There is a disturbing stillness in Detroit these days. It is a stillness that foreshadows the end to the very things that make a city worthwhile.
It is, as The Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson recently said, a slowing of necessary city services. It is the scrapping of the M-1 rail project because Detroit cannot come up with the money for it. It is, for parents like me, the abrupt closure in September of the Detroit Science Center, a beloved educational outlet, and the vacuum of information since then.
When the basics start to slip, you know the downturn is continuing. When transportation is ignored or unaffordable, you know any supposed momentum is waning. And when education, health and sanitation are ignored, you’ve got to know that everything a city stands for have been lost.
At this point, I’m rooting for an emergency manager. Then I’ll be hoping this person fails so that Detroit has to go into bankruptcy. Why? Because I just cannot see any way out of this funk. At year’s end, my optimism has been corrupted by foul news and endless irresponsibility.
Where is the outrage?
No super-powered anything is coming to save Detroit. I’m about done rooting for Mayor Bing – that ship sailed around the time he decided to stand against the state’s interest in Detroit’s finances. You have got to be insane to believe things are going well and to reject any help, no matter where or who it comes from. Lights are off in April; that’s the bottom line. It is all red. There is no black to been seen, other than some unlit street lights. Obvs.
Here’s my personal beef – this is entirely selfish on my part. I like my forays into Detroit. My little jaunts with my cherubic tots into “their city” to see the sights. I enjoy playing tour guide to their bright eyes, pointing out where Grandma roomed, where she used to work, where I used to work and the places their father and I visited during our courtship. It was quaint and charming.
And I adored those visits. (Yes, just visits. I’m not moving to Detroit right now. I’m selfish, remember?) I loved driving in from the suburbs, the white smoke billowing around my domestic vehicle as a cruised down Woodward. I may not call Detroit home, but I was one of those people that always said, “Detroit” when someone asked me where I was from. I didn’t say “Romeo” or “Grosse Pointe.” I had pride in this messy berg.
But right now I’m confused. Why has no one fully questioned what’s going on at the Science Center? No auto company is going to swoop in with millions of dollars to reopen what seemed to be a thriving institution. This is the second time it has suddenly shut its doors; the first coming in the 1990s. This time, I’m thinking the white horse, its riders and its audience are all dead.
I called around. The PR person? No one called back. The Board chairman? Nope. The Science Center itself? Nada. Even Facebook or Twitter? Shock of all shocks, no response. The bell tolls for no one.
There has to be some last tick in this sick city. Where is the fighting spirit Mayor Bing seemed to have? Where are the workers, the residents? This feels like any traction the city has had over the past year or two is slipping.
Heck, let me know how I can help and I’d do it. I can raise money. I can write (most days). I can petition, march, protest. I can attend meetings, offer ideas, volunteer my time. I’m pretty much on board with whatever it takes to get this Detroit thing off the ground (where it’s been wallowing for far too long).
Inspiring? No. Real? Possibly. A crying shame? Yup.