Get Real!

City of Detroit

Photo Feb 18, 12 00 33 AMMayor Dave Bing’s assemblage of dozens of Detroit-area celebrity supporters to film a commercial promoting the city is tantamount to “putting lipstick on a pig.” Detroit won’t become attractive until government addresses the issues that created a many-headed monster that stubbornly eats away at the city’s reputation.

The intent of the “I’m a Believer” campaign is to mobilize and engage television, print, radio and newspaper resources to help change attitudes and restore Detroit to its former greatness. However, a lack of realism undercuts the overriding purpose of this “feel good” crusade. Managing Detroit’s image will be an exercise in media manipulation if all it does is hype the scant amenities in isolation of what’s happening in the rest of the city.

City leaders would have us believe that Detroit is no worse than any other major city. That’s disingenuous and deceiving. While there may be a few bright spots, there isn’t a lot to brag about in the Motor City. In fact, the perception is close to reality. And image, while important, is not as crucial as a government that is committed, competent and credible.

City government, for example is perceived as incapable of providing adequate services and schools. Creeping blight, fear, paranoia, uncertainty and deserved concern about crime and violence are not fabrications.

The most conspicuous of Detroit’s staggering disabilities are its disincentives for investment. Deficits, suffocating taxes, red tape and anti-growth regulations weigh heavily on the city’s image. The sum of these deficiencies contributes mightily to the city’s less than glowing perception among outsiders and residents alike. In a nutshell, Detroit provides too few of the things that favorably define “quality of life.”

The reasons behind the city’s perceived national reputation aren’t as important as an all out effort to change the reality. Rather than elaborate schemes and blaming the media for projecting Detroit’s poor condition, politicians need to be engaged in tough, precise reforms that remedy what ails the city.

No amount of media magic, creative television scripting or positive press can disguise the seriousness of the myriad problems facing the city. Jazzy promotion plans are just window dressing if it’s business as usual at City Hall. You change the city’s image by fixing the city’s problems.

It is strategically important that Detroit has a clearly defined brand and image to present to the world. Image nirvana, however, is hardly just around the corner. The way Detroiters view themselves is based on what they see, and what is actually taking place around them. Right now, that’s a long way from being a pretty picture.

4 thoughts on “Get Real!

  1. The campaign, apparently, does implore folks to get busy and fix things, i.e. mentoring a child and cleaning up the streets, etc., but it’s still misguided and inefficient.

    The truly good PR will come from Detroit’s honest efforts to confront its demons and pick itself up from the dreck. THEN you can look at doing a campaign that trumpets those efforts.

    The “lipstick on a pig” analogy is spot on. Does the city get crushed nationally by outsiders? Of course. Is some of it inaccurate and exaggerated? Of course. Should we really care? Of course not.

    Insecurity begets finger pointing and a reluctance to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s so much easier to whine about the mean, nasty things non-Detroiters say about the city than it is to get busy and create a city that we can be proud of—whether those outsiders are on board or not.

    I think it’s terrific when out-of-towners like the Hollywood folks spread the word that Detroiters are gritty and the city is nicer than you would think. That can’t hurt, in terms of luring residents and enterprise.

    But that must play Robin to the Batman of taking the city back and rebuilding it.

  2. At some point in time ciy leaders have to get a hold on Detroit’s financial health. It seems no one has an accurate estimate of the city’s financial burdedens. Like the school system, balance sheets change with every discovery of an expense not discovered previously. An administrator can make all the cuts he/she can but how long to do you keept telling city workers that they have to continue to make concessions? What a bleak future! Never expecting any kind of cost of living raise doe not make for a group of enthusiastic employees in the services that are most important to the community; Public Works and Public Safety. There is some talk of using the site where Tiger Stadium sat as the location of a $20 million charter school. That’s Ridiculous. That striip from the lodge freeway to 14th. is basically a district of restaurants and sports bars, an area where a school should not be located. It would make sense to build such a facility on vacant land that has a more residential quality where you can build community loyalty to the school. Unless the site of the old stadium is not large enough or has other issues, Illitch should build his new sports palace at Michigan and Trumbull. I believe that would add to the improvement and revitaliztion of that part of Detroit.

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