Good News About Detroit? How Can That Be?!

10.15.2013 | How, indeed, but lo and behold—here are two posts with some good news for the city and, perhaps, its regional resilience.

Bill Dodge at offers a rundown of regional initiatives aimed at restoring the city to better days. He calls particular attention to the work of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments in launching many of them, including creating a regional convention facility and transit authorities. The council also passed 10-year tax levies to keep the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of the Arts open during the city’s state-imposed bankruptcy.

That regional approach, he writes, is of paramount importance to both city and suburbs.

“When the City of Detroit was riding high, it did not think it economically needed the rest of the region. And the rest of the region treated the City of Detroit as a competitor, unnecessary to the region’s economic success.

That thinking prevailed, even after the price being paid for separating the suburban “doughnut” from the central city “hole” was well-documented.”

(Pete Saunders’ Detroit — Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? at The Urbanophile, which we’ve noted previously, offers what I suspect is a colder, harsher, but also truthful reason why the region was quite willing to pay that price.)

“Let’s hope,” Dodge writes, “the cooperative initiatives above illustrate that attitudes are changing. Maybe more regional residents realize their jurisdictions are the limbs of one regional body. If so, the arms cannot waste time complaining about the legs, and vice-versa. Both need to focus their energies on keeping all parts of the body healthy.”

For the folks at Eclectablog, a progressive political blog covering Michigan politics, “keeping all parts of the body healthy” also means preventing the Detroit Institute of Arts from being looted.

The Obama Administration recently announced $300 million in new investments in Detroit. The aim is to help the city bounce back (although, who knows what happens to those funds with the current government shutdown?). Erika Poethig, who knows of what she writes, approves. She was recently the acting assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Writing at the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends blog, Poethig goes further: Thanks to Detroit’s diminished governmental capabilities, “the administration of public assistance programs has fragmented.” And thanks to the city’s now too-large footprint, place-based service delivery approaches are no more practical than they are in far-flung suburban areas where poverty is increasing.

“As Detroit examines how to better use existing resources, the federal government and local philanthropies can help the city experiment with different evidence-based approaches to alleviating poverty.  Doing so ensures that Detroit not only bounces back from this crisis, but uses it as a moment to transform the city — making it a place where every resident can thrive.”

To that end, this site might serve well as a source of ideas on effective nonprofit management. And while we’ve focused on Detroit, these ideas clearly can be applied to any city or region in similar distress.

Photo / Emily Bell

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