Could Detroit Revive? Would This Work?

You have all seen the (extremely depressing) video clips of “Dying Detroit” on YouTube-there are hundreds of them. It is obvious that the city is in serious trouble.
Frome a population peak of over 2 million, they are now less than 600,000. Schoold, buiuldings and houses are beimg abandoned and left to rot. Along with this has come drugs and violent crime-Detroit is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
The latest plan (of the city management) is to tear down abandoned houses-the plan is to destroy over 12,000 houses.
To me, this is shocking-if you consider than many of these homes were worth over $100,000 (in the “good days”), we are talking about destroying $1.2 billion of real estate value.
Suppose the city did this:
-establish tax-free enterprise zones, with taxes abated for 10 years (for firms willing to locate in Detroit)
-provide free land to developers
-enforce the law (criminals to be dealt with immediately and harshly)
Suppose the mayor of Detroit went to Hu-JinTao with a proposal-we give you all this…in return, you build plants and create jobs. No unions, no high taxes, no crime-would this cause Detroitb to become a new boom town?
Or would the union-led Michigan legislature fight this tooth and nail.
Frankly. unless something radical is done, I think Detroit will disappear 9as an economic entity). Would it not be better to have a Hong-Kong -like rebirth of this once-great city?

So getting aid from the People’s Republic of China is okay but you don’t want any pro-union government money from Lansing or Washington? Are you P.J. O’Roarke’s grandmother?

Other than having some strange priorities, I’d question the economics of your idea. Businesses consume public serives. The city of Detroit is going to be plowing the streets and paving roads and providing police protection and running public schools for the employees’ children. But you want these businesses to not have to pay any taxes. So who’s going to pay for all these services?

It sounds to me like your plan would just Detroit further in the hole.

What about serve the public trust? Protect the innocent? Avoid Orion meetings?

Cite? I don’t think it’s even the most dangerous city in the U.S. (that would be Washington DC, in terms of homicides per 100,000 population). There are whole countries that are more dangerous than Detroit.

Why does Detroit need to be revived at all? Shouldn’t it live or die on it’s own ability? Why is Detroit’s revival necessary?

As of 2009 DC is down to 7th (0.24 murders/1000). Detroit is 2nd (.04), NOLA is currently the king (0.52).

In total violent crime St. Louis is tops, followed closely by Detroit. DC is down to 10th.

Well, these sorts of tax abatements are done all the time, all over the country. It’s generally assumed that taxes on the employees and the business they conduct will pay for the increased services.

Nonsense. Governments at various levels offer tax relief to relocating companies all the time. If it lost them money overall, they wouldn’t do it. They gain more money than they lose through the jobs gained in the area which benefits them by:

  1. More taxes from the now employed
  2. Less welfare of various kinds to the now employed
  3. More taxes from other businesses who get more sales from the now employed

No need to get China involved at all. Just get rid of liberal mentality of the city’s government.

Can you fly, Bryan?

Actually, this is how New Mexico lured in Intel and HP and several other large companies. It brings in tons of jobs and revenue, and the counties that have done this are some of the few counties in the state in the black…so, it’s not a totally unworkable or unrealistic idea.


I think urban areas with established infrastructure and easy access to abundant supplies of water aren’t something we should let go to waste.

Sell it to Windsor, take a tax write-off.

Just give me my fucking phone call.

One of the big problems for the Detroit city government is that these proposals are not within their power to perform. They could rebate city taxes, but not state or federal taxes, so that is not much of an enticement to Hu. They have to obey the Constitution regarding illegal search and seizure, habeus corpus, and similar pesky rules, limiting the city’s ability to deal with “criminals…immediately and harshly”. Unions are covered by state and federal law, so no way to keep them out of these enterprise zones. They could provide free land, but land in Detroit is pretty damn cheap to start with.

One thing the Detroit city government COULD do is be honest, civic-minded, and not a bunch of dickheads, and that would help a lot, but I don’t see that happening, either.

I think before you start positing ideas for a revival, you should at least have some handle on what caused the initial collapse. Personally, I feel the decline of the US manufacturing sector is what did in Detroit- with the majority of the blame going to free trade and globalization, although unions played some non-insignificant part as well. High crime and declining property values are nothing more than symptoms of the disease.

Your estimate doesn’t jive with reality here, the value of these homes (currently) is essentially nothing, maybe even less than nothing. Whatever the causes may be, people don’t want to live in Detroit no matter how cheap the housing is. I’ve yet to see a video where any of these ‘100k’ houses have anything like that in value anymore. Most are dilapidated, vandalized and stripped of wiring and plumbing for scrap sales. Squatters and vagrants abound. And even an amazing house would be worth almost nothing if it sat in a sea of homes like that. Location, location, location. I would say this is a solution to some of the problems, the land these houses sit on is probably worth more without the homes than it is with them. In fact, getting rid of many of these might go some ways into reducing the venues for criminals to operate in. See below.

What does this mean? Should Detroit hire Judge Dredd and start dispensing street justice? Is lax enforcement of the laws caused by police and justicial ambivalence and extraneous delays? Or is increased crime a side effect of too few police or too many criminals? I can see trying to get more cops on the streets and harsher prison terms for offenders, but again, this costs quite a bit of money, and it’s not clear who is going to pay for all that OT and a bigger jail in the meantime.

I think cities rise and fall on their own merits, and Detroit just failed (refused?) to anticipate the fact that cars weren’t always going to be economical to produce in the midwest and the blame for that can be spread to the auto manufacturers, the unions, the city and the people themselves with more than enough to go around for seconds. I don’t think I’ve thought of Detroit as a substantial economic entity in the national scheme of things for at least 15 years, and signs of its troubles started even before that.

Frankly, I’m not sure what the mayor could even offer to the Chinese to get them to open up shop there; they would still be bound by national and state laws/taxes, so they couldn’t be given free reign to have slave labor and pollute willy-nilly (which they presumably already have in China). And I’m not sure how opening a Chinese business in Detroit is going to help their economic problems anyways, since it would seem like the majority of the profits would be sent back overseas, rather than invested back into the community. Are they going to be given permanent tax free status, or will they only be there for the 10 years they have it and then move back to China once Detroit asks them to pitch in? I don’t think it would help Detroit at all in the long run to go back to being based on low skilled manufacturing jobs, as those can obviously just be shipped somewhere else as soon as it would be cheaper to do so and it would place the city right back where it is now.

With all that said, I would love to see Detroit rebuilt in some sort of sustainable fashion, but that will involve far more than changing the union laws and giving out a few tax abatements.

The problem is, businesses don’t just look at local taxes when deciding where to go. Sure, that’s part of it, but perhaps not even the most important part. Any company moving to Detroit would have be hit with state taxes, federal taxes, regulations on minimum wage, safety, # hours worked, the entire health care mess, environmental regulations, etc. Then there’s the question of Detroit have enough workers to support that. The city has literally lost hundreds of thousands of citizens, does it even have the labor force available to be a manufacturing boomtown?

Your idea is not bad. But it’s not going to turn around Detroit all by itself either.

There’s certainly a management problem with Detroit. The City Council, at times, is a source of embarrassment and strife when it’s clearly not needed. So they brought in a new mayor, Dave Bing. He’s got a pretty strong business background, but the problem is, he had zero major political experience. He didn’t work through the usual channels to change things around. Yes, in some ways, it certainly is counter-intuitive. You bring someone in that has a different skillset from people previously put in that position, yet he can’t or doesn’t work through any of the existing channels to get things moving.

Also, Detroit has a MASSIVE footprint. The city borders are one of the largest major cities in America, in terms of square mileage. There’s infrastructure there for about 2 million citizens, yet only 800,000 live there now. The obvious thing to do is to raze parts of the city or rezone them or to consolidate people to where you can easily provide for them, but unless you start declaring eminent domain, people aren’t moving. Coincidentally, I think that’s where Bing really wussed out. He could have declared eminent domain, said he’s not running for reelection (he’s not running as it is now) and taken the political knocks for doing some of the heavy lifting that nobody before or immediately after would be doing. Instead, he chose to kick the can down the road.

There’s also a large problem of racism and white flight. There are still scars on the buildings from the race riots in the late '60s. Check out thismap. Red denotes white people, blue denotes black people, and orange denotes hispanic people. That straght line at the North of the city is the infamous 8 Mile Road. It clearly didn’t just happen this way by accident.

Also, why save Detroit? History and location. That and it’s still the population base of the entire state.

Look, what we do is give it to a corporation to develop. Build a new city, a city of change in the middle of the ashes of Old Detroit. And we build a privatized police force run by the corporation. I’m sure we can automate it. Maybe add an invalided Old Detroit police officer to give them a sense of community. And that company can build consumer products for everyone in the world. I’m sure nothing could go wrong.

Invalidated police officer? If only we could heal him and make him walk.

Why heal him when we can make him better, stronger, faster?

Total prosthetic replacement. Lose the arm(s and legs).