Skip to comments.Did Macomb County play key role in Detroitís decline?
Posted on 07/29/2013 6:31:58 AM PDT by equaviator
Growing up in Roseville in the 1970s, by the time I reached junior high school the majority of my neighborhood friends were refugees from Detroit, those who fled at a time when the inner city was showing the earliest signs of degenerating into an urban wasteland.
These suburban families represented the beginning of white flight, a massive population shift that would prove to be Detroits undoing over the next four decades.
Once safely settled in suburbia, these whites would eventually lead the charge against cross-district busing and would congregate as an anti-Detroit voting bloc. That led to Macomb County political campaigns that were often won by the candidate who most effectively bashed Detroit. These white-flighters became the core of a political atmosphere in the 1980s and 1990s that made the tri-county area the most segregated metropolitan area in the nation.
The Motor Citys downward spiral was put in motion.
So, in the wake of Detroits unprecedented municipal bankruptcy, the question becomes: Did Macomb County and other suburban communities play a leading role in sparking the core citys downfall?
The ill-informed national pundits pontificating about Motowns financial failure offer all kinds of ideological theories that dont add up.
Sure, big-government Democratic politics and aggressive labor unions contributed to the citys debts. One liberal commentator suggested that Detroits decline was caused by too much of a small-government approach.
To blame the $3.5 billion pension debt on union bosses is off the mark when you consider that the average city retiree receives $18,000 a year in benefits. To say that political corruption killed Motown indeed Kwame Kilpatricks raiding of funds was breathtakingly brash is wildly off the mark when the city owes an unfathomable $18 billion to $20 billion in long-term debts.
As Gov. Rick Snyder and his able Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr have said, Detroits long, slow slide began 60 years ago due to mismanagement at City Hall and relentless negative inaction kick the can down the road and let the next mayor take care of the mounting debts.
But if suburbanites are honest about the history of southeast Michigan, they will acknowledge that white flight, which reached a far higher level of retreat in Detroit than in other metropolitan areas, was the clincher that gradually bled the Motor City dry.
I have not seen any figures on the percentage decline in city property values over the past 40 years, but the loss of property tax revenues over those four decades must be staggering. At the peak of the nations housing crisis in 2009, the median price of a single family home in Detroit had fallen to a stunning $5,000.
In Detroit, a housing crisis has been ongoing for decades. The unkempt and vacant homes that so shocked suburbanites across the nation during the foreclosure boom of 2008-10 became standard fare in some sections of Detroit starting in the 1970s.
White families who harbored an us vs. them attitude as their neighborhoods became more diverse and bailed out, often selling their homes to landlords looking to make a quick buck. What the white-flighters left behind were streets populated by renters with no incentive to maintain their property.
City Hall proved incompetent in trying to halt the oncoming crime and blight. The residents did not stand their ground. Property values plummeted and many residents chose to give up.
With each friend or neighbor that got out, more and more families followed the same path north of Eight Mile Road.
This abandonment led to burglaries, street crimes, drug houses and arsons. As many homes became unsellable, the slumlords swooped in.
After 30 years, the results are graphic: shockingly desolate landscapes the ruin porn that fascinates photographers from across the globe.
One key reason why Detroit is left with so much messiness compared to other Rust Belt cities is size. Consider this: The Motor Citys 139 square miles is so vast that it could fit within its borders all of Boston, San Francisco and Manhattan. One national reporter who wrote about the bankruptcy called that one of the most incredible factoids ever.
To deal with the sprawling boundaries, city and federal officials engaged in disastrous urban renewal projects and built freeways that simply made it easier for workers to commute into the city from the suburbs, rather than staying put in the Motor City. Ironically, the good wages and benefits that unionized autoworkers received also encouraged the evacuation of blue collar families.
Meanwhile, the city clumsily fueled this exodus by failing to enforce basic ordinances dealing with weeds and trash and rodents. Small-time crimes such as vandalism and minor assaults were not taken seriously by the Detroit cops.
Nonetheless, much of the mass migration to the suburbs stank of racist motives and bigoted assumptions that a City Hall led by a black mayor was the enemy.
The attitude was unmistakable. In my Roseville neighborhood, the white-flighters used the N-word with little discretion and openly told an array of racist jokes.
A more subtle form of segregation took hold in the business community. Ive often wondered what Detroit would have looked like if all those gleaming office towers in Troy and Southfield and Auburn Hills, including the impressive Chrysler headquarters, had been built in the downtown area. Imagine all the abandoned buildings and empty lots that could have been replaced by those aesthetically pleasing engines of economic growth.
As the business community turned its back and the inner citys population slid from 1.2 million in 1980 to 700,000 in 2010, the decline became a death spiral.
The one bright spot in this dark history is the sudden renaissance of the downtown and Midtown areas. Those two enclaves, populated by college-educated professionals, stand in such contrast to the dilapidated neighborhoods that referring to Detroits condition as a tale of two cities is already reaching cliché status.
In 2013, Detroit is essentially two cities. And for many years, the metropolitan area consisted of two regions: one black, one white, with Eight Mile as the dividing line.
That line is being blurred in recent years by the onset of black flight minorities moving out of the city into Warren, Eastpointe, Roseville and even Sterling Heights and Clinton Township.
What is the old white-flighters response to this rearranging landscape?
Well, have you heard the one about M-59 becoming the new Eight Mile?
No and what if it does?
Forced integration is what led to the decline of many great cities.
I suppose this idiot would prefer if everyone lived in Soviet-style apartments.
And imports from Japan they got the last laugh after all.
Sure, blame the refugees from the unnatural disaster.
That’s about the size of it!
The writer is a classic Michigan liberal who has been living in a slow growth environment so long, he doesn’t know the difference from democratic incompetence and a true free ecnonomic climate that fosters economic growth. Michigan is full of this type who are happy to swirl in the toilet bowl and call it a cruise.
Name one city in the U.S. that did not experience the supposed, “white flight”? All of the causes to the problems he attributes to Detroit can be attributed to all U.S. cities. Detroit is just an extreme case and a large one at that.
They wanted “Chocolate Cities”, they got them.
That's what happens when you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
People who say one man can’t make a difference need to study what Kwame Kilpatrick meant to Detroit.
I have one thing to say about the decline of my beloved Motor City:
Chad Selweski is a died in the wool liberal. Always has been. He forgets, very conveniently, that the words “hit 8 Mile” echoed through the community since the early 70’s when Coleman declared war. He was directing it towards rogue cops but the community saw it far beyond that.
There are still a few hold outs in the city that cannot afford to move out. They live with bars on their windows and doors and are afraid to leave their homes. They are targets for break ins. Their children left the scene and moved to “Roseville” long ago.
Selweski trying to blame this on the white folks who “fled before they were dead” is another of his idiotic ideas. He should be the first to move back down there. Lots of cheap property available I’m told.
In Cleveland, school busing and school choice get a lot of the blame. People from the more education-oriented areas would not let their children be bused, so they moved. Parents in the minority communities who could get their kids to the "better" schools pulled them out of their neighborhood schools, and still transport them out of their neighborhoods. The irony is that the all-black schools are still all-black, except now the parents who would provide a positive influence send their kids to someone eles's schools, where they often bring their behaviors with them.
I think it should be appreciated that throngs of people from the suburbs visit Detroit year-round whenever they take in a Tigers or Lions game...hang out at the casinos, etc...but do they have to live there too? What does it take?
Macomb County is fast becoming indistinguishable from Detroit. When we go back to Michigan to visit family in Fraser, Roseville, and St. Clair Shores, we can’t stay in nearby hotels any longer — have to stay over on the West side of town, in Troy. School choice has ruined the local school districts, and people are moving further out to ensure their children go to good schools. Why does the writer blame the people who moved out of Detroit, rather than blaming the politicians who made Detroit uninhabitable? Any businessman would be a fool to stay in Detroit and pay those taxes — Troy wouldn’t exist as it is today, but for the stupid Detroit politicians.
And you can bet any black with the means to do so, got the hell out of Detroit along with the whites.
The writer was correct about one thing, the high union wages made it possible for the autoworkers to buy houses in the nice suburbs. But in his need to blame whitey he didn’t aknowledge the workers were both white and black. The well paid blacks didn’t stick around in Detroit either. Its ironic that the unions helped destroy Detroit.
“Troy wouldnt exist as it is today, but for the stupid Detroit politicians.”
BTW, the city of Troy, Michigan calls itself “The City of Tomorrow”.
My town’s only black family came from Detroit when the grandfather’s bakery was burned in 67 and he packed up the family and moved to Jackson within days.
His son didn’t like the way the hood was going Jackson and moved his family out here several years ago.
I have neighbors two doors down who love it here just about 20 miles N of 8 Mile and yes, they are black. Good for them!
Another “blame Whitey”. Too bad the writer doesn’t accept any responsibility or blame anyone else.
It’s culture, not race.
But the Jesse’s and Al’s of the world want to call it ‘racism’ if you dare criticize the culture.
A hundred years ago, people and businesses needed to be in cities. Businesses needed to be near suppliers and customers, workers needed to be able to get to work by either walking or public transportation, and public transportation needed a minimum population density to be viable.
The interstate highway system allowed businesses to relocate away from the cities, in office parks along the highways. Their employees could commute by car, and drive to suburban malls to shop. They could escape high city taxes, and get far from city crime, and still drive into the city to go see a play if it suited them.
Telegraph Road - Dire Straits
A long time ago came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a pack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
Made a home in the wilderness
He built a cabin and a winter store
And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore
And the other travellers came riding down the track
And they never went further, no, they never went back
Then came the churches then came the schools
Then came the lawyers then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road
Then came the mines - then came the ore
Then there was the hard times then there was a war
Telegraph sang a song about the world outside
Telegraph road got so deep and so wide
Like a rolling river. . .
And my radio says tonight it’s gonna freeze
People driving home from the factories
There’s six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow. . .
I used to like to go to work but they shut it down
I got a right to go to work but there’s no work here to be found
Yes and they say we’re gonna have to pay what’s owed
We’re gonna have to reap from some seed that’s been sowed
And the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
They can always fly away from this rain and this cold
You can hear them singing out their telegraph code
All the way down the telegraph road
You know I’d sooner forget but I remember those nights
When life was just a bet on a race between the lights
You had your head on my shoulder you had your hand in my hair
Now you act a little colder like you don’t seem to care
But believe in me baby and I’ll take you away
From out of this darkness and into the day
From these rivers of headlights these rivers of rain
From the anger that lives on the streets with these names
‘cos I’ve run every red light on memory lane
I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
And I don’t want to see it again. . .
From all of these signs saying sorry but we’re closed
All the way down the telegraph road
There are some decent neighborhoods beginning to spring up mostly due to companies like Quicken and JP Morgan transferring people from elsewhere and giving big bonuses for living in the city.
Detroit really can’t be beat as far as availability of sporting events is concerned. You’ve got 3 big league teams within a mile of each other as well as powerboat racing, air racing, sailboat racing, and the Detroit Grand prix and all take place within a few square miles. I personally think the Red Wings should be downtown as well but the taxpayers shouldn’t pay for it. Personally I would put the Pistons and Red Wings in a single dual use facility.
Moving your family is a hard thing to do. It is one of the most stressful things people go through. It is a big decision to move your family. It’s not something people do easily. It had to be pretty bad for people to pack up and leave Detroit. It’s a foolish argument to say that Americans who are white found it easy to leave their homes in Detroit. It was so bad that they felt that there was no other alternative.
Obviously this writer never meant my Uncle. He helped build homes in Detroit with Habitat for Humanity. He was one of those white flighters. He moved out of Detroit because the companies moved out of Detroit. His job left Detroit. Why did these companies leave ? Crime was rampant. My Uncle gave up on the Habitat for Humanity Homes when he realized it was not worth the effort.
This is absolutely true. The whites that built and maintained the 1st World civilization in Detroit were forced out. The blacks that had moved enmass to Detroit to take advantage of the high functioning civilization that was already there did not have the wherewithal to generate the financial or social capital necessary to sustain that particular civilization. It quickly transformed into the 3rd World society that they could create. Without the transfer of the wealth created by productive people outside the city by the State and Federal leviathans the city would have crumbled back into wilderness a long time ago.
When I was just a kid being driven toward Detroit after landing on a plane from Alabama, mother wanted to be near her mother after the divorce, I got all excited. We were driving over the huge River Rouge bridge and I could not believe my eyes. The river was orange. Had never seen an orange river before. Thought it was cool. Little did I know that it was just a sign of what the Auto companies had done to the area.
"What's the matter?" Bob asked.
"I've been transferred to Detroit - there are crazy people there. They've got lots of shootings, gangs, race riots, drugs, poor public schools, and the highest crime rate in the nation."
Bob replied, "I've lived in Detroit all my life. It's not as bad as the media says. Find a nice home, go to work, mind your own business, and enroll your kids in a nice private school. It's as safe a place as anywhere in the world."
The guy relaxed and stopped shaking and said, "Oh, thank you. I've been worried to death. But if you live there and say it's OK, I'll take your word for it. What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a tail gunner on a Budweiser truck."
That is what pisses me off every time I see one of these blame “white flight” articles.
I have had MANY great work opportunities which would require me to walkk away from a long-term rental contract, loss of income for 15 to 20the days, pull my kids from two or three schools, find another home, with good schools, get them in, get settled and then start endearing my skills to a whole new group of people to prove I was worth the chance, etc...
These people think all white people have spare money sitting around waiting for them in the need of flying free from whatever “perceived” blight because of our engrained racist, bigot filled notions.
That’s interesting because I recall the 1-94 corridor “burning” to some degree in 67 ^and^ 68; Benton Harbor, Kazoo, BC, Albion, Jacktown, Ypsi, Detroit.
That’s when these small urban enclaves got the nickname, “Little Detroit”. Albion locals use it to this day.
He says the average retiree gets $18,000 a year. That is everyone clumped together, including people surviving on SS. It’s the CITY union retirees that have helped bankrupt the city. And they are probably living in the burbs. Typical liberal, skew the numbers using unrelated data.
And Albion is the blackest of all the smaller towns but the Albion blacks were a whole different breed. They were workers.
I worked with a black guy from Albion in a factory in Jackson and Charlie hated the Jackson bunch and they hated him.
They had a lot in common with the Benton Harbor “crewe” during the Maytag/Whirlpool days.
Unions, with forced membership, democratic-only leadership, union backed schools, high wages and benefits for public officials: these ALL lead to the waste of Detroit and have put many other large blue cities in the same risk category. People flee these places because: 1) in order to keep salaries and bennies so good, property taxes go through the roof, 2) politically entrenched officials become corrupt—it’s the nature of the beast—so to keep crime out of your neighborhood, one must be willing to pay bribes or live in a gated community with security on the ground, 3) politically-connected manufacturing and business get tax breaks, and “rewards” while those struggling to survive or unwilling to pay the bribes suffer, etc.
There are a lot of reasons for the exodus from Detroit, but let’s face it-—had there been good management and honest politicians it would have survived and become stronger, even with some economic downturns. Most cities face these from time to time. It’s just how things work. But Detroit had the worst of everything. No way to survive and yet everyone wants to blame somebody else...sound familiar? This runs in the “family”. Democrat family, that is. Nothing is EVER their fault!
Detroit would just be a neighborhood in Houston. Houston is about 5 times the size of Detroit. Would you like to compare economies and living conditions in the two?
Detroit's problem is corruption and liberal policies, not size and the fact that people wouldn't put up with the crap and left.
To the liberal utopians, it is everyone’s fault but their own policies. Heck, if they could just eliminate their political opponents, then utopia would be realized! There was another regime back in the 30’s over in EU that had the same answer to an economic collapse.
Be very vigilente everyone, over the next few dominos that fall you will continue to be blamed. Blame blame blame and then you will have the mob whipped up into a frenzy to eliminate those evil capitalist rich people! Rich will be continually re-defined as those that have “more than me!”
“The writer is a classic Michigan liberal who has been living in a slow growth environment so long, he doesnt know the difference from democratic incompetence and a true free ecnonomic climate that fosters economic growth. Michigan is full of this type who are happy to swirl in the toilet bowl and call it a cruise.”
I love the folks that were celebrating “July 4th” with fireworks, yet the same morons scream for social security and obamacare. They have no concept of independence!
This author would also blame the abused spouse after he/she left for the decline in the family income and the negative effect on the children....
“Personally I would put the Pistons and Red Wings in a single dual use facility.”
I’m for that but not in a building originally intended to be a jail.
Once you understand Blame & Envy Cocktail, you appreciate how the Jacobins, Marxists, Communists, Bolsheviks, Nazis & Obamanists gained power. It is the central thread of demagoguery, through the generations.
Speaking of stupid politicians, how about the police force?
It may have sped up the decline, but the decline was inevitable with the leadership and the societal problems. I have been part of “white flight”. This administration and the progressives want to eliminate suburbs and have everyone live in cities. We left because of the decline of the schools, the infrastructure, the decline of my neighbor hood, crime, political corruption. Those who fled are being blamed the decline and for refusing to be victims of a corrupt populace. It got to where I carried a .357 to walk my dog and I couldn’t carry a large enough trash bag to hold the litter I picked with a walk around the block.
“I suppose this idiot would prefer if everyone lived in Soviet-style apartments.”
It appears that’s what obama wants for us but more on the order of post WWII East Germany but ruled by National Socialist, “Nazi’s”, only with an improved secret police and greatly improved surveillance, NSA.
The vast majority of the people who have fled to the suburbs, especially north of 16 mile rd., were all auto company employees, both skilled trades and production whose incomes allowed them to purchase houses and properties not available in the city of Detroit.
Sterling Heights was the first haven for the new upper class wage earners from the auto industry and as that grew, they spread northword and the houses grew.
Macomb Twp., Utica and Shelby Twp. became the new destination of choice for the auto workers who had the incomes to build bigger houses in what was once wooded areas. Those areas are now filled with subdivisions.
The bottom line is, they left Detroit for the same reason anyone else does, a bigger house in a neighborhood that they can afford.....
Here in Eastern Jackson county, everybody works in Washtenaw County. Higher pay there, lower taxes here.