Feb 13, 2006
Downtown Detroit was sparkling for the Super Bowl. Streets and freeways were immaculately clean and free of potholes. Brand new office buildings and posh night spots dotted the landscape. It wasn’t only the media and celebrities from out of town who talked about how great the city looked. People from Detroit and its suburbs did.
People who attended the Motown Winter Blast leading up to the game had a good time. There was good food, music and many things to do, including lots of activities for the kids. The folks who live in and around the city were really struck by the sense that this is what it could be to have a lively, active downtown that’s kept clean and in shape.
The rotten thing is that this is only done when some few people figure they’ll be able to make a tidy profit off of an event like the Super Bowl. Most of the time, the city is starved of money, and the people within it must deal with a crumbling infrastructure.
Boarded up, abandoned buildings fester, like the old Motown building, which was demolished only two weeks before the big game, after standing empty for more than two decades.
The one glaring problem people faced in attending the Winter Blast was the hours-long wait to take shuttles back to off-site parking lots. No wonder there were long waits – in less busy times you can hardly get a bus in the city! Over the years the whole region has let mass transit die a slow death.
The city and state have let public services go to pot, while diverting billions of dollars to big corporations. The city, in fact, recently announced it will no longer pick up bulk trash for its residents. People are supposed to rent a truck to take large items to a city dumping station.
Corporate interests have extorted millions of dollars from the city and state governments for their projects. Compuware got land and a 70-million dollar tax break to relocate downtown. GM unloaded its old headquarters to the state of Michigan when it moved downtown to the Renaissance Center. Altogether the city has spent several hundreds of millions of dollars to help with the construction of the two stadiums and other “redevelopment” projects.
On Super Bowl week, we saw a glimpse of how things could be. The rest of the time we are hit in the face with the realization that it will be that way only if we are organizing the society for our own benefit.