Blog: Matt Clayson


Attitudes are different in and around Detroit. Notions of entitlement and mediocrity prevail. For Detroit to be a vibrant urban place and a powerful economy that competes regionally and nationally, attitudes have to change. And for attitudes to change, leaders must lead, both on the grassroots and conventional level, to change these attitudes. 

To the casual observer, it would appear that prevailing regional attitudes can be divided into two categories: the armchair quarterback and the armchair booster. Though both may be well intentioned, their efforts fall short of real solutions and real leadership.  

The Armchair Quarterback Syndrome: We all know an armchair quarterback – the person who always has a comment, usually negative, about the state of things in the city and region. Unfortunately, neither a solution nor any tangible action follows this opinion. Online message boards, chatrooms and forums are chock full of these people. They justify their opinions by proudly asserting that they care enough to add to the dialogue. They believe they are entitled to real, tangible solutions to the issues they raise merely because they’re joining in the dialogue. Yet, in many circumstances, these people shy away from being part of the solution.   

The Armchair Booster Syndrome: We all know the armchair booster, too. This individual recognizes the importance of a vibrant urban core and appreciates urban growth and density. This individual supports businesses within the Greater Downtown area, volunteers and spreads positive goodwill about Detroit. Yet, the armchair booster does not live within the city of Detroit. Like the armchair quarterback, the armchair booster also suffers from a pervasive sense of entitlement. The individual believes he/she is entitled to a vibrant urban core merely because of his/her good intentions. This individual’s efforts, though well-intentioned and beneficial to the community, still falls short of a real, tangible solution to this issue of vibrancy.

Now, there is no denying that Detroit is unique and authentic. And progress has been made at establishing its sense of place. But the city is at a profound disadvantage because it does not have an urban core that adequately competes with comparable urban products. For Detroit to grow its economy in the 21st century, it needs a definable central city that competes regionally, nationally and internationally.

Simply put: to have the vibrant urban core that the armchair booster desires and the solutions the armchair quarterback demands, Detroit needs more residents. Engaged, taxpaying and entrepreneurial residents.

Armchair quarterback – if you want solutions to the issues you raise, move in the city of Detroit. Be more than just another voice. Vote in elections. Join civic groups. Join the thousands of active Detroiter’s who are tackling citywide and regional problems.

Armchair booster – if you want a dense urban core, move to Detroit, open a business in Detroit or, better yet, do both. Vibrant urban cores consist of residents, business owners and entrepreneurs. Your energy is needed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to join the efforts in growing this urban community. 

The region is not entitled to a vibrant urban core. The region is not entitled to automatic solutions.  Like most things in life, no one is going to do the hard work for us.  Rather, we must take ownership of these problems, confront the tough issues and realize the level of commitment necessary to make Detroit a successful and competitive urban place. In fact, it should be the foundation for any agenda of urban growth and density.