Posts Tagged ‘economic development’

Shikha Dalmia on Detroit’s “Flashy Projects”

September 9, 2009

She won’t be fooled again –

In her latest column for Forbes, Reason Foundation senior analyst Shikha Dalmia includes a poignant, touching rendition of her immigrant’s-eye perceptions when she first arrived in Detroit 21 years ago, not long departed from her native New Delhi:

What was surprising was that there was no sign that the looters (of Detroit’s abandoned homes) were doing anything constructive with their ill-gotten gains. In India, the entire project of life can be conducted out of ramshackle structures erected on dirty sidewalks from scraps of discarded tarp, pilfered corrugated metal, bamboo poles and a few logs for fuel scavenged daily from trash heaps. In these filthy, exposed dwellings, families are raised, goods produced and sold (tandoori roti, dal, sabzi), services provided (ironing, shoe repair), and even animals given shelter. They are not ennobling or uplifting. But they are testimony to the powerful human need to survive and flourish, even in the direst circumstances. 

It didn’t seem plausible that this basic urge had somehow ceased to exist in Detroit. Hence, when Mayor Dennis Archer started talking in the mid-’90s about reviving the city by erecting new stadiums and casinos, his message resonated with Detroiters, including me . . .

Dalmia goes on the recap how these “flashy projects” from Archer and his successor failed to revive the city, and to express amazement at the latest credulous hype, this time fueled by misplaced faith that a handful of artsy-craftsy Bohemian-types buying some cheap houses will act as “first-stage gentrifiers, paving the way for the return of doctors and lawyers and other bourgeois professionals.” This notwithstanding out-of-control crime, a completely dysfunctional city government, and a fiscal black hole that threatens to further diminish an already meager and alienated remainder of a city that once claimed 2 million thriving souls.

The Mackinac Center’s Michael LaFaive has documented in more detail the rise and fall of some of those “Flashy Projects” Dalmia refers to.