Gentrification is an economic snowball that rolls down the hill taking poor people first, then people of higher and higher incomes because rent just goes up. People of ever increasing incomes are just pawns in the game of developing for profit.

In Cincinnati, 200 low income residents were displaced by a boutique hotel. It seems that there is a common practice in gentrification. It is to hide low-income people away.  I am a low-income person. No one is hiding me, my friends or my neighbors. No one is going to hide the wonderful children and families I work with. This is shameful and it seems to have already started in Detroit. This is the kind of development Detroit does NOT need. Is it painful to see a homeless man while you drink your $5 cappuccino? No one wants to be reminded of human suffering. Instead of hiding it... now hold onto your hat...why not work toward ending it? 

If you want a shiny facade of an urban core that caters to people with money, that exclusively generates profit and lifestyles, and low-paying jobs for the low income people who are pushed to live on the outskirts of the city, then I am not your candidate. If you want a city that is healthy economically, where people can make money, where large businesses offer a helping hand to small Detroiter-owned businesses, and we are all working together to be sure that there are no more homeless people, then I am the person you want in office. Detroit has the potential to look like any cookie-cutter big gentrified city - a bunch of outsiders coming into the core and pushing the long time Detroiters out slowly, with a focus on short home to work commute times. NO. Why not make neighborhoods safer and schools better so people can move into already established neighborhoods of their choice into the empty houses? Regular people just moving where they want. Not steering people out or in for profit. It is disrespectful. And, yes, this happened in the 80's in Detroit. I am sure a lot of people made money out of steering people into the suburbs. LOOK AT DETROIT! Not again the other direction. No dice. There are many golden neighbors to have in Detroit and I don’t think anyone moving here should be cheated of the opportunity to love a Detroit neighborhood for all the people in it. Wiping out whole swatches to get ready for a real estate boom of new Detroiters is something I will do everything in my power to prevent. 

I've been all over the world. I seek out what my spirit says is right - no, not like the international richy crowd who are always seeking something authentic in gentrified and construed profit seeking facades. No, I seek out what I know is the good stuff of this life. I like to sit on a porch with some neighbors. I liked the poorest part of Thailand where I met a kind grandmother who taught me to properly eat with my hands, laughing at me. I like things that are real, not constructed, especially not the things constructed to make someone else money.

Detroit could be an example of a REAL city. The city that it already is - one of a complex web of longtime relationships that should be used for EVERYONE's advantage. Could we show the world how to end poverty, improve failing public schools, create sustainable jobs, have a thriving small business sector and make a world class city that people want to live in because of the way people treat each other? We do not want the tale of two cities to continue.

What is often underestimated in this world by developers is authenticity. Detroit has that. Many of the plans I see eat the authenticity of Detroit, take no account of the rich social network here and the small town flavor. Personally, this is what has kept me here all these years and I am scared that we are going to lose this. Detroit is in danger and needs to be guided through this development stage with preserving its sense of social justice, friendly helping hands, and rich social networks. Without this, Detroit will no longer feel like home to me or to many longtime Detroiters. It would be a loss to the world if Detroit was not given the chance to grow from the hearts of the many individuals who have hoped against hope, who have laid on the ground through gunshots, who have suffered the losses from corruption and greed, and have not given up on Detroit. Of course people need to make money, but how they do, how much they take vs. how much they give back is in many ways something the government can control for the good of ALL people.

Why would anyone make a plan that even suggests relocation, unless your underlying motivation is for profit, not for residents? People here need to be thanked for staying though all the crap that has gone on here. And you can't just move senior citizens like that. It kills them. You can't just rip children from their social networks. It scars them. The suggestion that anyone might come to my neighborhood and knock the houses down to make a wind farm to power the gentrified urban core, I will tell you what to do with that in no uncertain terms. I would rather offer Detroiters low-cost or free solar panels, windmills or other utility bill saving things, which of course everyone will say yes to.

This is a discussion of New York City's "revitalization" which is not what Detroit needs. “There’s a sense that we the community are no longer in control of what’s going on,” said the leader of a community organization in Brooklyn. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are many negative health effects of gentrification. Goodness gracious, the people of Detroit have basically been living through a war, we don't need this. Not now or ever. 

Strategies for preventing gentrification are here. Here is the Community Land Trust which prevents gentrification by providing low-income individuals with permanently affordable home ownership. I will be seeking out more ideas. I am sure there are many urban planning journal articles that would offer helpful tips - that are sadly not often actually used.

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