Here’s a story about Black Bottom LLC, in Detroit. If you don’t know this history, it is something that you ought to know. If you don’t know this group, then they are some folks you ought to check out.
So the city council of Detroit is now debating plans for the city’s upcoming River Days and Freedom Festival firework shows, held each year in downtown Detroit. This year, one of the plans under discussion is whether or not to celebrate Freedom Festival by imposing a city-wide curfew. If passed, the curfew would make it so that nobody 17 or younger would be allowed to be outside on their own in public, anywhere in the city of Detroit, at any time starting at six o’clock in the evening. If you want to celebrate yer Freedom, you can do it only in the presence of a guardian; and the curfew would allow the police to demand papers from anyone at any time after six, in order to prove their age and identity.
This is, of course, yet another assault on the basic civil liberties of teens and children, and yet another massive increase in the police's power to harass, punish and detain young people, from the Detroit city government. It is an intolerable assault on the city of Detroit — i.e., on the people who live in Detroit and on their ability to inhabit and enjoy the city that they call home. The proposed Freedom Festival Curfew is a shameful measure. It ought to be rejected out of hand, and if passed, it deserves to be ridiculed and defied as much as possible.
The city is threatening to take legal action if the book store doesn't remove two banners from its iconic warehouse.
John K. King books is one of the best bookstores in the world, and a local landmark in the city of Detroit. The janky banners are part of the charm, and a perfectly legitimate form of self-promotion that helps the store look like it’s supposed to, and connect with the people they are trying to connect with, while harming exactly no-one.
Here’s some fiscally responsible conservative government from the state-appointed Emergency Management of the city government of Detroit. Whoever is running the city government in Detroit — whether it’s elected city officials, or appointed Emergency Managers, or the direct intervention of the state government — and no matter how much they may protest that they can’t pay the bills when it comes to roads, or firefighters’ pensions, or schools — nothing will prevent a taxpayer-subsidized stadium from being built. Got to keep your priorities straight; and priority number one is, of course, taking money out of the pockets of Detroit taxpayers and giving it to billionaire developer and CEO Mike Ilitch.
New Red Wing Arena Should Be Unaffected By Detroit Bankruptcy
Michigan's state legislature approved Wednesday a $450 million bond offering that would form the public backbone of [Ilitch Holding's] $650 million entertainment center and development district near the heart of downtown Detroit.
The bonds will be floated by the Michigan Strategic Fund, which handles all of the state's private development funds. The public, $283 million portion of the bonds will come from the Downtown Development Authority, which earmarks a slice of downtown property taxes for reinvestment there. They both have investment-grade credit ratings and function independently of Detroit's city government, which makes their involvement in the deal important. Detroit's credit rating is somewhere between junk status and radioactive.
Most of the Development District is going towards demolishing several buildings north of downtown, and building a new stadium, at taxpayer expense, for the Red Wings, which Mike Ilitch also owns and profits from.
The public will pay nearly 60 percent of the cost of the proposed $450 million Detroit Red Wings arena in downtown Detroit under a plan disclosed Wednesday.
Property taxes would pay for $261.5 million (58 percent) of the building’s construction cost while the team’s ownership would provide $188.4 million (42 percent), according to details provided by the state. Those are July 2013 dollars based on bonds with a 5.91 percent interest rate. Critics have blasted the arena deal as unnecessary subsidies for a billionaire pro sports team owner in a city in municipal bankruptcy. Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has said the city’s recent Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection filing won’t affect the arena project.
It does not matter who’s in charge of city government, and it doesn’t matter what political or legal constraints are supposedly put on them: the political machine always produces output to certain specifications, and part of the spec is what needs to keep running, and who needs to stay paid. In case you were wondering, citizen, that’s not you, or anyone else small enough to fail. (If you don’t get the reference in the title of this post, it’s probably because you kids today, etc. etc. Here’s something from the last century to remind you.)
If you have been reading news headlines over the past couple weeks, then I think it might be important to keep in mind that the city of Detroit has not been razed or destroyed in the past few days. The city of Detroit is not over; the city of Detroit has not failed; and the city of Detroit is not gone. It’s still right there, where it has been all these years; see, look, here it is:
Here’s what has happened, over the past several days, and all that has happened: One institution, out of the millions of things going on in Detroit — specifically the single most confining and abusive and irresponsible institution within the city — the government which latched on to the city of Detroit and has tried to rule and exploit it for decades — has announced that it no longer intends to pay off the people and the institutions and the banks who paid it loans in advance of future tax revenues. That one institution, which claims, arrogantly and fraudulently, to speak for the whole city of Detroit, and which intends to force the whole city of Detroit to pay for its mistakes — the same city government which has bulldozed Detroit neighborhoods and tried to sell out the city to the auto cartel and to corporate developers at every opportunity — the same city government whose attitude towards the people of the city has over the years ranged from one of constant low-level antagonism and hectoring, to one of repression and open warfare against them — the same city government which is now run by an appointed Emergency Manager from the state government, installed in a last-ditch effort to loot the city without the normal political restraints, for the sake of institutional bondholders, before things came to this pass — that one institution within the city of Detroit has announced that it wants to default on debts that most of the city never were asked about and never agreed to take on. And this may mess up that institution’s budgeting process for some time to come. What’s happened is something notable, but it is also something far less important than it’s being treating as, and something with far more political fascination than human significance.
There is no threnody of grief to be had here, no punishment for hubris or failures or sins, no final unraveling to reveal, no long-coming tragedy of decline or death for the city, if the city is supposed to mean anything at all other than the government. That government has taken over and inserted itself into so many parts of the city of Detroit that this may make things rough. Perhaps it will even make things rougher than they already were — although the reasons that are usually given for thinking that always seem to me to depend on some assumptions about the role of government in Detroit which I think are probably false. (If it is hard for the city government to allocate more money to the Detroit police department, is that going to make life worse in the city? It probably depends on what end of the stick you find yourself on.)
Detroit is fresh kielbasa and original Coney Islands (whichever one you think deserves the title); barbecue pork, and felafel and fries with a fruit smoothie; blind pigs and warehouse raves, Arabic signs and pointing to the knuckle of your thumb to show where you’re from. Detroit is 19 year olds making the pilgrimmage to Windsor for booze and to Royal Oak for coffee. Detroit is the home of Rosa Parks and of Grace Lee Boggs. Detroit is the Michigan Citizen and the Metro Times. Detroit is the Rouge plant and Fifth Estate. And Detroit is the long history of displacement, homecoming, work, music, food, culture, strife, love and building that the city grows up out of. Detroit is bigger, stronger, more resilient and much more important than the government’s budget.
Detroit did not cause this crisis. The city government and the state government and the bankers they deal with, who dominate and exploit Detroit, did that. And though Detroit will be forced to pay much of the bill, Detroit is not threatened by this crisis and will not be ended or killed, because Detroit never depended on the city government or the state government or the institutions they deal with for what it is or what it has done. To grow, and to survive, and to thrive, Detroit depends on its people, on the collision and the seeping-together of its many cultures and subcultures and neighborhoods and scenes, on those people’s work and their industry and their craft and their experiments and their interconnection and solidarity and mutual aid. The city of Detroit is its people, not its politics, and it will live on in those people over, above, beyond, and in spite of, the ongoing efforts of local governments and state-appointed emergency governments and corporate-political managers to somehow bail out and save government’s place within Detroit. Everyone would be better off if the austerity government, along with all other local governments, just took this as an opportunity to pack it in and leave the city entirely alone — rather than attempt to somehow auction off, bail out, and save the essential command-posts for its political takeover of people’s space and public life. But even without that, the city continues, and lives, no matter how much the politics falls apart.