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Big Blue Stymies Creative Destruction In Detroit

Sometimes the only way to build is to destroy. In Detroit, population flight over the past decade has left tens of thousands of vacant buildings that have become crime dens and serious hazards for neighborhood schoolchildren. The Governor of Michigan—who, due to a unique power-sharing agreement, has a powerful role in the city—is set on pushing through a grand demolition project:

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder plans to use about $10 million of Michigan’s $97 million payout from a national mortgage-settlement fund to help demolish abandoned houses that surround nine schools in three of Detroit’s deteriorating communities. At the same time, social workers will relocate from their offices into schools in an effort to reduce truancy and establish the buildings as neighborhood hubs.

To help identify targets for demolition, the state is tapping a smartphone application developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to building-industry executives who have been advising the governor and helped obtain the technology. The app allows a team of canvassers to assess the housing stock through pictures, video and sketches uploaded to a central database.

City and state regulations, combined with persistent miscommunication between the governor’s and mayor’s offices, threaten to sabotage the project and leave it underfunded. First, poor governance and over regulation helped to destroy Detroit; now they threaten to make it impossible to clear away the debris. But there is hope:

State officials advised by industry experts—including Bill Pulte, a private-equity investor whose grandfather founded homebuilder Pulte Homes—say that relaxing city and state regulations, and working more closely with utilities, would cut costs and speed the process.

It shouldn’t be this complicated or expensive to clear away the wreckage of a failed social model, but as we’ve noted before, government itself is one of the chief victims of the dysfunctional society that a failing blue model creates.

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  • vanderleun

    “… population flight over the past decade…”

    Care to speculate on what sort of “population” is in flight?

    Thought not.

  • vanderleun

    Doesn’t matter. They’re not coming back. Ever.

  • Jeff

    Detroit…which has received millions in Federal money (mostly wasted or unspent) for the same overall project, is demanding control over how the State spends IT’S money to help make the city safer. They are financially and morally bankrupt. The State is trying to take over Belle Isle in order to fix it up and make it a jewel again…yet some on the City Council and within the community just want the money with no strings. If I were the Gov. I’d let the go bankrupt…then they could work it out with a bankruptcy judge.

  • alex scipio

    In Classical Rome, the Greeks kept being a problem (stick with me here). Finally Rome tired of it, sailed over (yet again – alot like the US and europe, but I digress), removed all the people and art from Syracuse and razed the city. (Read: Empires of Trust.)

    In 1945, two Japanese cities invoved in the war effort as manufacturing bases and/or naval ports, were incinerated by an America mature enough to decide – ‘enough is enough, let’s get this thing OVER’ – and to act on that decision.

    Since becoming LBJ’s (and Progressive’s) “Model City for Prog programs, Detroit has done nothing but destroy lives, homes, property, education, families and futures, turning the wealthiest per-capita major metro in America into – well, Dr Mead’s observations…

    Time to remove the people, sail in and raze the place? Or – have you recently googled “Hiroshima Detroit”?,r:4,s:0,i:87

    Seriously – the worst thing that has ever happened to people is socialism, whether in the USSR, E. Europe, Greece, Italy, Spain, California… or Detroit, and it’s time to remove it from the face of the earth as the destructive ideology it truly is.

  • Kenny

    As Vanderleun hints above, there’s an elephant in Detroit’s living room which Mr. Mead fears to mention least the thought police come chastise him.

  • Jim.

    At risk of sounding like an obstructionist, this needs to be pursued VERY carefully.

    At best, this could clear he way for a Renaissance in Detroit. Clearing out blight, particularly when the buildings are truly abandoned and truly in awful structural condition, and freeing up the land for other uses (informal agriculture, even) is a good thing.

    However, the madly truly deeply cynical side to my nature couldn’t help noticing a parallel to that horrifically wrongheaded wealth-destroying travesty known as “Cash for Clunkers” (which drove the price of used cars through the roof by eliminating supply). A Pulte is connected to this house-destroying project? That makes it sound like the Bad Old Days of massive conflict of interest have not ended, by a long shot.

    Of course, it’s tough to find people who know what they’re doing on any given subject, that didn’t get that way by having an economic interest in the subject at some point.

    /sigh, none of this is easy.

  • Dave Maney

    When I saw the post title on Facebook, I thought it was going to describe how the GM bailout stymied creative destruction in the auto industry. That’s not what it’s about, of course, but the parallels between what you’ve written about above and the GM bailout are surprisingly strong. GM is now back in deep trouble again — the worldwide head of marketing just resigned, sales are slumping, and the Volt is a disaster — all in a company that did nothing in the restructuring to actually put its cost structure right. A bankruptcy would have allowed smart investors to buy the assets of the company that were compelling on a go-forward basis, and would have seeded the ground for a renaissance in the American auto industry. Instead, we’ve got a propped-up shell of a company that very much resembles the decaying city it helped create. The President once again plays King Canute, standing against the inexorable tides of economic revolution. Terrible.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Where’s Curt LeMay when you need him?

  • Ritchie The Riveter

    At the same time, social workers will relocate from their offices into schools in an effort to reduce truancy and establish the buildings as neighborhood hubs.

    Interesting … sounds like they took a cue from the “Ready First” brigade combat team, in al-Anbar, and are moving out of their “fortified” bases to work among the people.

    Problem is, they are still limited, by the doctrine of equal protection under the law and respect for civil liberties, in what they can do to resolve the problems of many of the people around them … because many of those problems involve issues of the will and of the soul as much or more as they do the wallet and the school. They need some private-sector reinforcements to take care of those areas, that are not associated with the coercive force of law and therefore are able to delve into those issues fully.

    But at least they are headed in the right direction.

  • William Voegeli
  • Kris

    Spinning wheel got to go ’round.

  • jeff landaw

    My paper, the Baltimore Sun, ran a column on the 50th anniversary of the demise of Packard (I think in 1958) that noted in passing that the plant was still standing vacant. Why?

  • jeff landaw

    Sorry, should have specified that Packard died in 58, or whenever it was, and we ran the column 50 years later.

  • Alex Weiner

    @ Jeff Landaw
    Probably because it wasn’t vacant for 50 years…Chemical Processing has been operating there.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    I heard something about this, I could not believe that Repubics will so humagously stupid to take on Detroit.

    Repubics run Michigan. If they do nothing Detroit will die as its rulers richly deserve.
    Detroit pols and population (see demographics: will blame white racism in general and Michigan Repubics specifically.

    If Repubics will interfere with money and advice, they will be hated twice as much Detroit pols will loose some control and populace will fill humiliated and resent [whites] for exerting control.

    Why would they want do it?
    It will cost stupidos in Michigan Repubic party a lot of money in return for more hate from good citizens of Detroit.

  • Jim.

    @Mrs. Davis-

    Good old Curt LeMay. He ran the only two government programs under FDR that actually succeeded in reviving American business, pulling us out of the Depression, and giving us the edge in international trade that allowed us to outgrow our debts.

  • Sam L.

    Government is not a victim, but it’s own enabler. Perhaps, like a drunk, it will have to hit bottom before it can begin to climb out of its hole. Many people will be hurt, and severely.

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