Detroit, The Virtual City
by David Rambeau
Make no mistake this metaphor is not intended to apply to computers. This metaphor applies to the shifts, the disappearance, or the reality of the political and economic power of the City of Detroit. Plain and simple.
The thought at one time, in the 70s, was that urban areas also known as cities could and would be controlled by black people as we attained majority numbers and elected mayors and council people. That was the overt posture of the Black Power Movement, if not the Civil Rights Movement.
Now, in 2008, we see that another picture has emerged and continues emerging. Each year it becomes clearer. Detroit, which has the largest percentage of black people in the top 100 cities in the United States is a good example of what’s happening nation-wide. Washington, D. C., another city with a large black population is under-going the same fate.
Small cities with substantial black populations that have rotted or declined are Gary, Indiana, Flint and Highland Park, Michigan. There are others. There is no reason with globalization, the drug trade, the high educational dropout and incarceration rate, the international competition for cheap, unskilled labor, racism, the deindustrialization of the United States, and black self-hate for anything to change, except for the process of urban decline to continue or accelerate.
To recognize the change we need only to observe and review the process of change those agencies gone from city control or with pending endangerment which include:
The Detroit Institute of the Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Children’s Museum, the Detroit Zoo, Eastern Market, Campus Martius, the Detroit River Front Conservancy, the Jazz Festival, the Art Festival. Have I missed any? Many of these are located in the Cultural Center in Midtown Detroit where black folks are included as an afterthought or something to be tolerated because of an overwhelming numerical presence.
Downtown Detroit has long since departed to the Downtown Development Authority, a separate tax district where blacks may own and operate a dozen buildings, if not fewer.
Additional Independent agencies include: the Detroit Public Library supported by a separate millage, the Detroit Public Schools, seriously threatened by charter schools and an exodus of students, supported by a separate millage and other federal funds.
Going, already gone, or never controlled: the Federal Government – HUD, which finances senior and low-income housing, Work First job training programs, Social Security; to Wayne County – the sheriffs, and the Road Commission
In the area of Transportation – SMART, the urban/suburban bus-line which will one day takeover DDOT, the Detroit Department of Transportation.
Health Care – the mega hospitals – the Detroit Medical Center, (DMC), and Henry Ford Hospital
Spiritual & Social Development – Mega churches, tax exempt and independent, supported by tithing and with separate programs and clerical leadership, and in a better position ideologically to unify a group or community of believers and produce a community-based program.
The main streets are controlled by the Feds, the freeways, and Wayne County, the major streets
The Water System, the Detroit Department of Water & Sewerage, has been under federal oversight for the last 20 years or so, and may one day shift to a regional authority if mandated by the State. The DW&SD is the real Detroit jewel that the suburbs covet.
The Tunnel to to Windsor, Canada. The Mayor wants to make the transfer to plug a multi-million dollar hole in the current budget, so if not this year, then maybe the next.
Cobo Hall, the river-front convention center, with a budget deficit of $20 mill a year and steadily deteriorating, to a regional authority encompassing Wayne County, Oakland County, Macomb County, and maybe Windsor and the State of Michigan.
Banks, mortgage companies, and speculators control housing through sub-prime mortgage foreclosures which engulf most of the housing stock.
Insurance companies (home, auto, health, personal) which drain income from Detroit residents like a sewer. What they don’t get the casinos and their symbiotic cohorts, the pawn shops, do.
These are the prime takeover agencies : the Feds, Wayne County, Public Authorities, Windsor, mega churches, Regional Authorities, the State, tax capture districts, agencies and mega-sized corporations.
Soon the city parks, Belle Isle, Palmer Park, Chandler, and the Rouge Park, the major parks, by the Huron-Clinton Park Authority, by Wayne County, or by the State to cover Detroit deficits and facility upkeep.
Population exodus expected to cause the population to contract from 900,000 currently, 2008, to 700,000 in the next 20 years.
Research. What little is being done by the Feds, universities and hospitals.
Education - by community colleges supported by a separate millage, and universities by the State.
Basic income – SSI, Social Security, pensions from the Feds, and auto companies.
Communication – the Internet, daily newspapers, television stations radio stations – all privately owned.
The Judicial system – Wayne County, the State, the Feds.
Incarceration – the State, Wayne County, the Feds. Even local Detroit lockups are under a federal monitor.
Gas stations, liquor stores and groceries owned by Middle Easterners.
What will Detroit retain? Neighborhood streets, street lights, garbage collection, police and fire. For the moment. And you and me.