Detroit neighborhoods equal Detroit power

Meanwhile, life goes on, and so does Detroit.

Who knows when the clouds will part and the acid rain will finally stop falling, but in the meantime there are things going on and things to do. In the midst of the current civic crisis – and it is most definitely a crisis, make no mistake about it – it is temptingly easy to laugh and snicker at what is happening here. After all, a mediocre comedy writer could just about make a name for himself using exclusively Detroit material for subject matter.

We don’t need fiction in Detroit. The truth is bizarre enough, thanks.

But the truth isn’t just Kwame, text messages, the city council, and then more Kwame. There are somewhat less than one million other people who live in Detroit – by choice or otherwise – and they have just as much claim on Detroit’s truth as Mayor Kilpatrick or anyone else. Detroit ain’t all about them, but it’s about the rest of us, too. That’s why Arise Detroit! Neighborhoods Day, which is going on today at more than 100 neighborhood-sponsored events all around the city, is so important. It’s because the people in those neighborhoods have stories to tell too.

I do realize I’ve posted about Arise! several times before, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think what they were doing is so important for the health and well-being of this city. But Arise! obviously isn’t the only effort focused on repairing the city’s neighborhoods. This is good because it’s going to take an expansive, multi-pronged and, most importantly, consistently cooperative effort utilizing every resource available to fix these neighborhoods.  Too many of them gave up on treading water long ago and are now simply competing to see which of them can hold their breath underwater the longest.

One long-term effort that appears to be making some recognizable headway is the focus of a recent article in Crain’s Detroit Business. The city’s  Next Detroit Neighborhoods Initiative, which actually got started under the Kilpatrick administration in 2007 and was one of the mayor’s better efforts (soon no one will remember or even care how much potential this man had to become a truly great mayor who could have turned this city around), has been attracting literally millions of dollars in funding from private foundations, businesses, and the State. All of these millions of dollars are to be put toward neighborhood revitalization in six specified neighborhoods throughout the city that have been identified as particularly in need.

Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood is described as "one of the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest big city in America." --DETROIT NEWS PHOTO

Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood has been described as "one of the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest big city in America." --DETROIT NEWS PHOTO

As reported in the Crain’s article, ongoing Next Detroit efforts in the neighborhoods include:

— Home improvement through grants totaling $2.5 million to preserve 80 homes in several of the neighborhoods.

— Vacant lot reclamation in five of the neighborhoods and related projects, including community gardens, tree nurseries, pocket parks, meadow monocultures, creative mowing, semipermanent green space, fencing and public art with $1.7 million in funding.

— Applying for funding to establish safe routes to schools in several of the neighborhoods by focusing on sidewalks, street signs, road work, lighting and further vacant lot reclamation.

If we can save the neighborhoods, we can save the city.


~ by Keith A. Owens on August 4, 2008.

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