One person's thoughts may change the world
Amazon just listed their short list for their location for their H2. Detroit didn’t make the cut. Detroit, The Motor City, the Arsenal of Democracy, The Big ‘D’, ground zero for the working middle class, ground zero for the UAW and teamsters, a city at one time was the 4th largest in the United States, did not make the cut for H2.
Now, in retrospect, how can a city, who just went through the largest bankruptcy in United States history, make the short list? How can a city, who’s crime rate, murder rate, drug problems, and other nefarious activities, even think they had a chance to make the cut? How can a city, who’s greatest ancient and dilapidated symbol, the Packard plant even think they had a chance for H2? So, now that I have moved back to the “city”, I’m going to have to boycott amazon.com… for one month. It’s a personal boycott, fueled by the very reason I moved. Detroit is “COMING BACK”.
Now, a few months ago, Amazon announced they were opening a new distribution center in the Detroit area. When that happened, I knew Detroit was not going to get any love for H2. They threw Detroit a “bone”, softening the blow of not going to be in the running for H2. I knew it, but, I was a little surprised the local rags didn’t pick up on it. The analysis was a mixed sort, wrong but right, but there are a few things I would like to point out, but first the obvious.
No company can make a statement like the following:
“We did not see the educated background of people in the area to pool resources from”.
That statement is ridiculous. There is no community on this planet, with people waiting on the sidelines, especially with technical and project management experience, ready to apply and working for an organization. Once you get that programming degree, the world is your oyster. Now if it were true, then why are Asian Indians flying half way across the planet to work in the United States? They would stay where they are if the opportunity presented itself. People will come if the job in available, and interesting, there is no such thing as a programmer, waiting on the sidelines for a position, they go where the positions are.
The pool of newly educated individual runs deep within Metro Detroit, and the State of Michigan. The University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, University of Detroit Mercy, Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Oakland University, University of Toledo, Windsor(Canada) University, would all provide robust supply of students from the general area. People would come from many places, there would be no need for Amazon to “scavenge” from current professionals in the Metro area. But lets take on a real and fixable challenge in metro Detroit, transportation.
In every major city, public transportation fuels the growth of the core of the city, and the metropolitan area it normally supports. It defines how a city operates, opportunity, commerce, and regardless of income, allowing mobility for those who cannot afford a car. City and regional planners can design hubs at key locations, to allow smooth flow of people to places like airports, business districts, shopping areas, and places of education.
In fact, they are even defined by names. The Metrorail in Washington DC, the “L” in Chicago, the “T” in Boston, the MARTA in Atlanta, are just some of the names of them. The New York subway is simply called the subway, it was the first. It also carries 5.6 million people daily. You don’t have to have a car in most of these cities if you live in the right place. The MARTA is a huge system, but is only the 14th largest in the United States. Unfortunately, Detroit does not have one.
The fact that Detroit does not have one, was by design. Detroit once had a very robust street car system, which allowed for growth within the city. But, that was not the plan for regional transportation. Cars were. How can the Motor City, where most cars were made in the early, mid, and late part of the 20th century, have a robust subway system? No… Detroit must be the model car city. GM, Standard Oil, and Firestone made sure of that. In the early 50’s the three of them colluded and purchased the whole light rail system in Detroit. Their argument was that a bus system would be more flexible, and create new routes. GM supplied the buses, Firestone supplied the tires, and Standard oil supplied the diesel fuel. They were eventually fined but the deal was done, Detroit was to be a car commuter city.
At the same time, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s interstate freeways system took effect. Freeways tore right through the city, carrying white families out to nirvana. The one thing freeways do not do is produce commerce along it’s vein while in the city. Most inner-city part of freeways are semi-wastelands, because of their design, sunken into a hole, traffic flies by with the intent to get to a destination. Light rail and subways make stops, thus creating “Hubs” of activity, commerce, and destinations. They join communities together. And they allow mobility for all to use. A freeway provides a useful tool for transportation, but, serves a completely different activity.
Another main factor for the last 35 years is L. Brooks Patterson, the Oakland County Executive. Oakland county contains many suburbs that many white flight families moved to before and after the Detroit riots of 1967. It was the freeway that allow access for people to leave the city. He was first elected to the Executive position in Oakland county in 1992. Before that, he was the Oakland County Prosecutor for 16 years. Those two position allowed him to continually citizen Detroit, and helped fuel
the “us” white people against “them” black people agenda. His kept a steady drumbeat of disparagement of Detroit, and, at that time, Mayor Coleman Young. Patterson also fought against desegregation busing, all the way to the Supreme Court. But, L. Brooks Patterson has been the brick wall who won’t fall when it comes to public regional transportation. He has fought it tooth and nail. He has use racial tactics, insinuating that it will bring the “unwanted” to the suburbs. “Who will pay for it?”, was his favorite line, knowing that no regional transportation system in the United States pays for itself without a subsidy. Patterson is one of the main reasons why Detroit and the surrounding suburbs has no regional public transportation. Detroit was sighted for that. So L. Brooks, if you’re reading this, you just helped put the nail in the proverbial coffin as to why Detroit didn’t make the short list. Fast bus would be a quick fix to the regional transportation issues, but is not a long term solution, and the region unfortunately, does not have one… yet.
I spoke to an urban planning doctorate and he told me one thing, “Public transportation and k-12 education are paramount for a community to thrive and grow”. The Detroit school system has been failing for quite some time now. Combine that, along with white flight, the inability to get around region, and you see what happens to your tax base. In my next segment, I’ll speak to another asset the area has, and why the educational system and housing market go hand in hand. That will be my next segment….