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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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From the Daily: Building Detroit's foundation

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published April 3, 2014

Detroit’s new bankruptcy plan, filed in federal court this past Monday, outlines a strategy to invest $1.5 billion in the city over the next decade. The two major components of the plan allocate $520 million toward blight removal and another $464 million to public safety. The bankruptcy plan promotes positive goals for Detroit. Crime reduction and blight removal are excellent priorities that are necessary for building a strong foundation in the city. Moving forward, Detroit should implement other long-term goals that address the source of these problems.

On Monday, Detroit filed its adjusted bankruptcy plan electronically. The plan proposes a $1.5 billion investment over 10 years, mainly focusing 0n city crime and blight. Other planned investments include improvements to city services, expanding the existing bus transportation system, parks and recreation area upgrades and improvements to the Coleman A. Young city airport.

For five years in a row, Detroit has topped Forbes’ list of Most Dangerous Cities. Its reputation deters potential businesses and consumers from coming to the city, shrinking the city’s tax base and job market. Improvements to public safety may change this pattern and bring much-needed revenue to local businesses. Better safety would allow for more traffic from tourism and increase incentives for businesses to locate themselves in Detroit, both serving to increase economic activity. A more prosperous economy and a friendlier job market may further help reduce crime in the city.

The plan for blight removal could also improve the city’s public perception. There are an estimated 78,000 vacant structures in the city. These are threats to public safety and decrease the value of neighboring homes. 60 percent of fires in Detroit occur in abandoned buildings and these buildings can become havens for street crime. Eliminating them would mean Detroit police officers no longer have to patrol abandoned areas and could increase their presence in other populated areas of the city. Removal of abandoned structures also opens up space for valuable community initiatives like urban farming. However, the city must work closely with existing residents to prevent unnecessary relocation and also ensure that structures being razed are unsalvageable for future or alternative uses.

Though the investments provide the necessary funds to help steer Detroit, more progress on addressing the source of Detroit’s issues needs to occur. Detroit needs more residents to contribute to the city's tax base, as well as contribute to its vibrancy. Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a plan to issue increased numbers of EB-2 visas to immigrants living in Detroit, which could boost the population of the city while providing needed high-skilled workers. While the plan sets aside a substantial amount of funding for public transit, continued funding is also important to this economic revitalization. Safe, reliable public transportation can help current residents get to work while simultaneously attracting new residents who don’t own a car. Similarly, public parks and community spaces must continue to improve to increase the quality of life for both current and future residents. Further, while the use of funding to secure the city is viable and useful, it is necessary to address long-term origins of crime like endemic poverty and elevated high school dropout rates.