A few sad days in the local press

The past week or so, the media has been abuzz about the escalating consent agreement for the City of Detroit.  Leaders from all sides are weighing in AND digging in.  Fight fever is growing at a frantic pace and how to “save” the city and “who” should lead that effort are the key sparring points.  From my perch, the answers lie not in immediate cuts or delineating authority structures – the answers lie in building the tax base and building it as quickly as possible!

Today’s Detroit Free Press ran an editorial that I have been preaching for a long time – Detroit should concentrate on 4-5 major areas that they can excel at and get out of being everything to everybody in all the others.  Once people feel safe, trash is picked up and the lights come on at night, people will take notice and will start to see Detroit as a viable option to start a business and possibly reside.  Cutting to the very basics also presents an interesting bright side – the potential to drastically lower taxes since government is not paying for services it cannot and should not deliver.  Good basic services and low taxes will further the city’s growth potentially equalling that not seen since the turn of the last century when auto kings roamed the land.

Another recent set of articles in both the Free Press and the Detroit News discussed a signature project’s potential default on debt.  From the Odd Fellows Hall to the Book Cadillac, the comments pro and con for government incentives were just as loud as the fight for the consent agreement.  The issue isn’t whether incentives work – judiciously applied to financially sound projects, they can have a huge and lasting impact.  Applied to business models that would not be successful without them dooms tax payers to squandered opportunities of our tithes to a better community.

I write this blog hoping that the many efforts in the works to develop a broad based local food system, one that starts with urban farming but continues post harvest to production and transport will finally be taken off the “back burner.”  Study after study demonstrate the economic impact on local economies and political will to move these projects to build stage is the next important step.  Courage is the ingredient needed to unleash the potential of metropolitan agriculture – rather than constantly living in the fear of potential problems.

Detroit is at a crossroads.  Detroit has been at this place in time before.  Detroit has always risen above the obstacles and lived to reach another level of success.  Innovation is the key that unlocks the door.  Are we smart enough to put aside our differences, realize that what has worked in the past is not working today and take the bull by the horns to seize our future?  I hope so, for Detroit’s future is in all our hands.


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