Post 1 - Circling the City and Suburbs: A 2020 Vision
I really appreciate the invitation to guest blog for Metromode. Without unnecessarily flattering them, I feel like I'm in some seriously good company as I have read many of the other blogs. Being a glass half-full sort of guy, I like the optimism, the energy, and the possibility that our collective new vision for this region can become a reality.
Out to the Suburbs
As a bit of history, I am a first generation suburbanite. My great grandfather's house still stands on King Street on the northeast side of Detroit, my grandfather was a Detroit car dealer from the 30s until the 70s. My mom and dad grew up on the streets of Detroit, went to Mumford and Central when a degree from either was an automatic ticket to a job or a top notch college. They remember ice being delivered in a wagon with a horse, they stoked a coal furnace in the morning to get warm, and as kids they rode a streetcar for pennies, alone, to go to Hudson's.
Once they moved to the suburbs, they became afraid of the city. They saw it fall apart from its heyday, they saw their neighborhoods fall into disrepair and ghetto, and the blame set in. Colman Young and Bill Bonds didn't help. The 70s was an era of all-out polarization in Detroit. It almost seems like the leadership wanted you to be very afraid of any interaction or cooperation. The unions and management, city and suburb, white and black, young and old, it was a decade of disagreement and conflict.
When I attended U of D law in the 1980s, my parents warned me of crime and vice, and I worried about my safety. I learned to deal with street people, keep my head up and my eyes open, but never experienced any real crime. I spent a lot of time in a lot of venues in the city, and never experienced much racism at all. I never gave any either, for that matter. I got to enjoy the neighborhoods of the city, the Eastern Market, the revitalization that struggles still all over the city.
Back to the Region
I was asked to write about my "big innovative idea" for our region. I usually find "big" and "innovative" ideas to be grounded in clear and simple truths and common shared values. And that's the reason that I ran for, and won, a seat on the Royal Oak City Commission. We face unprecedented and complicated issues in Royal Oak, but our solutions boil down to simple parables: You have to live within your means, you have to know where you are going, you have to work well with the others around you, and you have to clean up your own mess.
I have a vision of Royal Oak and this region at the end of this decade, in the year 2020. My vision involves fostering an atmosphere conducive to job creation, right-sizing our services, and allowing our City Hall to work with business to bring the next wave of entrepreneurs, entertainment, and urban residents to our neighborhoods. We will work with our sister communities towards final resolution of long-standing regional problems... lack of mass transit, regional isolationism and prejudice, revitalizing our industry, and ensuring living wages for families, just to name a few.
Just like perfect 20/20 vision at an eye exam, we too must collectively focus on our 2020 vision for this region in order to fulfill our obligation to leave a better Detroit region for the next generation. Government's role in this progress is to focus on facilitating solutions to chronic problems, instead of being itself the roadblock in the way of the solution. I will expand on this in my next post.