Archive for the 'public transportation' Category

Who understands how Detroit needs to change?


After living and working for the past two years in D.C., and Denver, Colorado, coming back to the Detroit area is a real eye opener. What was once a maddening and frustrating place to live is now just plain depressing. With the real unemployment rate estimated to be near 20% for the state, and a ridiculously high 50% for the city of Detroit, still falling real estate values (down 40% in my area, and including our house), a crumbling infrastructure, financially strapped municipalities and school districts, and a apparent 50% commercial vacancy rate (just judging by what I can see..), the metro area seems to continually worsen. Each time I come back it seems that things couldn’t get worse (even though I don’t believe the area’s hit bottom yet), yet it always does.

Living in the area, one becomes accustomed to things residents in most other areas would never imagine. Roads that get complaints in other areas, metro Detroiters can only dream about. The public transit that others complain about being crowded or expensive, doesn’t even exist here. Same with the practically non-existent bike lanes. In Denver I ride my bike everywhere, only getting in the car to make longer distance trips. It’s something that I found to be unacceptably difficult here in southeastern Michigan. When I did make a trip by bicycle here, I was that strange person riding their bike on the road carrying grocery bags; presumably some poor sap who’d had his license taken away, or who didn’t have enough money for a car. In Denver, I’m just one of many using a bicycle for, believe it or not, transportation. Imagine that… Our neighbor here in metro Detroit would drive one block to buy cigarettes.


Driving around metro Detroit, it’s rare to see more than one or two people out getting exercise of any kind. In Denver it would be rare to see less than a dozen people exercising on my two mile ride to work. The weekly Wednesday night cruiser ride in Denver attracted up to 850 riders on a single night this past summer. Of course one has considering how many other options there are for socializing, entertainment, and outdoor activities. On any given week there will be rides, runs, creative Meetups, art openings, and just about anything else an active person under the age of 95 might enjoy. I know some of these things exist in metro Detroit, but the often long distance between them isn’t just inconvenient, but a huge waste of time, and dangerous when you consider all of the different highways one would have to travel to get from, say, Royal Oak to Ann Arbor on a weekday evening.

I have a point, beyond yet one more rant about the area. And the point is this: does anyone, who hasn’t left, or doesn’t want to leave, understand what needs to change about the metro area? Everyone knows that Michigan needs jobs. But I get the feeling that many who remain believe that those who left were weak, or quitters, or don’t like hard work. Those “quitters” who left the state, left because they had other opportunities…better opportunities, and most likely a chance at a better lifestyle. They didn’t leave because they weren’t up for a challenge. If an area offers jobs, and “opportunities” rooted in the past, and another area is embracing the future, why would I choose that challenge? If you can be on a better team, who wouldn’t choose it? Sure, some would rather be a big fish in a small pond, but this particular pond keeps getting smaller, and dirtier.

The point is often made that the area needs to bring back manufacturing jobs. I wouldn’t argue that manufacturing jobs…heck any jobs, would be good for the area. But maybe what the area really needs is to face reality. Metro Detroiters need to adapt to changing times. An education may be a good place for many to start. The claim is often made that metro Detroiters are scrappy, gritty, and hard working survivors. What mid-west city doesn’t believe that? The question is, what do survivors do when there old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore? They change their way of doing things. What did metro Detroit do when it was obvious the ways of the past were going to end soon? Nothing. Detroit made pretty much all of the same mistakes Pittsburgh has made, but unfortunately, unlike Pittsburgh, Detroit’s had very little of the fortuitous investments in other industries.

The question that should be asked, that often isn’t, is why have our young and highly educated citizens been leaving for decades? If the question was asked of every one of them, that has left the state, one would get a variety of answers from jobs to lifestyle. If you were to ask what it would take to get them to come back to metro Detroit, the answers would be equally varied, but I doubt many want to come back for traditional manufacturing jobs. Nor did many of them leave because of a lack of traditional manufacturing jobs. As a friend said the other night, “the state is a storefront. Why would anyone want to come in?”


When time Magazine offered advertising space for a campaign designed to draw this very demographic to southeastern Michigan, they asked five large agencies to answer the question, “If I’m young, talented and creative, and open to all kinds of opportunities, why Detroit?” Take a look at the ads… My personal opinion is that these ads do a better job of answering, “if I’m young, talented and creative, and open to all kinds of opportunities, why leave Detroit?” The ads do a great job of pointing out the disconnect that exists between those who have lived here a long time, and made lots of money here, and those of a younger more mobile generation. Outside of the suburbs of Detroit, who cares about Kid Rock? It really makes me wonder, if these people even understand what types of music the target demographic listens to? I can tell you, it’s not Kid Rock. Not a single one touched on any compelling reason for someone from outside of the area, to relocated here. Why are we even asking the old guard how to attract a new generation of creative, enthusiastic, and highly motivated entrepreneurs and creatives? L. Brooks Patterson still wants to stake metro Detroit’s future on the widening of I-75 from 8 Mile to M-59. MDOT and SEMCOG still seem to believe all transportation should be done in an automobile. No bikes, no trains, no walking…again that’s for the Third World poor, such as those in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Portland, Denver, London, Brussels, and Toronto.

The morning after I arrived back in metro Detroit, we watched part of a round-table discussion on a local news show. The topic was, of course, about the area’s future. It appeared that not one of the participants was under the age of 60. Not that those over 60 have nothing to contribute. But asking only those who lived through a very different time period how we should proceed into the future misses the point entirely. We are in this situation because we (they) thought that what worked in the past would surely work in the future. If it was good enough then, it’s good enough now. Needless to say, watching did not make me feel very encouraged about the future of metro Detroit. Does anybody here, in any leadership position, with any power, or with money, get it yet? Do they understand the real issues? Do they know what it’s going to take to bring people back, or to make them stay?

More of the same, or, why I continue to beat a dead horse…


I know I say the same things over and over. I guess I just feel I can’t say them enough. One of my favorite topics is the need to make the Metro Detroit area an attractive place to live. The usual xenophobic reaction is to resist any kind of change.  The typical mindset seems to be something like the following: If something worked 75 years ago, it’s got to work now. We didn’t need mass transit, bike lanes, or parks then, so why would we need them now. In fact people only go to cities for jobs, right? So we need to get some big corporation to relocate to our sad, depressed area, and give us jobs.

In reality, highly educated, creative, young people go where they want to go. And guess what? They don’t want to go to Metro Detroit. They want to go to cities they may actually enjoy living in, not just one that provides a job. A good urban area can, and usually does attract educated, creative, and entrepreneurial young professionals, so important to economic growth. And young, creative, educated types start companies, and create jobs. Corporations are also much more likely to locate where they can pick from a large qualified workforce.

The metro area, and Michigan as a whole, has not been very forward thinking. In fact it’s pretty much been in reverse, while the vast majority of the country was in drive. Now, believe it or not, G.M. is planning to cut even more white collar jobs,  we are having to loan G.M. $4B more, GMAC is getting a $7.5B loan, and the automotive industry’s pension funds appear to be on life support.


And to top it all off, Detroit’s got an image problem, largely due to the darn media. Constantly painting Detroit in a bad light; how could they? If only they new the truth; it’s a safe city, with lots of job opportunities and a bright future… Heck, even I am getting hate messages. Apparently I am a “disgusting human being” for taking photos of abandonment, and I surely “could’ve chosen a different subject matter.” Shoot the messenger. Always a good idea. In fact maybe if we say, “Detroit is good enough. Detroit is smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like Detroit”, maybe the abandonment and corruption will magically vanish, jobs will appear, and the economy and unemployment won’t be the worst in the nation anymore. Maybe I can pretend my house is worth more than my mortgage too.

Detroit does have a future of some kind. Most likely though, it’ll never look like it did 4o years ago. It’ll almost certainly be something very different. Hopefully, at the very least, it’ll look very different than it does today. Some possibilities include urban farming, green spaces, giving away land to entrepreneurs and urban villages. It’s obvious that Detroit can’t provide traditional services to the area it currently encompasses. It is time for a change.

Finally, while I feel very bad for the subject of this story, you just have to ask, “what were you thinking?” or “were you thinking?” It’s not like the Metro Detroit areas outlook suddenly went from promising to bleak overnight.

Michigan Central Station

When built in 1913, the Michigan Central Station was the world’s largest train station. The station was built fairly far from the downtown, with the hopes that it would anchor further development in the area. The station was used heavily through World War II, though the Great Depression slowed development in the city. Michigan Central Station saw declining usage shortly after. Unfortunately the station was never even filled to capacity with several upper floors never being used.

The station finally closed for good in 1988. It has stood empty ever since, and after years of neglect and deterioration, the Detroit City Council has voted to demolish the historic building, and bill the owner, Matty Moroun, for the costs.

How will Rick get his mojo back? - Anonymous letter sent to The Motor(less) City

Rumors have surfaced amidst speculation that Rick Wagoner, former General Motors Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive, is said to be “strongly considering” applying for a position as an unpaid intern with mo (, a marketing and creative services firm with offices in Oak Park, Michigan – a Detroit suburb.

An unconfirmed source close to Mr. Wagoner acknowledged earlier today: “Rick has admired the creative work of mo for years now, and he’s expressed very sincere interest in learning more about their internship programs - now that he is able to devote himself more fully to his creative and aesthetic impulses, he is anxious to explore the possibilities.”

That same undisclosed source continues: “Aside from their great work, Rick loves the companies’ name, mo – it reminds him of Motown; he fondly recalls the day when automobiles were made - right here - in Detroit! Cars that Americans coveted - bought and drove. He feels a strong connection with the ‘creative types’ as he calls them, and he now deeply regrets not having hired mo years ago. Wagoner believes that GM’s legacy of ill-conceived and poorly executed marketing programs and initiatives could have been avoided if mo had been on the job…” continues that same close source to the former CEO. “In retrospect, he [Rick] now believes that mo was the answer to GM’s prayers all along…and they were regrettably overlooked in lieu of larger institutional firms.”

A representative of mo issued this prepared statement: “We cannot comment on any conversations we may or may not have had to date with Mr. Wagoner about a position with mo. We adhere to a rigorous standard of excellence for all of our interns. Inclusion in our popular program is based solely on the merit of the individual’s application and the enthusiasm of each candidate, as well as any practical experience they may have in our industry. No exceptions will be made based on previous [CEO] status, race, gender, or ethnicity. Any candidate applying for an internship with us who does not meet our high expectations and standards will not be considered for inclusion, and Mr. Wagoner is no exception. We look forward to reviewing his completed application. And if indeed Mr. Wagoner is looking to get his mojo back, he has certainly come to the right place to find it.”

That same mo representative declined comment on the suggestion the small firm might have saved GM from financial ruin, but added:

“We all either drive Toyotas or we ride our bikes to work – everyone deserves reliable transportation.”

When asked about the recent developments with mo, an employee who asked to remain anonymous said that General Motors Corp. was preparing a statement indicating that it was ‘still reviewing’ the specifics of Wagoner’s compensation package with GM, but internal sources had suggested that an unpaid internship “may appear imprudent for Rick at this juncture given the devaluation of [his] severance package…”

Wagoner’s salary was rolled back in 2008 - his compensation was tied to the company’s stock performance, which has declined significantly since he took the helm of the floundering automotive company. He agreed to accept a salary of $1 for 2009 as part of the automaker’s restructuring plan. Wagner is rumored to be found regularly roaming the halls of the GM headquarters, quietly repeating to himself, “I need to learn a trade…some sort of skill. Maybe graphics. Maybe house painting.”

Rick Wagoner has served as CEO for almost nine of the 32-years he has been employed with General Motors.

Mr. Wagoner was not available for comment.

The abandoned house of the week…cheap houses, a smoking ban, and mass transit?


I’ve just begun using Twitter. I’m really just kind of eavesdropping on other peoples conversations, or at least parts of conversations. According to my eavesdropping the hot topic regarding Detroit is cheap houses. With NPR, Anderson Cooper, The New York Times, CNN, and other news organizations reporting that houses are selling for as low as $1, artists are buying up neighborhoods, foreigners  are snapping up real estate for investment, and Detroit’s rebirth is right around the corner, it seems everyone wants to buy a house in Detroit.

Some of the Tweets I saw on the topic of cheap houses in Detroit included:

“They just said on NPR that you can buy a slightly run down house in Detroit for 100 bucks.”

“foreign investors flocking to detroit for cheap houses. me want in!”

“We should all move to Detroit. $100 houses. We could live off our savings for years.”

“Are you buying a house in Detroit? Are the $8000 houses habitable, and in safe neighborhoods?”

“I think I am going to start investing in Detroit too, and so should you. Houses for $12K, thats crazy!”

A few of the articles really make it sound like a great opportunity to get in on a creative revolution in the Motor City, but if you read more than a few of the articles, and listen to some of the reports, you quickly learn what most Metro Detroiters already know; that it’s not so simple.

Listening to the NPR report you find out that even as some are moving in to a neighborhood, others are desperate to get out. Even the two artists, who are the story’s focus, admit their house has been broken into three times, and one of them has been threatened.  Detroit’s poverty rate is about as high as it gets in the developed world, the unemployment rate is above 20%, and the crime rates are equally high. Furthermore getting a house up to code in Detroit is a test of anyone’s commitment, and insuring that house, and your car (which can’t get by without in Detroit)is ridiculously expensive.

And then of course there’s Detroit’s wonderful city services. Will your garbage get picked up? How long will it take to get power back after desperate thieves steal the transformer off the pole down the street? What happens if you’re robbed, shot, or otherwise injure…how long will it take to get police (when I was trapped by a pack of wild dogs, the police operator told me it would be a couple of hours), or EMS to arrive? Where do you go for groceries? Kids? …forget it.

I’d love to go down, and buy a cheap place, fix it up, and be a part of a renaissance, but unless a couple hundred of my friends decide to do the same thing, at the same time, I’m likely putting myself, and my family in a bad situation. Is it worth it to be an urban pioneer with all of the risks involved, simply to get dirt cheap housing? The thousands that leave Detroit each year would say no. Many have struggled for years, to make the situation workable, and most have failed. Not all of the areas in Detroit are not bad, but you won’t find $500 houses in those areas. The prices in the nicer areas aren’t that high compared to other urban areas in the U.S., but they’re much higher than the prices thrown around in the recent reports.

I hope this trend continues, and some creative oases arise from the urban rubble of Detroit. I feel there are some opportunities for some special people, and maybe someday, some areas will actually attract average people who don’t want to be burglarized on a regular basis, who don’t want to pay several thousand dollars per year for auto insurance, who don’t want to have to drive back out to the suburbs for groceries, and who actually want to feel somewhat safe in their homes.


Warning: From this point down, large amounts of sarcasm will be used.

Other topics being mentioned on Twitter include Metro Detroit mass transit, and another attempt at passing a smoking ban in bars and restaurants. Mass transit is still a ways away from reality in Metro Detroit, but at least our regional politicians are getting on board. Less than eight years ago, L. Brookes Patterson, stated on Michigan Public Radio, that “we can’t afford to invest a dime in an experiment like mass transit.” Apparently after eight long years of testing around the world, he’s concluded that mass transit is no longer experimental. Whew…glad that’s been determined. Fortunately our leaders are only about 40 years late on making a decision that the are needs a comprehensive transit system. Maybe if they get it running in another 15 years, we can really attract that younger, highly educated demographic we’re looking for.

And bar and restaurant owners, against most widely available studies on the subject, are dead set against joining the rest of the country in banning smoking indoors in public eating and drinking establishments. Obviously the ban has been detrimental to the local economies in New York, California, Italy, Chicago, and many other major cities, and countries around the world. In fact the ban is probably the cause of this world wide recession. Smokers have just stopped going to bars and restaurants. Good thing Michigan dodged that bullet.

Preaching to the choir…


A discussion with my sister-in-law, regarding the inevitability of change, facing change, and dealing with change, somehow made me think of Detroit. Detroit’s like some people I know who refuse to face up to the fact that change is inevitable. And not only that it’s inevitable, but that you’d better prepare for it, and make the most of it. Once change is accepted, it can become an opportunity. Anyone who knows me, is well aware of how irritated Michigan’s, and Metro Detroit’s, resistance to change makes me.

As an individual, I, like so many others, had to face up the reality that the opportunities that my previous career choice, and my location in Metro Detroit, offered were limited. I mourned the loss of what I once had, and moved on. I learned new skills, used my spare time to build up some experience in my new industry, and, along with a move to a new, more economically viable location, am making a good living in an industry with a lot more current and future potential.


For Metro Detroit, it’s time to mourn and move on. The past is past. It’s time to look towards the future. Time to figure out how to become relevant in the 21st century. When I talk with friends,with similar sensibilities, I always realize how we are simply preaching to the choir. More and more, people are coming to the realization that we are in the midst of a dramatic shift away from our industrial past. When will a Critical Mass emerge, that will force the change upon the area, that is necessary Detroit’s survival? Talk is cheap, and as these articles suggest, there’s plenty of talk…plenty of preaching to the choir. How can we convince the skeptics that change is not only inevitable, but necessary, potentially the best thing that can happen to the area?

New Detroit: A Radical Vision of America’s Greenest City

Immigrants in the 313: This is where the future begins

Essay: Is mass transit in Metro Detroit for real this time?

Suggested New Year’s resolution for Detroit


With 2009 upon us, and the current economic situation not looking good, it’s time for Metro Detroit to make some New Year’s resolutions of its own.

Everyone knows about Detroit’s problems, and by the looks of things, the entire state is in big trouble. Detroit is not alone, however, and just like individuals, small businesses, and corporations, the city is in competition with other Metro areas, to attract (and keep) the best people and companies. Many states and cities around the country are facing very tough financial outlooks. There’s no way for Detroit and Southeastern Michigan to avoid the tough times ahead. What the area can do, however, is work together to make smart investments and chart a course for a better future. As individuals we can, in tough times, hide our money under a mattress, or make investments in our future. We can keep our fingers crossed that the job we’re in will exist beyond next week, or that the social safety net we’re relying on will be there tomorrow, or get additional training to prepare ourselves for better paying jobs in the days ahead. Corporations that fail to invest in new technologies, stop marketing, or fail to invest in there employees will be far behind their competitors that do make those investments when the economy recovers. Similarly, an area lacking a decent education system, infrastructure, and basic services, will lose out to the areas that have been making smart investments over the years.

Detroit’s got crumbling infrastructure, a pathetic school system, unreliable city services, and lacks a comprehensive transportation system. In fact the whole state has infrastructure problems and no mass transit other than a hodgepodge mix of bus systems. The area’s rapidly aging population is going to have problems getting around, particularly in the winter. Services and housing are far apart with few options for moving between them. Michigan’s mantra could be “No car?  Tough shit!” Most areas in the state lack any kind of cohesive urban center, and most have no viable plan to create one.

I could go on, but I, and others have regularly bitched, moaned, ranted, and reported on the area’s problems. So what will Detroit and the rest of Michigan do about it? Who knows…probably not much judging by the past, and the unwillingness of most to embrace change. Detroit, and Michigan, are in desperate need of change. The area needs to become better. A plan needs to be formulated and pursued, no matter how difficult. Michigan needs more than just slackers who have high tolerance for mediocrity, more than a population heading quickly for retirement (if such a thing exists any more). Detroit needs young, energetic, motivated, entrepreneurial and educated individuals who will not only embrace change, but make it happen.

So my suggested New Years resolution for Detroit is: “Stop being such a crappy place.”


Abandoned Detroit


Detroit and Michigan  have both been in the news quite a bit lately. Almost every evening news cast, in, and outside of, Michigan, has been focused on whether or not the Big 3 would get a loan (or a bail out, depending on your point of view). Now it appears that at least two of the Big 3 will have access to roughly $17 billion in Federal loans. The big question now is whether or not this loan, at around half of what was requested, will enable the Chrysler and General Motors to survive.

Unfortunately, even if the Big 3 do all survive, they will not be what they used to be, and neither will Michigan. The days of higher than average pay for both blue and white collar jobs at the Big 3 are over, and this will exact a heavy toll on the, heavily automotive dependent, Michigan economy. As it is, Michigan once again leads the nation in unemployment, while Detroit continues it’s downward slide, defying the belief once held by many that Detroit had nowhere to go but up. Michigan can’t seem to pass anti-smoking legislation, even as states such as Kentucky, and countries such as Italy, and France have passed smoking bans. And a decent mass transit system is still years away, though at least progress is being made in this area. Apparently the dire economic situation has made some of our previously reluctant politicians to expand Cobo Hall, and hopefully save the North American International Auto Show.

The most interesting news reports on Detroit though, have been about it’s long declining population. This is, of course, nothing new. Detroit’s population peeked in 1950 at almost 2 million. Since then the decline to roughly half it’s peek, leaves the city with around 850,000 residents. The Detroit Free Press, reports that Manhattan, Boston, and San Fransisco, could all fit in the boundaries of Detroit with room to spare. Apparently, at the rate of decline Detroit is experiencing, the city will be 50% vacant within five to ten years. The amount of vacant land has lead to an increase in the population of generally non-city dwelling animals, such as pheasants and coyotes. The city has also seen a large increase in the amount of urban farming. Perhaps Detroit will be the first American city to go from urban to suburban, or even rural classification. While the current state of the city is scary to say the least, the possibilities for Detroit’s future are much more interesting. Camilo Jose Vergara once suggested that Grand Circus Park become a skyscraper graveyard theme park. My wife always thought Detroit should turn it’s vacant land into large parks or green areas. I have been fond of recommending (tongue in cheek) that Detroit tries reverse annexation. While I don’t generally like eminant domain laws, I do think it’s impossible for a city of 850,000 (and still declining) to maintain and provide services to an area of 139 square miles. It’s possible nothing will change, and Detroit will continue it’s decline for the foreseeable future. It’s also possible that Detroit, and the Metro area, can make something better with this, potentially, clean slate.

Moved again…

After five months in D.C., an opportunity to move to Denver, Colorado presented itself. Not ones to pass up an opportunity to try out a city we’ve always thought would be great to live in, we packed up on short notice and drove the Budget rental truck to Denver. We liked D.C. The area had more than enough job, and cultural opportunities, but is just a tad expensive, and slightly hot and humid. Our plan was to stay longer than five months, but some opportunities are too difficult to pass up. Denver is a city with a feeling similar to another city we’ve lived in; Portland, Oregon. Granted, the weather is completely different, as is the geographical location, but the progressive, easy to live in feeling one gets in Denver is the same one finds in Portland. The recreational opportunities, diversity of small and medium sized businesses, and the entreprenurial spirit, also is shared between the two cities. Denver, however, beats the pants off of Portland when it comes to weather. Over 300 days of sun, and nice dry weather combine to create one nice place to locate a city.

The move, new work, new recreational opportunities, and great weather have made it difficult to post much to the Motor(less)city. Additionally, living away from Detroit for any period of time, makes the anger and frustration, which spawned this site, simply melt away. The problems the area faces are arguably worse now than they were when we left in February, but now seem more distant, and frankly, less our problem, and more there problem (and possibly if you are reading this from Metro Detroit - your problem). The Big Three are in more trouble, the real estate market, the job market, the mayor is going to prison (that’s probably actually a good thing in the long run), and the overall health of the economy seems even worse,  but they don’t seem to make me quite as angry anymore. That’s bad. Not for me, but for Metro Detroit. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way either.

Metro Detroit is our home. Our family lives there, and we own a house there, but our commitment to the area is disappearing. We got angry about the reliance on one industry, the lack of foresight on issues such as transit, urban planning, anti-smoking legislation, and recreational opportunities for the state. Our anger on these issues (and others) angered others in Metro Detroit. They wanted us to love the area un-conditionally. “It’s a pretty good place to live” we were always told, as if we were supposed to ignore the glaring poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and absolutely no plan for the future. Ignoring Detroit (and Michigan’s) problems is like ignoring the addiction of a loved one. You may be able to convince yourself that all is well, but it doesn’t change the reality of the situation, and eventually the price will have to be paid.

Leaving Metro Detroit, and eventually losing my anger towards the area, is like giving up on an addicted loved one. It’s better for me, but it’s worse for the one left behind. Eventually you realize that it’s not your responsibility, and the anger subsides. Unfortunately, so does the desire to force change. When enough others find themselves in the same situation as myself, Metro Detroit will have lost the very people it needs to enact the change that is necessary to make the area into what it needs to be in order to survive into the future.

So if my rants are fewer and far between, or less angry, it’s because I just don’t care as much anymore. Sure I hope it turns around. And I hope that one day I have the desire to return and start up a new business in the area, but right now, it’s just not my problem…

On the other hand, I’ve been contacted by someone at least as angry, who has also experienced the possibilities great cities offer, and who would like to get a little bit of frustration off their chest. Hopefully, they’ll be able to put some interesting thoughts on this site.

What’s wrong with Michigan…

I often feel like a loner in Michigan when it comes to discussions of what’s wrong with Michigan. Mainly because I don’t subscribe to any particular political lines of thought. This article about the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Conference, reminds that I’m not way off base.

One day when I went to the Post Office, a man outside asked me to sign something regarding lowering taxes. When I said no he became angry, saying, “what…you don’t want lower taxes!” Of course that’s not it at all. I do want lower taxes. Who doesn’t? He followed me to the door of the Post Office ranting about our economy. On the way back to the car he accosted me again, stating, “This state’s in big trouble because of people like you!” Wow! I didn’t realize it was me… I thought perhaps it had something to do with our over reliance on one dying industry, or perhaps our refusal to build a decent transit system. Or could it be our lack of a decent city center…or maybe our refusal to put a high priority higher education (heck, many in Michigan look upon higher education with disdain). It could have been many things, but I didn’t think it was me.

Not one to accept responsibility for the state of the economy, I pointed out that the top states have arguably higher, and less pro business tax structures. How did he respond. Well, he mentioned something about socialism, which meant he’d been listening to a little too much talk radio. I suggested he do a little research on his own and left it at that.

I had the same argument with someone who over borrowed for their business, and moved it to a poor location, just as the economy took a downturn. This person used the same, old, tired, “Michigan has too high a tax rate” argument, that simply holds no water, but that’s the danger of letting others do the thinking for you. No, immigrants are the problem. It’s not Michigan’s tax structure, and neither are “liberals” to blame, as the forum posters on are fond of saying. No it’s a fairly simple issue. Michigan has ignored the rest of the world, and often times, the rest of the country. Times are changing. Always have been, and always will. I know, from experience, that Michigan breeds a certain type of personality. One that is adverse to change. “If it ain’t broke…” the saying goes. Well, if you can’t change ahead of time, to keep up with the times, you’re going to be left behind. And guess what happened to Michigan?