Big day today in Detroit city: Bing unveils a budget plan. Yes, it’s quite important, but it’s also kind of boring– at least until budget unveiling day comes with a big party on Belle Isle.
This, however, is not so boring:
Sure, I guess it’s kind of old news now (four days old), but I somehow managed to skip over this little gem of an article by Jeff Wattrick over at MLive. He composed a wrap-up of sorts to the Rust Belt/Artist Belt Conference, responding to the overwhelming response/sentiment that all the talk of developing the creative sector meant it was outsiders doing all the cool stuff in Detroit, leaving the long-standing residents in their dust.
The short answer is that Detroit has a lot more to gain than lose by attracting outside creative sector development to Detroit. And here comes an objective explanation by Wattrick via the article I somehow missed over the last four days:
Detroit has shrunk from 1.8 million people to 713,777, a disproportionately large number of whom live in poverty. If 10,000 (or, since weâ€™re speaking in hypotheticals, letâ€™s say 100,000) middle-class creative professionals and artists move here, Detroit would not suddenly resemble Park Slope. The tax rolls might increase and the city could afford to operate the streetlights.
Second, when people act like theyâ€™re the industrial midwestâ€™s equivalent of Mayflower Material or speak of Detroit’s â€œindigenousâ€ population, they need to get some perspective. If Rust Belt/Artist Belt took place 60 years ago, these very same people probably would have had the very same concerns about outsiders, say John Lee Hooker and other Hastings Street blues musicians, trying to impose their crazy artistic ideas on native Detroiters. Actually, it wouldâ€™ve been very different people then, but theyâ€™d have been making the very argument.
New people are good. They obviously want to be here. Why treat them as interlopers trespassing on hallowed ground?
Maybe I should have just pasted the whole article. Go ahead and read it.
It doesn’t hurt to really hammer home both the necessity and benefit of attraction to the region. In the same way that fresh eyes provide honest critique, fresh minds in Detroit can put us in new directions. Young blood can do some of the hard work, too. And with that development– whether its entrepreneurs coming to start a tech company or urban planners coming to the mecca of places to be planned– comes an influx of resources that moves the entire city forward: think streetlights as Jeff pointed out, a city-wide recycling program, or perhaps most importantly, a revenue source for the education system to improve the trajectory of kids in the city.
To boot, here’s a way that DL! is tackling this issue, recently covered by Crain’s Detroit Business. The idea, an achingly hip multimedia presentation for college graduates in the state, underscores the types of opportunity available in Detroit for young people wanting to build something. Sure. Baby steps, but it’s a start.
Let’s look at all of this development as a long-term process eventually affecting the kind of systemic change we need to see. Attraction is that push that can get the whole ball rolling.