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Who Owns Detroit?

We Detroiters are now entering a period of turmoil that is quite different in character from the devastation of the last 40 years. The crisis we find ourselves in is a bankruptcy that is both economic and political.

We Detroiters are now entering a period of turmoil that is quite different in character from the devastation of the last 40 years. The crisis we find ourselves in is a bankruptcy that is both economic and political.

It is economic in the sense that the twin forces of industrial abandonment and depopulation that have been pulling Detroit down for so long have left the city with empty pockets and a ruined tax base. This situation has been made all the worse by the political games of the governor, right-wing think tanks and their pawns on both sides of the aisle in Lansing who are using the state’s poorer urban centers as experimental laboratories to develop a new type of uniquely American austerity.

The state has bankrupted cities and school districts around the state by withholding revenue sharing payments and rewriting the tax code. They are using this crisis that is partly manufactured and partly the consequence of long-term trends inherent to our economic way of life to privatize publicly held assets and replace what democracy we have with what looks very much like a corporate form of feudalism or slavery. Detroit’s recently negotiated consent agreement is exhibit A in this well executed state crime, made the more skillful for having enticed 5 city council members and the mayor into signing away the city’s future to the expensively-suited jackals at our gates. Detroit’s political leadership have made themselves complicit in this theft. This new situation we find ourselves in appears to be equal parts Mad Max and Jim Crow. We are living in an occupied city, but the situation is far more complex than it appears at first glance. The municipality of Detroit is facing fiscal insolvency while at the same time the economy is experiencing a degree of revitalization. Although it may appear paradoxical, the phenomena is not completely unheard of — investors often see crises as an opportunities that allow them to reorganize institutional resources and to pick up assets at bargain prices.

It’s a complex dilemma we’re facing now in the city, but we feel it can be simplified by asking ourselves a rather straightforward question: Who owns Detroit? Is it the politicians in Lansing who tell us we are incapable to run our own affairs? Or the local politicians who find themselves unable to squirm free from the stranglehold of powerful economic forces? Is it the corporate-owned media-industrial complex that sells us back distorted images of ourselves? Is it the outside foundations who offer to provide what the public sector can not, but without the pretense of democratic accountability? Is it the banks who treat our homes like chips in a poker game where the dealer always comes out ahead? Is it the back-patting entrepreneurs who frame the rebirth of the city in ways nearly always benefit themselves? Is it the folks who live and work here? Is it anybody at all?

In this issue we offer you ample chances to consider these questions by examining some of the challenges now facing the city; and some of the efforts of Detroiters to rethink and reinvent our home town.

Journalist Phil Bailey takes a look at the enigmatic Educational Achievement Authority, a new school district that will split Detroit public schools in two. CM editorial collective member Meg Marotte takes a deeper look how at how crime and crime reporting affect our neighborhoods. Tim Boscarino and Edmund Zagorin take a look at how deeply-rooted assumptions can come to life in a highway project. Writer Jeff DeBruyn puts on his Sherlock Holmes cap and plunges into an narrative exploration of development in Corktown. Clara Hardie explores how youth are developing the skills to create their own news and stories through the Detroit Future Schools program. As always we hope you find the views and information within these pages helpful. This time we are also challenging you to look beyond obvious or feel-good answers to our current predicament. We are standing on the edge of the unknown. Be bold!

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