An Open Letter To The City of Detroit…


Congratulations! You Got The Job. Now Don’t (Expletive) It Up!

“You’re a fighter, you’re a lover/You’re strong and you recover/From whatever gets you down…”

—Sammy Davis Jr., Hello Detroit (1984)

CHICAGO — That is the opening line of a song that started many of my mornings as a little boy. Every morning for nearly 20 years in Detroit, that song opened up the Mason in the Morning show on WJLB (Yes, the Mason that those outside Detroit know as the “DEEEE-TROIT BASKET-BALL” guy). The song, which was Sammy’s ode to Motown after being signed to the label in 1983, became a Detroit feel-good anthem. Ask anyone who grew up in Detroit or lived in Detroit during the 80s and 90s, and they can give you the first verse of that song off rip. The 1980s were far from Detroit’s best years. In fact, they may have been our worst. But there was still a pride in the city. There was some semblance of confidence that the City could fight back after the riots and racism of the 60s and the exodus of people and business, rampant crime, and subsequent collapse of the 1970s. The problem is, aside from a brief rally in the mid 1990s, Detroit has yet to recover from the 1970s. In fact, unlike the 1980s, it appears that people are on the verge of giving up. That’s what makes what transpired in this week’s originally scheduled general elections so amazingly huge, and potentially Detroit’s last shot at redemption.

You may notice that the Dateline on this Blog is not Detroit, as nearly all of my blogs have been, but Chicago. I am here on Business, and also to get away from the city and the malaise that is hanging over the entire damned state of Michigan. As I was driving into Chicago, which happens the second you cross the Indiana/Illinois border, I am struck by numerous things, the biggest of which is how alive Chicago is. The city has its own disturbing issues. Violent crime in Chicago makes what’s going on in Detroit look like a day care center. Chicago’s deficit is nearly double that of Detroit ($520 Million…wowsers!). But the city itself is confident and, as much as I hate this word, has this swagger that let’s you know that they give enough a damn to not let everything collapse around them. Meanwhile, Detroit just went through its ugliest 2-year stretch in nearly 40 years. I argue that what has gone on in Detroit is worse than what happened to New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.

Our well-documented issues date back to the 1940s, exploded in the 1960s, then were used as a crutch by subsequent city officials, residents, and suburbanites since 1974. Fast forward to the last three years and you have had a sitting mayor (Kwame Kilpatrick) and the city council Vice President (Monica Conyers) go to jail. You had another council member (Joann Watson) think that paying $50 in taxes on a half-million dollar crib was cool. The city’s public schools having the lowest HS graduation rate (Chicago was 3rd on that list), while other schools were closing left and right. Businesses were/are abandoning the city like mad with downtown office buildings standing abandoned (over 60 at last count). The North American International Auto Show threatened to leave dilapidated Cobo Hall (for Chicago, not Novi…sorry L. Brooks Patterson). And last, but not least, the economy hitting Rock Bottom like Dwayne Johnson, and you have a city in dire need of a change. On Tuesday, that happened…I think…?

Dave Bing, who essentially has been an interim mayor after replacing interim mayor Ken Cockrel in a special election back in May, was officially elected Mayor for the next 4 years. The City Council got a much needed facelift as 5 of the incumbents of the notorious nine are gone: Conyers (Jail), Collins (Retirement), S. Cockrel (Retirement), Tinsley (L. General Election), and Reeves (L. Primary). Shockingly, the aforementioned JoAnn Watson somehow survived. The newcomers: Saunteel Jenkins, Andre Spivey, James Tate, and Charles Pugh (more on him in a minute). The biggest, and most important vote came when Detroit finally joined the rest of the country in electing the Council by District instead of the “Any MFer with a Pulse Can Run” at-large method which led to a lot of the silliness we’ve seen of names getting elected instead of qualified people. No more Monica Conyers, Martha Reeves, or…Charles Pugh.

My open letter is to the people who have been trusted with bringing Detroit out of the stone age and back into the 21st Century. If I come off as skeptical, it’s because I am. I’ve heard this song before, and it always sounds good in the beginning, before someone inexplicably lets Gucci Mane on it and it goes to hell. I will start first by Addressing:

The Detroit City Council: The last time a group of nine people embarrassed Detroit this much, they were wearing Tigers uniforms (and I don’t mean this year’s choke job either). The abject childish, niggerish, embarrassing buffoonery will NOT be tolerated again. To the 4 remaining incumbents, and yes I am including Ms. Watson, your heads were spared from the chopping block. Three of you have done very strong work for the city, and became guilty by association. The 4th needs to earn this city’s trust back, and pronto. All nine of you have to show and f-ing improve, NOW! To the 4 new members, you guys came in with big dreams, big goals, and even bigger plans, now it’s time to put up or shut up. Too many new booties have seen the DCC as the cushiest $81,000/year gig on the planet. This will also not be tolerated, especially in a climate where the average cat from Detroit can’t make $7.50/hr to bust his/her ass. Remember, 4 years from now, the Council will be elected by DISTRICT. You will be out on your ass!

New City Council President Charles Pugh: Three Simple Words: Prove Me Wrong! I’ll be honest, I think you’re just an empty suit who got over on 80,000 knuckleheads in Detroit who are suckers for a name they recognize from the radio or the idiot box. I think you are using this position as an easy paycheck. You and I are both broadcasters. We both know that the best broadcasters are often the best bullshit artists this side of politicians. You know that if the news about you seeming to be unable to pay your bills in spite of making the kind of money someone of your talent didn’t deserve got out damn near anywhere else in the country, you could’ve cancelled Christmas and New Year’s. You have a lot of people fooled with your “I Love Detroit”, “I came up rough”, and “I’m gonna bring change” rhetoric, but you don’t fool me. I could be horribly wrong, and you could be the second coming of Barack Obama. I highly doubt it, but who knows. What I, and the city, needs from you is a lot less grandstanding and gum-bumping (“If you want entertainment from the City Council, go on YouTube”…witty), and more results. Or come 2013, you could be out on your ass too. (And no, that wasn’t a gay joke. His sexual orientation is irrelevant to me, and it should be to You!)

Mayor Dave Bing: While I wasn’t very sold on you when you initially became mayor, you have done a pretty good job overall, considering the short time you’ve had. The one thing that I like the most about you, and would like to see a lot more of, is you shooting straight on the people of this city. They have been having their asses kissed and getting BSed by city officials since Coleman Young took over 35 years ago. The people of Detroit can’t handle the truth. They are as afraid of the truth as they are of the Police. And that why you need to torture them with it. This is not a “World Class City”. This city is in deep financial trouble. The city does need the suburbanites, as much as they need us. Hope and prayer alone won’t save this city. Hard work and dedication will. I don’t care where you lived before this year. You did more for Detroit while living in Oakland County than a lot of these clowns who’ve lived in the city for 50 years. Do not back down from the city’s residents, and do rebuild this city’s reputation, because that will go a long way to rebuilding the city as a whole.

The Residents of the City of Detroit: I will simply ask you to Grow Up and join us in the 21st Century. I mean, it’s about to be 2010, and a large number of you are still on that paranoid bullshit from the 1970s. For the last time, the suburbanites and the white man are not plotting to steal the city from you. If they were, don’t you think they’d have done it by now!? Yes, people who grew up in Detroit and left for someplace else have every right to say what they want about Detroit. No, they don’t have to move back if they don’t want to. Why should we!? What is there to come back to? Why would someone leave Farmington Hills, or Troy, or Chicago, or Atlanta, or Mars to come back to Detroit right now? Instead of making excuses, beating on your chest about how much you “Love Detroit” and passing blame, how about more than 25% of you show up and vote! How about you spend less time worrying about whether someone grew up on 7 Mile, and more time worrying about whether they care about the city and wanna help it come back. It’s about time that the city’s residents grew up, got mad, and stopped just accepting aberrant behavior from its elected officials, and enabling its fellow residents.  You do that and I’ll think about eventually coming back across 8 Mile.

As Sammy said in Hello Detroit: “I will always, be there for you. I will say, a little prayer for you. And I will always care for you…” and I care enough to get mad. When will you!? Dave Bing and the DCC, the time for excuses and bullshit has ended. It’s time to man up and show us what you got. The clock starts January 1, 2010. It’s up to you guys to determine when that clock stops.

Until Next Time, from Chicago, That’s The Way It Is. Thursday November 5, 2009.

The 40th day since the Detroit Lions’ last Victory.

Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ

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One Comment on “An Open Letter To The City of Detroit…

  1. Thanks for “Yes, people who grew up in Detroit and left for someplace else have every right to say what they want about Detroit. No, they don’t have to move back if they don’t want to. Why should we!? What is there to come back to? Why would someone leave Farmington Hills, or Troy, or Chicago, or Atlanta, or Mars to come back to Detroit right now?”

    During the past two years, I’ve beaten myself up about moving away from the city I love. At times I feel bad that Detroit is in so much trouble. I could bring my business and my drive there.

    I’m sure Detroit will recover when the citizens realize it’s just as much their responsibility as the mayor and city councils’.

    Like

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