Archive for the 'abandone houses' Category
Over the years I’ve received plenty of email from former Detroiters. Recently one asked if I would visited his old street. On this very long block, only about a half dozen houses still stood, and only one appeared to be occupied, although it was in only marginally better condition than the unoccupied ones. This was one of the abandoned houses on the block. Painted an optimistic blue and yellow color combination, it, along with several others appeared to have been recently abandoned.
And so does everyone else who says anything bad about Detroit. Just so you know… In case you haven’t seen it, Dateline did a segment on Detroit. And if you watch it, it’ll be obvious to you too, that NBC hates Detroit.
Of course I’m being sarcastic. I thought it was actually a pretty good piece on Detroit, and it wasn’t too one sided. If you read the comments by Detroit’s defenders, the media hates the city, and they just keep taking cheap shots. I think mistake number one, is taking this personally. Sure Detroit is easy to make fun of, just like the awkward kid in elementary school (that was often me). But getting angry won’t change the perception others have. Heck, it’s not just those outside of the area that have a bad perception of Detroit, it’s people in the city, and the surrounding suburbs. “The best is all gone”, was a quote from the segment on Dateline, and it wasn’t from the media or someone outside of Detroit. In fact Chris Hanson asks what things the subject likes about the city. The subject is stumped, and asks his friend the same question. His friend is un-prompted when he says there is nothing good left in the city.
Changing Detroit, is the only thing that will change the perceptions of others. Constantly crying foul and saying how unfair such perceptions are, just makes Detroiters look bitter. Which of course many are. I can’t blame them if they are. But bitterness, won’t change opinions. Make Detroit into the kind of city you want others to see it as. Forget about what others think of Detroit. It’s not what’s important. What everyone wants is for others to know how great Detroit is. Problem is, it isn’t. And it’s not the media’s fault. Slow’s is cool. Yeah, we all know. Roast is cool. We know that too. Everyone knows about Detroit’s highlights, but unfortunately those things aren’t enough. As one email I received recently stated, “if Detroit was as lively as it’s blogosphere, it would be one happening place.” If the area was really as good as many of the boosters make it out to be, the media would move on. Even the biggest train wreck eventually becomes boring.
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The article reinforces the importance of flexibility, and continual education for a successful career. For most, the days of learning something in school, or on the job, and applying it in one career for the rest of your life, are gone.
On the other hand, the recommendation for the church newsletter publisher to put together a portfolio and shop it around at creative Meetups, will likely lead to nothing. A brand new designer at a designer Meetup, will, at worst, meet other new designers with no work, and at best meet successful veterans who don’t have enough work. This is true in most places, and even more so in metro Detroit.
I didn’t find this surprising. It actually reinforced my preconceived notions. Unfortunately Michigan didn’t do too well in either category. And it shows in the results, with Michigan ranking 41st in happiness.
The following quote from the article was particularly interesting: “Of the personality factors, neuroticism took a toll on a state’s cheery count, suggesting people living in the happiest states are more relaxed than their gloomy counterparts.”
From Wikipedia comes the following definition of neurosis: “poor ability to adapt to one’s environment, an inability to change one’s life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying personality.”
When Rick Wagoner was ousted from GM, many people came to his defense. There was anger. How dare a government appointed “czar” (Steven Rattner), with no automotive industry experience, fire GM’s CEO. “What does the government know about running a car company?”, the defenders would say. I constantly heard how Rick was a “nice guy”. As if that matters. I like nice guys too, but Wagoner had proven his inability to turn GM around.
What does the government know about running a car company? Nothing. What did Rick Wagoner know about running a car company? I don’t know, but it was definitely time for a change. Don’t worry too much though, over his tenure at GM, Rick Wagoner made over $63 million, and left with a $20 million retirement package. Raise your hand if you’d like to lead a failing automotive company…
There were a few points that immediately stood out in their relevance to the metro Detroit area, including the following:
“Economic growth is highly correlated with an abundance of small, entrepreneurial firms.”
“There is a remarkably strong correlation between smaller average firm size and subsequent employment growth due to start-ups.”
“Evidence does not support the view that regional differences in demand for entrepreneurship are responsible for these entrepreneurial clusters. Instead, the evidence suggests that spatial differences in the fixed costs of entrepreneurship and/or in the supply of entrepreneurs best explain cluster formation.”
“If weight, horsepower, and torque were held at their 1980 levels, fuel economy for both passenger cars and light trucks could have increased by nearly 50 percent from 1980 to 2006. Instead, fuel economy actually increased by only 15 percent.”
Technology usually makes things more efficient, and cheaper. In the case of the Big Three, they made them less efficient and more expensive.
There’s not much to say about this, other than those who feel that the suburbs don’t need to worry about the plight of the city are mistaken. The brutal murder occurred at a restaurant at 12 Mile and Telegraph Rd. The witness to that murder was gunned down before the trial.
It’s great to see a Michigan company who played a large role in the collapse of the real estate market get $450 million in tax refunds. Guess who’ll get to pay for that? With “$1.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet, according to its most recent financial statement”, it’s not like Pulte was in danger of shutting it’s doors any time soon.
A recent post on Time’s Detroit Blog about a letter written in response to a comment by George Jackson, in which he stated, “in a sense we are all Detroiters”, brought out some angry and emotional comments.
“When the city of Detroit begins to embrace the economic models that make great American cities, perhaps then the surrounding counties that are enjoying a modicum of economic success will consider aligning themselves with Detroit.” Unfortunately, modicum is the key word here.
Can energy be Michigan’s salvation? What the author, Bob Herber says is, “What we’ve lacked so far has been the courage, the will, to make it happen. ”
One of the recurring sentiments I get from metro Detroiters is not just a lacking will, but a belief that things don’t need to change. “V-8s are good damnit! We’re America!” V-8s are pretty cool…but, it’s old technology, and we need to start embracing the future in this state.
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The entire area in which this house is located has been abandoned. Cement barricades block several of the streets, and large weeds, bushes, and even trees are growing through cracks in the pavement. Over the years I’ve visited this area many times, and have been chased by a pack of stray dogs, and had to drive around 20 foot high piles of toilets, and sinks. This time the overgrowth, mainly the tree of heaven (aka. ghetto palm), was almost completely obscuring several of the houses, and the grass was chest high.
Only a short distance away cars rushing from the suburbs to the city, and back again, pass by continuously. From the sunken Lodge Freeway, it’s almost easy to ignore the devestation, as often only the burned out rooftops are visible from the driver’s vantage point. This section of the city borders Highland Park, and has been particularly hard hit by population loss, unemployment, and abandonment.
The other night I had a conversation with someone still living in metro Detroit. We talked about the national economy, and local Detroit metro economy as well. Now that I’ve been, for the most part, working outside of Michigan for the last couple of years, I see things from a slightly different perspective. Those who live in Michigan are, I imagine, feeling a greater weight, than those of us who live in areas with a better economic outlook. While I’m not viewing the world through rose colored glasses, I certainly see a better national future than did the person on the other end of the line. I believe many regions in this country are well positioned for the future. Unfortunately, where we did agree was in the belief that Michigan, and metro Detroit, is not one of those regions.
For many years now, I’ve been stressing that as bad as things were, I believed they would get much worse for the area. Upon moving back to metro Detroit from Portland, Oregon, I suffered from a pretty big dose of culture shock. The people, the place, and mostly the attitude was completely different. In Portland people, with good educations, often with plenty of experience as well, moved to the area just to be there. They wanted to be around other young, educated, and often creative, individuals. They wanted to be around the kinds of people that start businesses like Resource Revival, Portland Design Works, and River City Bicycles. They wanted to have the chance to work for companies like Nike, Keen, Adidas, Weiden + Kennedy, and Second Story Interactive. I’ve never been able to say the same about Detroit. Though I’m sure there are some who have made a decision to live in Detroit for reasons other than family or a job, I’ve never met any.
Growing up in metro Detroit almost everyone I knew with a lot of money worked in the one industry. If they didn’t work for the Big Three, they had a family business, and it was most likely an automotive supplier, or somehow serviced the auto industry. The pay was often ridiculously high, and the bar was often too low. The pay didn’t necessarily go to the best, but to most well connected. Of course this wasn’t, and isn’t, strictly a problem in one industry, but as the auto industry grew, the problem grew too. At one point in the late 80’s and early 90’s the zip-code I lived in was the wealthiest in the country. This occurred even as the auto industry was in decline. Already almost everyone I knew, around my age, wanted to “escape” from Michigan, and the bloated, insular, and dysfunctional industry that dominated the area. Unfortunately the high pay, and security of the jobs in the industry sucked many back to the state after college, but the foundation for a healthy, innovative, and diversified economy was long gone. As soon as the over heated economy, built on debt, began to cool, the exodus from Michigan moved into overdrive.
Who has left? Anyone with a good education, or skills that were in demand nationwide, such as software engineers, chemical engineers, and many other high tech and creative workers. They were the ones who could go almost anywhere. If you had a good education, and new you could get a good job anywhere, would you stay in a region whose main city leads the nation in crime rates, unemployment and poverty, suffers from a low level of education, has few cultural and recreational opportunities, bad traffic with no alternatives, and a sprawling and poorly designed metro area? Of course the suburbs don’t suffer as the city does from these afflictions, but let’s be honest, young, educated, creative types like cities. No matter what your middle aged, suburb loving, curmudgeon beliefs are, the younger generation likes what cities offer. Even if they don’t live in the city, they want to be near a vibrant one. They want culture, jobs, variety, choices in transportation, and vitality.
So who is left? Is it, as this article claims, the strongest that remain? Maybe those who stayed are stronger. Who knows, though it looks like it is the educated who are leaving, and it appears that the poorer, and less educated would like to leave, but find it much more difficult. But, regardless, metro Detroit needs much more than strength. It needs leadership, creativity, innovation, and vision. Detroit needs a new direction. There are a few good signs, as the article points out, but why did it take so long for anyone to take action? What was going on the last 20 years or so? Nothing as far as I could see. I was there. It wasn’t necessarily that no one cared, but that no one cared to see what was coming. Sure there were the few who were planning for the future, but for the most part it seemed as if Michigan was enjoying a party most believed would never end. Now the party is over, and many are pointing fingers. It’s the liberals fault. It’s bad tax policy. Blah, blah, blah… The ship is underwater. Time to stop the blame game.
It’s not that I believe Detroit has no future, it’s just that I think that it’s going to take a long time to attract the people that are needed to turn things around. Maybe a turn around isn’t even possible. Do we even want to go back? What we really need is to move forward. Michigan has waited far to long to face what was the future, and is now the present, but better late than never I guess. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do know that unless Michigan can attract, and keep the types of people that are leaving, the state doesn’t have much of a future.