Change Agents, Events, News

Everyone has a part in positioning Detroit for a comeback

detroit city of the future, photo by Ashley Hennen

As I sat listening to urbanist Richard Florida and other speakers in the break-out sessions here at the Detroit Policy Conference I started thinking about our take-home messages. Each of us can do our part to position the city for a comeback merely by how we communicate.

I agree with Richard Florida when he says that the Detroit vs. suburbs issues must go away. However, the blame he puts on the suburbs seems a bit divisive. We all should share in the blame. We all should share in the responsibility and we all should share in the comeback.

It is divisiveness that I believe got us in this situation. It is divisiveness that keeps us here.

detroit city of the future, photo by Ashley HennenDuring this conference, I saw many more similarities than differences. We all want a better Detroit. We all want good public transit, public safety, retail business and a good quality of life.

Richard Florida made some poignant and positive remarks as he keeps his pulse on Detroit from his vantage point. He follows the mayor and commentaries from others, including the media.

His point is well taken. What we say here molds the minds of people from afar.

We have talked about regional cooperation for years, but why doesn’t it appear to others that we are cooperating?

Here’s another take-home message.

As media personalities and elected leaders serve as spokespeople for Detroit and the region, we need to realize we are all ambassadors of this city and the region. We all need to keep our focus on the public good and not personal agendas.

If we want true regional cooperation, elected leaders need to get on the same page, which Mayor Bing pointed out. They need to communicate with each other and with us on their common goals.

Mayor Bing was the only one who targeted the issue of public safety. My take-home message is without public safety in full force, Detroit will never achieve the greatness it is poised to achieve.

He also pointed out we need to get residents of Detroit to agree with the changes that are necessary … like creating density populations in the city. “We have to convince the silent majority to drown out the protesters, which are a small portion of the population,” said Bing.

Then he addressed the media. “Local media has to play a role in talking about good things in the city,” he said. “When national media comes into Detroit, they are positively surprised because their expectations are so low.”

A take-home message from my perspective is maybe one responsibility is giving the media more positive news to report, like this conference or the announcement of the fashion seminar coming up in Detroit Karen Buscemi from Detroit Garment Group announced here at the conference.

The media can’t ignore the FBI investigations, economic woes or public corruption, but they can pay closer attention to what some public servants and business community members are doing to work together and move this region forward.

In the afternoon session on Local Political Perception, Mildred Gaddis said the business community needs to do a better job of picking the candidates they choose to support. My take-home message is businesses do not vote. They may support candidates publicly and financially, but the residents ultimately vote candidates into office.

Gaddis did say the media could do a better job of talking about the good things that will occur when an emergency manager is in place. During that same panel discussion, Detroit Free Press editor Stephen Henderson chimed in about the problems in the city, saying, “I never thought in one cycle that we would change the problems on city council.”

That sentiment from Henderson is probably shared by many.

There is no shortage of people to point the finger at, but there is a shortage of positive messages conveyed on a regular basis in this region.

Here’s another take-home message. A lot of people have a lot of opinions, and some of them may divide us more than bring us together. Even though the negative comments may be legitimate concerns and observations, they also paralyze us if we focus on them.

My ultimate take-home message is if we really want to create a city of Detroit and a region that become destinations for business, residents and tourists we need to focus on what brings us together instead of what divides us … and communicate that message to the rest of the country.

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