Note: Of the many things that annoy me about The Detroit News and Free Press the most frequent aggravation is their refusal to keep articles online for reference. For that reason, I've copied Google's cache one Free Press article for the link below.From the suburbs, the City of Detroit has become a mere spectator sport -- reportedly the poorest big city in the US. In 2000, Detroit's median family income was almost $30,000 and its average home value $63,000. Year after year Detroit voters (dead and alive) elect the most curious species of personalities to city-held offices. They flaunt the law, enrich their friends and family, and dance with unions while the city budget blooms deeper reds every year. Detroit was a city once swelled to capacity with factories and factory-workers' families, but as Detroit's auto giants' fortunes turned for the worse the city's population was the first hit as workers were laid off, factories closed, and the entire economy that surrounded it and pumped-up Detroit's tax revenues left the city with the faintest of hissing sounds. It became a city without "a good side of the tracks."
Also, this article's sporting metaphor (near the end) was inspired by watching Flash Point two weekends ago when representatives of Granholm's and DeVos' campaigns attended to discuss the Leadership Conference on Mackinac, and both representatives wore their school colors. The only thing missing was The Beach Boys.
Across the road (literally), tuning in every night to watch the 11PM death spectacle are residents of Oakland County: home to automotive headquarters, Automation Alley, good schools, and a 2000 median income of over $61,000. Nearly half of Oakland County's residents could buy an entire average Detroit home with a single year's paycheck.
Detroit may be a glimpse into Oakland County's future. Oakland's population of salaried employees are equally dependent on automotive industries and those seem only to get smaller. Plant workers may get laid-off by the tens-of-thousands, but those numbers are distributed across wider geographies at plants scattered throughout the North America. White collar employees are more concentrated, and that concentration is centered in Oakland County.
Oakland County voters have to ask themselves if they're electing the kinds of politicians that can steer the county to a future less dependent on automotive executives, engineers, designers, accountants, clerks, advertisers, marketers, and the economic impact their loss will have on Oakland's retail and residential economies. I don't know how many convicted felons are on our cities' and county's boards, nor do I know what kind of leadership, innovation, or power they have to get new and powerful policies in place.
How long have we waited for mass transit? How long have we driven on poorly engineered, built, and maintained roads? How long will school districts continue shrinking before they're consolidated? How many small cities will be allowed to cut back on city services before they're consolidated to leverage infrastructure and personnel and provide full services to their (remaining) residents? How much longer will sprawl continue unabated stretching our county's finite manpower and budget resources to support them?
In short, where are the politicians and leaders with visions of what Oakland County and the entire South East Michigan region should look like in 10 years? If we haven't them already in office, what are we prepared to do to attract those people to risk candidacy and are we willing to follow and support them?
This year's election is focused on the governor's race, and it is important. Both Governor Jennifer Granholm and republican challenger Dick DeVos seem sympathetic to Michigan's predicament and are touting their support for the usual suspects, education and diversifying the state's economy, but these slogans have been repeated for over 20 years and Michigan is little changed for all the campaign rhetoric, and in fact can be said to have fallen further behind 47 out of 50 states. I wouldn't be surprised if some US Territories have higher employment than Michigan.
Instead of voting for cheerleaders, we need to vote for coaches and quarterbacks. Instead of somersaults, back flips, and human pyramids we need visions, strategy, and execution.
We should remember that as Oakland County, and perhaps the rest of Michigan find entertainment value in Detroit's flailing, the rest of the country is looking at Michigan and wondering what we're doing about it.