Detroit is different. No doubt about that. As a city and a region,
our differences are a divisive issue. To the optimists, our
differences are our comparative advantage that sets us apart from
competing regions. To the realists, our differences – if not examined,
confronted and presented realistically – are our weaknesses. To the
pessimists, our differences are an excuse to leave.
know that Detroit and the region is lacking in many areas. These
points are pounded home in newscasts, in casual conversation, on online
message boards and at the water cooler. And, rightfully so. We are
obsessed with the differences between us and other cities and regions –
the disparities in education standards, crime statistics, job growth,
climate, downtown retail and public transit.
tries to compensate these differences with what are perceived as
comparative advantages: our grit, our authenticity, our attitude, our
history, our architectural stock, etc. The realist attempts to analyze
these differences and the statistics supporting them in an effort to
find solutions. The pessimist uses these differences as further proof
supporting their desire to leave.
Really, there is not much
more to say about these issues. They are discussed constantly:
solutions come and solutions go, resulting in a stale and tired
dialogue. And what has this tired debate between the optimists,
realists and pessimists achieved? Nothing tangible.
it is time that we shift our dialogue to the intangibles – the
differences that cannot be measured by exact statistics, by rigorous
scientific standards. What about the intangible concepts: what about
place, attitude and opportunity? Would maybe a shift in dialogue to
these theoretical concepts engage a new generation of Detroiters in a
more vigorous debate that challenges the fundamental ways that we view
ourselves as citizens of a city and a region?