Expectations were high that newly elected Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was the right person to set the city on a new course. But after months of inactivity, his first major revitalization initiative involved hosting five community forums on the Detroit Works Project aimed at soliciting public input on long range use of city land.
At best, this is a shortsighted diversion from the more pressing issue of runaway crime. He should set aside what will be a protracted, logistical nightmare and focus on what Detroiters need to survive today.
The mayor believes that out of necessity the city must shrink in order to make service delivery manageable and affordable. Real solutions, however, can’t be built on unrealistic strategies. What the mayor doesn’t seem to understand is that neighborhoods are under siege from a treacherous cycle of crime, bloodshed and political lethargy. Unless public safety becomes the number one priority in conviction and budgeting, the entire city is destined to become an uninhabitable urban wasteland.
It is somewhat disappointing that Mayor Bing’s vision of Detroit’s rebirth has yet to progress beyond the promise. A new spirit of community pride remains an offsite concept. The quality of basic public services has worsened. People still can’t walk freely or safely in the streets. The city is not a good host for investors because they don’t see it as a place of opportunity – without subsidies. Residents are prescribed placebos in lieu of meaningful transformation ideas.
Missing is a strategic plan to suppress the orgy of violence that literally sucks the life from the city. Teen violence is exploding in neighborhoods with a vengeance. The highest profile, highest paying jobs involve drug trafficking that turn city streets into killing zones. Every hour of every day criminals declare open season on the law abiding, the young and the innocent. Victims have no confidence that 911 will answer their frantic calls for help.
Friends and families of the victims plead and pray for a merciful end to the rampage. But with no sense of urgency from politicians to end the atrocities, most avenues to escape the curse of being born in a Detroit ghetto and dying there, are closed off.
So blatant is the bloodletting that it’s hard to imagine how anyone who cares about children or communities can ignore it. Yet Detroit leaders do – to the extreme.
The first responsibility of government is to provide a safe and secure environment. A stronger police presence, properly deployed, is the only way to effectively contain catastrophic murder and mayhem. But governmental leaders claim the city can’t afford the resources needed to end the sadistic carnage. Police, fire and EMS personnel are not provided the tools or manpower to fight back the surge. Public safety was cut in the current budget.
In my mind, a mayor who says he can’t protect his citizens probably couldn’t craft a credible land use arrangement either. In that respect, the mayor’s plan is not just fanciful, it is fatally flawed.
By not hiring and putting more cops on the street, Mayor Bing and the council are aiding and abetting a culture of violence that has spiraled out of control. As such, the city’s infrastructure — physical and human — will ultimately succumb to municipal neglect.