Another grand declaration by City Hall. Another box of air.
When Mayor Dave Bing announced his Detroit Works Project more than a year ago, he promised to “right-size” the city, re-imagine the neighborhoods and concentrate citizens in village-like pockets to better serve them.
Instead, Bing said at a news conference this week that the entire city would receive "increased" services. Special attention, however, will go to three areas that already sort of work by Detroit standards: Palmer Woods, Boston Edison and Hubbard Farms in southwest Detroit. After six months, Bing said he will study what works there and repeat it citywide.
But in a city hemorrhaging money -- where bus, fire and police services have been cut -- the mayor could not guarantee a revenue source for these new services.
I wonder who advises this guy and who writes his script now that Karen Dumas – his so-called Madam Butterfly – is gone.
In fact, I had coffee with Dumas Thursday morning. She lives in Detroit, but not one of those “high-functioning” areas that will receive special attention. She and her neighbors were shocked to find out that Indian Village doesn’t make the cut.
Dumas bought her home for a half-million a few years ago. She figures it’s worth $50,000 today. Nevertheless, she still pays $10,000 in property tax, 2.5 percent in city income tax as well as the highest insurance and utility rates in the state.
What’s she have to show for it?
“They stole my truck Sunday,” she said. It was the second time.
I know how she feels. When I returned here from Los Angeles three years, I was staying in the Palmer Woods area while I looked for a house in the neighborhood. I woke up one morning to find my car jacked-up and sitting on garden stones, the tires missing. The garden stones were stolen from the neighbor Gary Brown, the former deputy chief of police.
“Why stay?” I asked Dumas.
“I’m wondering,” she said, before coming up with this. “I can’t sell my house.”
Nobody can. Still city and business leaders want you to invest. Small incentives are being offered to rent or buy in midtown.
But you might remember that Bing tried the same thing with another grand proclamation back in February. Known as Project 14, the city set aside $30 million in federal money to encourage police officers to move back to the city. The incentives are generous: $25,000 for a down payment, up to $150,000 on renovations and the possibility of loan forgiveness. Many of the city owned properties are in places like Boston Edison.
So how many cops have moved back to date?
As one cop told me: “It’s too dangerous.”
If a cop feels that way, what does it tell you about the true state of the city? I reported a month ago that Detroit’s murder rate is spiraling out of control. As Chief Ralph Godbee tried to put a happy face on the problem this week by telling reporters that overall serious crime is actually down, my colleague Taryn Asher reported that a 21-year-old man who was plugged in the head at an east side gas station.
The new fire commissioner tells me he’s never seen a department so depleted and demoralized. On some nights we’re running just 14 ambulances – less than Cleveland a city half the size of Detroit. Sometimes fire trucks are replaced with pickup trucks because nobody downtown seems competent enough to fix the rigs.
Public Safety should be the mayor's blueprint. Because without a plan for safe streets, we’re just building on mud.