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The Budget Crisis Is Not Just About Detroit

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By Eric Thomas, 97.1 The Ticket

The Detroit budget crisis just keeps on keeping on. The city has now proposed a budget that we guess will keep the lights on for at least most of the neighborhoods. The cops keep their jobs but they will be operating at a 10 percent pay cut, the thanks they get for laying down their lives to protect you and me.

Hopefully, it works because the city needs to at least be on life support to experience its latest renaissance. As doctors pound wildly on the city’s chest there are signs of life in the toes. Reports that Twitter is going to open an office in downtown was met with interested purrs. There was story in the paper about some advertising agency that got a boatload of money from GM because they have a large presence in Detroit. Whole Foods is opening up a market downtown, and  there are hoarse whispers about riverfront shopping..

The advertising agency, called Commonwealth, is especially intriguing. There are plenty of employees that come to the city from San Francisco. They have to do be doing backflips over our real estate prices. They talk about how much they like the city and how they are happy to be there. Too bad the rest of the residents of Michigan are not so enthusiastic.

Ever since the riots there has been an invisible divide around the city. Everything south of Ferndale is “their problem.” Oh sure, people go visit the city. They go to Comerica Park or see a concert. But when the city comes up with a massive budget shortfall the suburbs turn their back. The city would never ask for help from the suburbs insisting they can do it themselves. So the two parties remain divided, catbacked and hissing without ever taking a step moisten the scars on either side.

The unfortunate thing is, its not just Detroit’s problem. Outside investors do not see the dividing line. They have never heard of Auburn Hills or Royal Oak. When they think of Michigan, they immediately think of Detroit, and whatever brush paints their thought of that city stains the judgment of the rest. If Detroit winds up insolvent and flushes down the drain, the vacuum will suck the rest of us down too. The dividing line that has remained for 50 years has become a cancer that threatens to take the rest of the city down with it.

City officials chide the suburbs for their arrogance. The suburbs shake a finger of shame at the residents for re-electing Kwame and the years of Coleman Young. I really don’t understand the Kwame argument. Every single rock that has ever been lifted in the Kilpatrick administration has exposed a snake nest of corruption. Why we think those elections were spotless when everything else wasn’t is beyond me. But Kwame was re elected and the suburbs are still mad about it. Never mind that Dave Bing has been completely the opposite of Kwame, he must still wear the Scarlet Letter.

It’s gotten so bad that many people in Michigan are completely ambivalent of Detroit being sucked into the void, not even once taking into consideration how bad that would be. Do you really think there would be a bevy of investment available if your most important symbol was wiped off the face of the earth? Too many Michigan residents view Detroits budget shortfalls from the bleachers, thinking that they are sitting far enough away that they won’t get wet when the whale hits the water.

We are all involved in this. Its time to get over Kwame. His reign was a horrible stain on the area in general but its time to let it go. People don’t want  taxpayer money going to save Detroit but I don’t think there should be any choice in the matter. It’s time to take a deep breath and do what it takes to help the city. There will be critics that cry about misappropriation of funds, but I hardly think that emergency services and schools qualify for that. If the city runs up against a wall of insolvency, everyone will feel the effects — from lake to shining lake.

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