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American lights go out
May 25, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

American cities going dark. Detroit is the poster child, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are already broken, but under a new plan half the city is going permanently dark in an effort to get citizens to move. “You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population,” said Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer. “We’re not going to light distressed areas". Other U.S. cities have gone partially dark to save money, among them Colorado Springs; Santa Rosa, California; and Rockford, Illinois. Bonus: 360-degree photo tour of abandoned rail station in Detroit.
posted by stbalbach (115 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
“We’re not going to light distressed areas"

Are they going to cut off the water and sewer next? And then maybe you could discontinue fire and police services in these areas in phase 3.
posted by jquinby at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2012 [29 favorites]


Cool tours of abandoned buildings! And just in case you prefer the dark this will show you where you can enjoy it.
posted by mareli at 12:02 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are they going to cut off the water and sewer next?

I can't find a link right now, but there's been some talk of this, yes.
posted by LiteOpera at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2012


jquinby, my understanding is that the Detroit police have been cutting services for a long time now.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is going to be a great warm up for entire countries like Japan and some of the former USSR states that are expected to be 10-25% less populous in a few dozen years.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mayor DeAndre Windom, 45, said residents at first complained, though few do now. He’s considering grants and private funding to relight darkened streets

I'm sure Omni Consumer Products would be happy to step in and help.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


The Detroit train station is quite the magnificent wreck. I went by it many times while working there and it is striking to behold from a distance.
posted by hwestiii at 12:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gah, 360 photo makes noise.
posted by maryr at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


How do they expect people to live if they own a house in those places? What about old people? What about people who can't possibly sell? What will they do?

(Has anyone ever read The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe? There are several spooky passages about abandoned part of Nessus, and this reminds me of that.)
posted by Frowner at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Wait, the lights are going back on now," the mayor suddenly remarked, carefully placing a utility pole across a road segment. "That whole area wasn't connected to the power plant at all! Now let me work on these sewage pipes, they're a fucking mess."
posted by theodolite at 12:07 PM on May 25, 2012 [26 favorites]


And in Opposite Day news, New Orleans' Mayor Mitch Landrieu vows to replace all the city's broken street lights by 2013.
posted by komara at 12:11 PM on May 25, 2012


"And then maybe you could discontinue fire and police services in these areas in phase 3."

I think a lot of cities are already doing that. They may not discontinue services, but they cut back staff and then strategically decide which stations will be fully staffed and what equipment will go where.

From the article: “It touches kids going to school in the dark,”

From three years of dealing with "bell schedules" (when school starts and ends), you have NO IDEA how het up school start times get people because of "5-year-olds going to school in the dark in mid-December!" General consensus is that earlier elementary start times are better, and start the HS students later, but this is very difficult to implement because the community goes into absolute rebellion at the idea of K-5 students waiting for buses or walking to school in the dark in the winter, when snow and ice make the lack of visibility more concerning. So our high schools continue to have early starts on the theory that teenagers are better able to keep themselves from being run over at 7 a.m.

I've gotten spoiled by streetlights since I've been living in an older area of a city for the past 8 years or so; I freaking HATE driving out of town at night now because you can't see a damned thing. But I grew up in the 'burbs where there were hardly any street lights except at big intersections, and it never bothered me until I got used to having streetlights everywhere. (Not that I go out of town at night very often, because if I have to drive more than 10 minutes to get to it, why am I going there? SO SPOILED.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:11 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a difference between going partially dark to save money, and blacking out neighborhoods to encourage people to move out. I recognize that there's a problem providing infrastructure support, when "Almost 22 percent of the city’s electric bills were unpaid, the McKinsey report said."

Lights are (generally) not a requirement for health the same way water and sewer are. And anyway, individual users (households) pay for water and sewer, while the general populous pays for lighting at large. You can charge more for water and sewer based on the cost of managing those utilities and go after individuals who don't pay up, but raising taxes to pay for lights is probably a lot harder.

One of the problems with "encouraging" people to move out of an area by cutting street lights is that their property drops in value, making it harder for them to relocate. The twist in Detroit is that property values are dropping everywhere, so it might not be as terrible as it could be, but I'm just speculating.

I'd be really interested in seeing a map of dark areas, to see if they're contiguous, or if like the areas of low population, they're scattered about. Trying to shrink a city is fascinating for an outsider, and frightening for someone living there.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


As many as 15,000 Detroit streetlights use 1920s technology, according to a 2010 study by McKinsey & Co.

You wonder if, had there been upgrades in, say, the 1980s, Detroit would not have seen the exodus it has seen. If, with improved infrastructure, other businesses would have moved to Detroit, or opened in Detroit, to fill the vacancies left by the automotive industry.

Pittsburgh was a steel town, and that industry pulled back. Minneapolis does not have better weather. Yet neither of those cities are hurting to the same degree as Detroit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


We actually turned most of the street lights back on in Colorado Springs after windfall taxes from medical marijuana dispensaries. This is one of the most conservative towns in the US, but you are never more than a few blocks from pot these days. Creative taxation may be an answer...
posted by Isadorady at 12:14 PM on May 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's impossible to make sense of this story without knowing/following the whole Emergency Financial Manager / Consent Agreement backstory. Packing for a trip now, but I'll see if I can dig up some relevant links time-permitting.


How do they expect people to live if they own a house in those places? What about old people? What about people who can't possibly sell? What will they do?


Yeah, it sucks and it's incredibly unfair and sad. But the city's worse-than-broke. What would you recommend? We'd gladly accept outside money/support, but I highly suspect that's going to happen. Plus the state government is (and has been for quite some time) led by a GOP that's incredibly hostile to Detroit and its interests.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I say that as tax-paying Detroit citizen who is incredibly frustrated (to put it politely) that my fire and police services are about to be gutted as well. If we leave, we become part of the problem, though. Detroit needs a tax base, period.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:16 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


"You can charge more for water and sewer based on the cost of managing those utilities and go after individuals who don't pay up, but raising taxes to pay for lights is probably a lot harder."

Really hard. Streetlights and sidewalks. There are actually federal and state grants for streetlights, because it's very hard to get cities to pay for them. Sidewalks it's pretty common for the city to pay a percentage and the homeowners on that block to pay a percentage; my block petitioned the city for new sidewalks and I think we paid 40% of the cost, apportioned per house.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:16 PM on May 25, 2012


but I highly suspect that's going to happen. HARDLY suspect, rather.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:18 PM on May 25, 2012


filthy light thief

One of the most eponysterical comments I've ever seen on MeFi!
posted by Falconetti at 12:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


Plus the state government is (and has been for quite some time) led by a GOP that's incredibly hostile to Detroit and its interests.

Seconding the extent to which most non-Michiganders have no conception of how much the GOP (which is in charge of all branches of state government there now) would love to cut off Detroit altogether.
posted by blucevalo at 12:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


my block petitioned the city for new sidewalks and I think we paid 40% of the cost, apportioned per house.

Fascinating -- what happens to the houses that voted against the petition (or didn't sign)? Are they still obliged to pay?
posted by modernnomad at 12:21 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought the whole Colorado Springs lighting thing was a highly conservative town council saying "It's the lights or the libraries, take your pick, looters" kind of deal.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:22 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The population of Detroit has declined by 60% since 1950, as noted in the article. Tax revenue has gone down by way more than that. Detroit is broke. Not "running on empty" but just flat done. If the city has any future it will require hard changes and serious readjustment. The city is not failing those hold-out residents who represent the only household on their city block by turning off the lights; rather, those residents have been failed many times over during the last few decades. The current efforts are picking up the pieces.

There is no good way to fix Detroit's problems. But something is better than nothing, and nothing is what the state will do if they take over the city.
posted by newg at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it sucks and it's incredibly unfair and sad. But the city's worse-than-broke. What would you recommend? We'd gladly accept outside money/support, but I highly suspect that's going to happen. Plus the state government is (and has been for quite some time) led by a GOP that's incredibly hostile to Detroit and its interests.

Move the people from the unlighted areas into foreclosed/abandoned houses in the lighted areas? I mean, their property value is 100% gone thanks to a city decision, they're entitled to something. Who would ever, ever buy a house in a place where the city itself has announced that it plans to abandon the area? It shouldn't be legal to just throw people to the wolves like that.
posted by Frowner at 12:27 PM on May 25, 2012 [30 favorites]


I wish they had provided a map with information about population density in different areas of the city overlaid with which areas the city was discontinuing services in.

Also, is anyone providing a way for there to be relocation assistance for people who are stuck in those areas?

The article really left out a lot that I would want to know.
posted by matildaben at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It shouldn't be legal to just throw people to the wolves like that.

I totally agree. So who is going to pay for relocation?

Believe me, I share your frustration, but here on the ground there are just no easy, obvious solutions. We know. We live (with) it everyday.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:30 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is going to be a great warm up for entire countries like Japan and some of the former USSR states that are expected to be 10-25% less populous in a few dozen years.

Actually, even with 10-25% less population, most Japanese cities will still feel more crowded than New York. And I bet they'll keep the lights on, too.
posted by sour cream at 12:31 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I know Detroit, some punks will just light building fires every 50 yards or so to replace the lost lights.
posted by spitbull at 12:34 PM on May 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


If I know Detroit, some punks will just light building fires every 50 yards or so to replace the lost lights.

Stay classy. And no, you don't know Detroit.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Well, it's better than the City Council's original idea, which was "Just take a flamethrower to the goddamn place."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2012


If the city has any future it will require hard changes and serious readjustment.

There are established mechanisms for a city to annex adjacent unincorporated property, I wonder if there is a practical, reasonable mechanism by which Detroit could "deincoporate" portions of the city — "this area here, it's not longer part of Detroit, it's now part of unincorporated Wayne County". Even if there was, boy that would be a rough choice.
posted by RichardP at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


modernnomad: "Fascinating -- what happens to the houses that voted against the petition (or didn't sign)? Are they still obliged to pay?"

As I recall, 80% of the block had to join the petition. If 80% do, the other homeowners are obligated to pay, yes. It's then turned into a special assessment on the property and a lien against the house if you don't pay it.

I believe it was a $2500 special assessment per house, payable at $250/year for 10 years, but with seriously like $150/year in interest. It was annoying because special assessments mail at the end of December, right before Christmas, and are due January 31, which can make it hard for many families to pay the full amount because of holiday expenses. (Regular property taxes are due in two chunks at the beginning of June and September, partly because it avoids income tax season and the holidays.)

We did have existing sidewalks, but they were in a terrible state of repair. They were so cracked and heaved that kids wouldn't ride dirt bikes on them, they fell off too much. Everyone walked in the street all the time. The re-do involved the bottom six feet of our driveways, modern curb cuts for our driveways (so much wider!), re-sodding 24" from the work area, and ADA-compliant crosswalk curb cuts and corners. They also upgraded our storm sewers when they did the curbs, but I believe that comes out of a separate fund. Anyway, the storm sewer drains all have happy fish on them now that say "Don't throw trash in here! It kills fish!" only in formal words on the metal. (I know this because my toddler has to stop and touch the fish on the drain every. time. we. pass.) They also had the water utility come in and do some work on our water mains while they had everything dug up, which I think saves the water utility money.

Our street lights, incidentally, came from some federal-state mixed grant that pays for historic-y looking energy-efficient streetlights in neighborhoods built before 1965 or something like that. They're really nice-looking (they make me think of Narnia!); we had to, again, petition as a neighborhood, and this time be approved as meeting the grant criteria, and then wait on the list for them for several years until our neighborhood came up, but we didn't pay for them directly this time. (They actually went in right after the sidewalks.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Weren't certain towns in Germany just moving people and then demolishing whole residential zones?
posted by Slackermagee at 12:39 PM on May 25, 2012


Stay classy. And no, you don't know Detroit.

OFFS. First, you're wrong and I do, and second, do you actually know the off the charts arson figures for blighted areas of Detroit? You say you live there, so why don't you tell those of us who are dishing out a little gallows humor how we're wrong.
posted by spitbull at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, someone even made a documentary about what is widely referred to as an "epidemic" of arson in Detroit.

Stay classy yourself, dude.
posted by spitbull at 12:42 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is no good way to fix Detroit's problems.

One obvious thing to do would be to force (very black) Detroit proper and its (very white) suburbs into a single Metro Detroit government and tax base. Never gonna happen, but it would be fun to impose if I were God-Emperor of America.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:44 PM on May 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


How do they expect people to live if they own a house in those places? What about old people? What about people who can't possibly sell? What will they do?


That's been a problem for many years in Detroit. Elderly people who have long paid off their homes, who in other cities could probably afford to move to an assisted-living condo or some such on the proceeds after selling their house...but not in Detroit. They're stuck. They have the choice to stay there, with no street lights, no fire or police service, barricaded in their homes like prisoners, or simply abandon the house and lose everything.

Seconding the extent to which most non-Michiganders have no conception of how much the GOP (which is in charge of all branches of state government there now) would love to cut off Detroit altogether.

This has nothing to do with the GOP...Democrats have been in charge of Detroit since Jerry Cavanagh took office in 1962. The decline of Detroit has been emanating from within for many decades....cronyism in City Hall, corruption, billions of tax dollars misappropriated and just plain stolen.... Finally enough people moved out of the city to make enough of a dent in the bottomless well of free money (collected via taxes) for it to actually show. For decades, folks like William Hart, Alonzo Bates, and Monica Conyers (to name a mere few) figured that the City was flush with money and no one would miss a couple hundred thousand here or there. Who knew that someday all that skimming off the top would catch up with the City.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:44 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


(And might I mention how much I hate the expression "stay classy," but with reference to characterizing the state of things in Detroit or New Orleans, it's really an irrelevant rejoinder. Ah yes, Muffy darling, let us stay classy!)
posted by spitbull at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


(And might I mention how much I hate the expression "stay classy," but with reference to characterizing the state of things in Detroit or New Orleans, it's really an irrelevant rejoinder. Ah yes, Muffy darling, let us stay classy!)

Sorry if I hit a nerve. You're not contributing anything of value to this discussion. We Detroiters are more than a little sick of other people LOLZing at our expense. Gallows humor is one thing, but you and others here cracking jokes about shooting the elderly and/or setting whole neighborhoods on fire are part of the problem. And frankly, not a little pathetic.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:49 PM on May 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


Coming from a not-even-that-rural area where there's only street lighting on some parts of the main roads, I am surprised by the gnashing of teeth over this. Ambient all-night-long outdoor lighting kind of seems like an antiquated idea to me, it's sort of like having public fountains all over the place as large cities did before there was plumbing.

I have bright, cheap miniature flashlights pinned inside the cuffs of all my jackets and I think that in the 21st century it might make more sense for people to carry light with them. Detroit could probably buy all of its citizens LED lanterns to carry for less money and then there wouldn't even be any worry about shadows or gaps where there are no lights or the bulbs have burnt out.
posted by XMLicious at 12:50 PM on May 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


This has nothing to do with the GOP...Democrats have been in charge of Detroit since Jerry Cavanagh took office in 1962.

I was discussing state governance, which unquestionably has been under GOP domination (not to mention the regional suburbs such as your own).
posted by joe lisboa at 12:52 PM on May 25, 2012


jquinby, my understanding is that the Detroit police have been cutting services for a long time now.

No matter what happens, I bet you'll still be able to get the shit beat out of you by the cops in most any neighborhood in America.
posted by yerfatma at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frowner: "I mean, their property value is 100% gone thanks to a city decision"

I'm pretty sure that happened long before the street lights burned out.
posted by schmod at 12:56 PM on May 25, 2012


Coming from a not-even-that-rural area where there's only street lighting on some parts of the main roads, I am surprised by the gnashing of teeth over this. Ambient all-night-long outdoor lighting kind of seems like an antiquated idea to me, it's sort of like having public fountains all over the place as large cities did before there was plumbing.

But Detroit is a city, and it's a poor, run-down city where there's a lot of attacks on vulnerable people.

I live in a much-loved-by-me but really not all that affluent or safe neighborhood in a non-bankrupt city, and I would not care to be lightless at night. I've been told by multiple property-owners in the neighborhood that the best way to deter burglars (and we have a fairly high burglary rate) is to make sure there is lots of light around the house.

Really, seriously, back before city lights people would pay to be guided by someone with a torch or a lantern, and it was frankly a bit dangerous.

I am happy to be without ambient light when I'm in lightly-settled areas, and not terribly unhappy in thinly populated suburbs with little traffic. But a city - especially one with crummy sidewalks and not so great garbage/rubble disposal - is different.
posted by Frowner at 12:59 PM on May 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


As many as 15,000 Detroit streetlights use 1920s technology...

It's hard to find the original quote, but they probably mean mercury vapor lights and their associated inductive ballasts, as opposed to high-pressure sodium vapor lamps (which came onto the market in 1964).

It's like saying that the lighting technology used now (high pressure sodium) uses technology that is almost fifty years old!.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:02 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jane Jacobs on the value of street lighting:
This sad circumstance is especially true in the dispirited gray belts of great cities and in once fashionable or at least once solid inner residential areas gone into decline. Because these neighborhoods are so dangerous, and the streets typically so dark, it is commonly believed that their trouble may be insufficient street lighting. Good lighting is important, but darkness alone does not account for the gray areas' deep, functional sickness, the Great Blight of Dullness.

The value of bright street lights for dispirited gray areas rises from the reassurance they offer to some people who need to go out on the sidewalk, or would like to, but lacking the good light would not do so. Thus the lights induce these people to contribute their own eyes to the upkeep of the street.

Moreover, as is obvious, good lighting augments every pair of eyes, makes the eyes count for more because their range is greater. Each additional pair of eyes, and every increase in their range, is that much to the good for dull gray areas. But unless eyes are there, and unless in the brains behind those eyes is the almost unconscious reassurance of general street support in upholding civilization, lights can do no good. Horrifying public crimes can, and do, occur in well-lighted subway stations when no effective eyes are present. They virtually never occur in darkened theaters where many people and eyes are present. Street lights can be like that famous stone that falls in the desert where there are no ears to hear. Does it make a noise? Without effective eyes to see, does it cast a light? Not for practical purposes.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:02 PM on May 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


I seriously don't understand the reasoning. "There are no simple solutions. Next up, grossly inhumane solutions." The residents should not be the ones left holding the bag. Pardon the bluntness. I realize that Detroit has entrenched problems like I wouldn't believe. Why is that a reason to consider this plan anything but an example of the state's aggression against individuals? "Well, we tried to find non-violent solutions, but in the end we just shot them all" is a reductio ad absurdum that seems to show up with surprising frequency around the globe.
posted by Nomyte at 1:03 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Dark places aren't necessarily unsafe, and lit places aren't necessarily safe. Light alone isn't going to protect you from crime. You need eyes on the street.

As Jacobs liked to say, nobody gets mugged in a dark but crowded movie theater.
posted by weinbot at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


2bucksplus, you beat me by 2minutesplus.
posted by weinbot at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]



(And might I mention how much I hate the expression "stay classy," but with reference to characterizing the state of things in Detroit or New Orleans, it's really an irrelevant rejoinder. Ah yes, Muffy darling, let us stay classy!)

I see. Because certain places are seriously poor, have high crime, infrastructural and political nightmares, and majority non-white populations, making jokes about burning down houses and shooting people is a-okay. Got it.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:10 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


"There are no simple solutions. Next up, grossly inhumane solutions."

Unfortunately, us Detroiters have been forced to swallow this pill for years now. Police cutbacks, fire cutbacks, EMS cutbacks, school closings, parks shut down, bus routes eliminated, health care cuts. One third of the city general fund comes from casino revenue, which is about to be decimated by new casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, and possibly Chicago and Toronto. The current response to the fiscal situation is in fact the simplest solution of all: get rid of everything.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:22 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to thank the OP for putting the central terminal link in there -- it's simply astonishing.

Frankly, I don't see why they couldn't have put one of the casinos in there, say, but I guess it was just easier to build one from scratch. Pity.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:23 PM on May 25, 2012


@joe, if you're still hanging around this thread (or anyone else from Detroit...)

I see that statistic cited frequently, that Detroit's population has shrunk by 60 percent. But what about the Detroit metro area? Did those people simply flee to Detroit's suburbs, surrounding counties, and still maybe work in Detroit or thereabouts?

...all of which is a precursor to ask, to what extent have there been attempts to impose a "commuter tax" or some similar levy on such people, to help alleviate the city's problems.
posted by kgasmart at 1:26 PM on May 25, 2012


The street light removal in Rockford went well. It happened because each city department was asked to contribute to reducing the deficit. Public works had noticed that in a lot of areas, there were too many street lights per houses in low auto traffic areas. They ended up having the utility remove about 20% of the lights distributed fairly evenly across the city. People in now darker areas have been complaining, but from what I can tell they're getting around to buying floodlights and other things regular neighborhoods have always done for their yards. There was an Occupy protest about the removals that was too sentimental to be taken seriously. The best criticism has been that the utility and the city should have come up with a plan to install more energy-efficient lights. Hopefully that will happen if the budget is balanced someday.
posted by michaelh at 1:27 PM on May 25, 2012


Detroit could probably buy all of its citizens LED lanterns

This is the same kind of "let's buy everyone in West Virginia an iPad" that doesn't really make sense if you know the context. Many people here are already afraid to leave their houses with the streetlights on. In some neighborhoods, I wouldn't walk around with a light beacon, I would prefer to walk around in the dark.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:29 PM on May 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry if I hit a nerve. You're not contributing anything of value to this discussion. We Detroiters are more than a little sick of other people LOLZing at our expense. Gallows humor is one thing, but you and others here cracking jokes about shooting the elderly and/or setting whole neighborhoods on fire are part of the problem. And frankly, not a little pathetic.

I know you were talking to Spitbull rather than me, but I just wanted to address this. The reason I personally cracked a joke is because there's really nothing of "value" one can contribute. Detroit is dying, plain and simple. Everything that's happening now is simply palliative care.

Sure, I could make shocked comments like "OMG! I can't believe they're doing that! Think of all those poor people who are being neglected by the government!" But I think it's irresponsible criticize unless I have a better solution available, and so far I haven't seen any better solutions from ANYBODY on this thread. Based on past precedent, sending more federal money to Detroit would be just throwing away good money after bad. It's just math - it might be unpleasant but that fact needs to be accepted and dealt with, as this is the reality.

Cracking a joke doesn't make me or Spitbull part of the problem. The problem is endemic to Detroit. If you have a solution that doesn't involve huge amounts of tax dollars going to support a dwindling populace on the slim gamble that "people will move back if you revitalize the area" then I for one would certainly be interested and supportive.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:33 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


to what extent have there been attempts to impose a "commuter tax" or some similar levy on such people, to help alleviate the city's problems.

There is a 1% employment tax for people that work but don't live in Detroit. The jobs base left Detroit along with most of the people. Any sort of new regional tax that would explicitly benefit Detroit in any way would probably be shot down super quickly by the suburban electorate.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:33 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The current response to the fiscal situation is in fact the simplest solution of all: get rid of everything.

Then allow me to mentally add Detroit to the list that includes the West Bank and other such places.
posted by Nomyte at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Frowner: " I've been told by multiple property-owners in the neighborhood that the best way to deter burglars (and we have a fairly high burglary rate) is to make sure there is lots of light around the house. "

This line is repeated a lot, and the research on the subject is ambiguous at best. Good lighting seems to help reduce crime around commercial properties, but has a minimal effect on personal and property crime. Turns out the thieves and attackers also get spooked by the dark.

Also, all the light in the world does no good if there's nobody around to hear you scream. These neighborhoods aren't exactly safe places during the day either.
posted by schmod at 1:39 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever read The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe?

On MeFi? No, never.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:41 PM on May 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Slackermagee: Weren't certain towns in Germany just moving people and then demolishing whole residential zones?

From the article:
Some 20 neighborhoods, each a square mile or more, are only 10 to 15 percent occupied, said John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University who specializes in urban law and policy. He said the city can’t force residents to move, and it’s almost impossible under Michigan law for the city to seize properties for development.

Mogk said landowners can demand many times what property would fetch on the open market.
I wonder how much less they'll be worth if they're in a "light-free block."


Oriole Adams: This has nothing to do with the GOP...Democrats have been in charge of Detroit since Jerry Cavanagh took office in 1962.

And then there's the fact that the City of Detroit is shrinking (38% of it's peak population in the 1950 census), and the city itself has a very poor population, especially when compared to the surrounding communities and population centers. Detroit has been trying to manage decline for decades, which is generally the opposite need for most major cities.


Falconetti: One of the most eponysterical comments I've ever seen on MeFi!

I'll give 'em back their lights .... for a price! Mwahahaha!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:42 PM on May 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


But I think it's irresponsible criticize unless I have a better solution available, and so far I haven't seen any better solutions from ANYBODY on this thread.

Sadly, this is the solution. When you have a city with endemic sprawl lose over a million citizens over 50 years, you're going to be left with a huge, under-utilized and expensive public infrastructure that has to be phased out somehow.
posted by Vhanudux at 1:43 PM on May 25, 2012


They need better marketing. If this had been pitched as a way to reduce CO2 emissions they coulda got Metafilter on board!
posted by Justinian at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


In twenty years, the shell of Detroit will be besieged by CPTED experts advising those in charge to bring back the lights.
posted by broadway bill at 1:48 PM on May 25, 2012


Nowadays it's fairly common for the federal government to drop $500m on a road-widening project. It's unclear to me that this is somehow a better investment than putting it into dozens of smaller (but still major) projects in Detroit would be.

It doesn't seem to me that we have an enormous resource crisis. We just have a problem with maintaining and using the infrastructure we've already built, and prefer to embark on massive new projects on blank slates, because, I think, it's easier to show a better rate of return-- at least on paper.

Spend $20,000 per household maintaining and fixing an old neighborhood, and you need to raise taxes to pay for it. If you spend $100,000 building an entirely new one and get everyone to move to it, abandoning the old one, you can borrow from future tax revenues, because you've created "growth". That the new neighborhood is even more resource-intensive and will require even more maintenance? That's a problem for the future.
posted by alexei at 1:50 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


DON'T STOP!
BELIEVING!
posted by roboton666 at 1:51 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that everything in Detroit was hunky dory until corrupt Democratic mayors and councilmembers mismanaged everything to the ground is ridiculous propaganda. It completely ignores the perfect storm of deindustrialization and racism that are largely responsible for today's Detroit.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:51 PM on May 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm been in Windsor's Dow town the past week. Fortunately, not suffering as bad as Detroit but clearly a city whose infastructure is too large for the current population. I love looking across the river at Detroit, Renaissance City and the monorail. So many beautiful buildings, so few people. The only solution is for government to step up, the ROI for business is too low (unless they legalise sweatshops). I understand the pragmatic move behind turning off the lights, I am surprised City Council didn't spin it as "Green", or cutting edge as Detroit becomes the first "dark sky" major municipality in North America.
posted by saucysault at 1:53 PM on May 25, 2012


I'm sure this is something a CEO president could fix easily.
For example by assessing profitability and then firing all unproductive residents.
posted by sour cream at 1:55 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the same kind of "let's buy everyone in West Virginia an iPad" that doesn't really make sense if you know the context. Many people here are already afraid to leave their houses with the streetlights on. In some neighborhoods, I wouldn't walk around with a light beacon, I would prefer to walk around in the dark.

Yeah, I was also inclined to doubt the likelihood that having light versus not having light would really make that much of a difference safety-wise and comfort-wise but I was going to let other people make those points. As far as not breaking your ankle on cracked-up sidewalks, sidewalks that haven't been shoveled in winter which I was amazed to see in the downtown last time I was in Detroit, or in places where there aren't any sidewalks like where I live (and where you have to worry about running into, say, a skunk, even in the more urban areas with sidewalks), it does in fact make sense to carry light with you at night.

It's gotten much cheaper to have a brighter light with you than it ever was during the twentieth century but it would still make sense to me to subsidize it for lower-income people, especially if you're saving civil engineering costs by not putting up and maintaining big steel-and-concrete lighting structures everywhere. But either way I think that pervasive outdoor nighttime lighting might be on the decline in the coming century. It will be interesting to see if developing parts of the world decide to make the investment in it or save their money for other things.
posted by XMLicious at 1:57 PM on May 25, 2012


There is a 1% employment tax for people that work but don't live in Detroit.

That tax is now 1.5% for non-residents. The City also levies a 2.5% tax on residents who live in Detroit but work outside of the City. And I have had the unfortunate experience of "working" with the City as far as payroll taxes go for many years. As the person in charge of payroll (and a Detroit resident for part of that time) I regularly deducted the proper amount from Detroit residents' paychecks and sent the appropriate payment every month to the City of Detroit. Without fail, I would receive a notice in the mail every two or three months stating that our company had not paid Detroit taxes for XXX months, along with a bill for past taxes plus interest and penalties. I spent SO much time requesting copies of our cancelled checks and forwarding same to the City, only to get yet another notice two months later stating that we still hadn't paid our taxes and owed so much more in interest and penalties... I phoned and mailed and phoned again but somehow the only response I ever received was that the City had "no record" of our payments (even though I had copies of cancelled checks with a City of Detroit endorsement).

Our CPA eventually told me not to worry about it, that we'd take a "wait and see if they sue us" stance. He presumed that the City sent out thousands of similar notices in hopes that folks would pay without question.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It will be interesting to see whether the loss of lights does make a difference - what I'm seeing here is that everyone will be fine if they just carry their own flashlights, there will be no effect on crime, etc. If so, it will be a pretty strong argument for getting rid of lights in cities in general - if Detroit doesn't need city lights, then San Francisco double plus doesn't need them.

Although I'm not really a fan of telling people "the city used to provide this service, but you don't really need it - instead you need to buy a thing and carry it with you all the time". That seems to put on the individual what used to be social and it no longer shares the financial burden.
posted by Frowner at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2012


Detroit ex Nihilo, with commissioned artwork depicting Michigan Central Station.

(self-link, I serve as editor for the magazine this story appears in.)
posted by 256 at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2012


He presumed that the City sent out thousands of similar notices in hopes that folks would pay without question.

Every time I think I've heard the saddest fucking thing about Detroit I hear a new saddest fucking thing.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:22 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pittsburgh, too, has lost 55% of its population since its peak, and is still losing population today. Its pension funds are a mess. Some surrounding mill towns have lost even more population-- Braddock is down nearly 90%. I think the difference from Detroit is that its major institutions haven't fled the core in the same way, with a lot of regional professional employment remaining downtown and in Oakland, the university/hospital center. Many of the people who work there want to live in the surrounding middle-class neighborhoods, and most of them are surviving or even thriving. Here's a chart of population change in Pittsburgh neighborhoods. On the other hand, working-class neighborhoods in the area of industrial employers that left thirty years ago are essentially melting back into the hillsides, just like in Detroit.
posted by akgerber at 2:24 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


roboton666: That was South Detroit, which has faded from memory and disappeared into the river, like a rust belt Altantis.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lights are (generally) not a requirement for health the same way water and sewer are.

This is true, but I would wager they are seriously increasing their risk of getting sued for traffic accidents and trips and falls.
posted by Hoopo at 2:48 PM on May 25, 2012


Eyebrows McGee: "There are actually federal and state grants for streetlights"

That's unfortunate. Streetlights without (relatively expensive) full cutoff fixtures just end up making shadows you can't see into. And the glare makes it harder to see even in the "light".
posted by wierdo at 2:51 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


> It completely ignores the perfect storm of deindustrialization and racism that are largely
> responsible for today's Detroit.

Although White House Office of Science and Technology director John Holdren's warning about the need to "de-develop the United States" (*) has become a bit of a scare phrase on right-leaning sites, it's one I can't disagree with--I would only amend "the United States" to "the Earth." The single drawback I can foresee is that de-development tends to look like Detroit.

(*) Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions. Holdren, Ehrlich & Ehrlich; W. H. Freeman 1973
posted by jfuller at 3:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We had a nice century where we ran shit, didn't we? We should make like England and ease ourselves into irrelevance instead of fighting it.

Oh look at the time, better get on my Rosetta Stone Mandarin lesson!
posted by Renoroc at 3:44 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


This line is repeated a lot, and the research on the subject is ambiguous at best. Good lighting seems to help reduce crime around commercial properties, but has a minimal effect on personal and property crime. Turns out the thieves and attackers also get spooked by the dark.

A few years ago I lived in an apartment complex that was managed by a crappy management company that didn't pay their light bill. So all the exterior lights got cut off. For a week at least. Light stayed on inside, but all the outside lights were cut off.

And it got *dark* The only other comparable exerience I've ever had was after hurricane Ike rolled over Houston and trying to put together an MRE for the first time ever by flashlight in my bedroom by myself and some-dark-thirty.

And it's just a different kind of dark. It's not Camping Under The Stars Dark. It's not statistics dark.

It's just scary dark.
posted by Cyrano at 3:54 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


joe lisboa: "It shouldn't be legal to just throw people to the wolves like that.

I totally agree. So who is going to pay for relocation?

Believe me, I share your frustration, but here on the ground there are just no easy, obvious solutions. We know. We live (with) it everyday.
"

I know an easy solution - how about paying taxes?

You're aware, I assume, that the US has some of the lowest tax rates in the developed world, all right-wing grousing aside?

Civilisation costs money, yo.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:07 PM on May 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


We should make like England and ease ourselves into irrelevance

Wait, why is England irrelevant?
posted by Hoopo at 4:10 PM on May 25, 2012


Has anyone ever read The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe?

Hell, I didn't even read any links in the original post.

(No offense stbalbach, I'm going to read them, I just haven't yet.)
posted by MattMangels at 4:34 PM on May 25, 2012


He presumed that the City sent out thousands of similar notices in hopes that folks would pay without question.

In other words, the city government of Detroit is an unabashed, open criminal enterprise.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 4:37 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually I spent about 5 seconds on that 360 photo page before I decided that any webpage that automatically plays sound is not worth visiting. I must re-install that "no autoplay" Greasemonkey script.
posted by MattMangels at 4:37 PM on May 25, 2012


I tend to suspect that Detroit will eventually disincorporate, at least in part. I don't even know if that's a thing, but it's the only idea I can come up with that makes sense. I'm 34 and I've watched the city shrink. Things are better than they were when I was a kid- the '90s seem like they were the nadir, at least to me- but emptier and emptier all the time.

There are big sections now where the population density is too low to be considered city. Hell, too low to be considered suburban. Too low to justify sidewalks, even. If I could wave a wand, I'd let the city give these areas over to the county or the township, call them unincorporated communities, and let the city government focus on the areas where there is actually city level population density.

The really scary part, at least to me, is what's going to happen to those left behind when water and sewer get cut off. They'll have to retrofit their homes with septic systems and wells. While I would have zero problem setting up a composting toilet, driving a point well, and installing a pump, I know that I am probably an abnormality. More than that, even, I worry about pollution in the ground water making the wells unsafe.
posted by Athene at 4:49 PM on May 25, 2012


On the bright side, we are finally living in that cool dystopian future we've been hearing about for all these years.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:43 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


On the bright side, we are finally living in that cool dystopian future we've been hearing about for all these years.

It's not quite Grim Meathook, but it's certainly getting close in a few places.
posted by jquinby at 6:08 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this were we put the Robocop quotes?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:11 PM on May 25, 2012


Is the city planning on shrinking it borders accordingly? I'd imagine any elderly stuck out in dead suburbia could handled the reduction in serviced better if their taxes decreased.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:01 PM on May 25, 2012


"I don't even know if that's a thing"

It's a thing; I don't know the specifics in Michigan, but it's been reasonably common on the Great Plains in recent years, and I've seen a couple towns do it in Illinois. Generally it means you give up taxing authority and the county government takes over any functions the city/town/village/whatever managed, such as law enforcement and fire protection.

I'm not sure how you go about "de-annexing" land, which seems more likely than totally de-incorporating, but I imagine it's similar, or (if there's no such procedure) the state could easily issue a law to make it work similarly.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:28 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lots of smaller towns and suburbs in the US have no street lights. Even many city neighborhoods have very few streetlights, as you'll notice if you go to poorer neighborhoods at night. You can usually see pretty well with a very small amount of ambient light from nearby homes and the moon. The only problem is car headlights, which stop your eyes from dark adapting and then go away, leaving you blind. If cars weren't around, streetlights wouldn't be nearly as necessary for pedestrians.

There's not a lot of evidence that street lights reduce crime. The criminals can always slink into the shadows, but pedestrians who are walking from point A to point B are exposed out in the open.

But of course "turning the lights off" is symbolic of decline, not just a statement about the usefulness of street lights.
posted by miyabo at 8:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I see that train station, I think "This must be similar to what Rome looked like in the 6th century."
posted by moonbiter at 8:22 PM on May 25, 2012


Also, almost every Midwest city has the same basic problem as Detroit. When there's tons of cheap farm land surrounding your city, middle class people tend to want to spread out and live there, since it's much cheaper than an existing home in the city. Repeat for a few decades, and you have entire neighborhoods that are hollowed out shells. Poor people stay in the city because they don't have transportation to get out, and rich people stay for the cachet of living in the city, but the core is hollowed out. Chicago and St. Louis are perfect examples of this problem. Detroit just somehow managed to lose all the rich people too -- perhaps because there are all those nice towns nearby like Ann Arbor and Grosse Pointe.
posted by miyabo at 8:48 PM on May 25, 2012


We put a man on the moon once. Now we can't figure out how to help a city. It's amazing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:26 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a town without streetlights in the residential areas and loved it. I live out in the sticks now and the closest streetlight is about 5 miles away, but all my childhood friends always gripe about having to live where it "it never gets dark enough to see the night sky".
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:11 PM on May 25, 2012


While at first blush the idea of de-annexation sounds like it could help -- there would definitely be areas where turning them back into unincorporated zones would be a net benefit for the city -- in practice I can see any such process being co-opted by inner-ring suburbs "stealing" the remaining good, solid-tax-base parts of the city proper that adjoins them (or such areas re-incorporating themselves), further eroding the balance sheet. It would certainly work out better for those folks living there, but have a lopsided prisoner's dilemma effect on those without the option.

Still, the general idea has appeal, and there are a number of possible ways to implement something like this. Splitting up the city wholesale into two or three or five constituent entities might be something to consider. You'd want to find some way to give each a tax generator, such as some remnant of industry or a viable commercial corridor cum "downtown". Maybe you'd end up with two or three of these being workable cities, small enough to manage at least, and the others wouldn't be world-class failures, just continued critical-care patients. But each of them would be able to pursue economic development strategies including becoming an infill suburb. Another less drastic approach would allow areas in the city limits to become special taxing bodies able to hire their own police or fire services, essentially becoming a Hamtramck without the city charter.

I do believe that some sort of triage is necessary, and taking away services seems an awful choice, but it's well beyond a choice at this point. My flip-side reframing of this is that some of those empty neighborhoods aren't effectively any different from semi-rural areas near cities now, so it isn't necessarily as drastic a change as it may seem. But again, if they had the opportunity to create a special taxing body or local control to create a TIF or other development incentive program, I wonder how many would take it.
posted by dhartung at 12:18 AM on May 26, 2012


"Weren't certain towns in Germany just moving people and then demolishing whole residential zones?"

There is a program called "Stadtumbau Ost" to deal with rapidly shrinking populations especially in eastern germany. The state invested 2.5 billion € here, trying to modernize the infrastructure of core areas of the cities and demolishing surrounding areas and relocating the residents. (removing 3-400k mostly industrial apartment block homes from the market, with another 250k to come).
An expensive part of this shrinking process is the infrastructure, like the canalisation that was built for a higher population will stop working if too few people flush.
(If you know german you can read the official evaluation report PDF here, too big for google translate)

For example Dessau went from 130k residents to 80k in the last 20 years, and is expected to shrink to 35k in the next 20. (some ruin porn for you)
Now big parts of residential areas are being demolished, so smaller 'city islands', or urban cores, will be surrounded by newly created parks and natural habitats (a german news report).

There also is a huge problem of rural areas in general, with the population literally slowly dying away because of the demographic shift. An interesting english SpOn article can be found here
"In the Saarland town of Illingen, near the French border, people are already celebrating the demise of their towns. "Whenever we pull down an eyesore, we turn it into an event," says Mayor Armin König. Indeed, each time a building is razed, the town throws a party -- complete with free beer -- and all the neighbors lend a hand."
posted by ts;dr at 6:13 AM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


This line is repeated a lot, and the research on the subject is ambiguous at best. Good lighting seems to help reduce crime around commercial properties, but has a minimal effect on personal and property crime. Turns out the thieves and attackers also get spooked by the dark.

Also, all the light in the world does no good if there's nobody around to hear you scream. These neighborhoods aren't exactly safe places during the day either.


I have to agree, sort of. Streetlights add to some kinds of safety, but they also encourage/allow people to be out on the streets at night.
posted by gjc at 7:24 AM on May 26, 2012


I'll bet Detroit gets a lot of federal money. So, yes, there should be a relocation plan, because leaving people who are already pretty poor to fend for themselves is just wrong. Petition the feds to help Detroit manage its downsizing. Send firefighters to Detroit to train on abandoned buildings, burning them down safely. Use war-on-drugs money. Use housing money. If Yakuziztan were doing this, there's be claims of human rights violation.

Those people who have no lights because their area is blighted; do they get a tax break? Because wouldn't just frost yer ass to keep paying taxes so some other neighborhood can have lights and police protection?

Detroit is probably all sorts of bad example about Urban Development, reliance on 1 industry, reliance on welfare state solutions, graft, white flight, middle-class flight, you name it. But it always seemed like a city with a soul, as well as being the city where soul originated. sad.
posted by theora55 at 7:50 AM on May 26, 2012


One of many reasons I moved to my current location is that there's a ridge separating us from the nearest city and its light pollution, and there are very few streetlights. Sadly, 2 near neighbors have big outdoor lights (do they have to be on all night? really?) but it still gets dark. And when their lights are blessedly off, it can get very dark. That's when you get to see stars. When there's a full moon and a clear night, it's bright enough to cast strong shadows, and you understand why the moon has a reputation for alchemy and romance. Dark skies are magic. Check out this map.

Your eyes will adapt to the dark if you let them. Just take a minute, and you'll realize that even with just the ambient light from living in a town or city, you can see quite well. I seldom use a flash light in my neighborhood because there's plenty of light. The big lights make it much harder to find your way in their shadows, but a small light will allow your eyes to do their job well. Your car has effective lights; just keep in mind that most street signs are reflective, and, in many places, intersections have a streetlight.

If you want to be able to see stars, encourage lighting that is shielded to put the light down where it's needed. Encourage your municipality to use only the lighting needed for safety on roads, which will save money, too.

I've been in a few places that were really, truly dark at night, and the stars were unbelievably beautiful.
posted by theora55 at 8:07 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


theora55: "I've been in a few places that were really, truly dark at night, and the stars were unbelievably beautiful."

The lack of a good sky view is one of my least favorite parts of living in a city. I had occasion to be out in the sticks one night last week and I was shocked at how bright the stars were and how many of them there were. I had forgotten what it's like to have a truly black sky at night. It reminded me of a few times I've seen the moon so bright the fields look like they're covered in snow.

Unless it's cloudy, it's never really dark.

Still, it seems like we have long needed a comprehensive plan for dealing with situations like this. I hate demolishing old buildings, but if there's far more housing stock than there are residents to fill it, there's not much else to be done. Demolish and de-annex, relocating people to vacant housing in areas of the city that will remain in the city, if the residents so desire.
posted by wierdo at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless it's cloudy, it's never really dark.

Actually, here in my extremely densely populated city here in the Northeastern US, I've found that the nights with the worst light pollution are cloudy winter nights. The clouds reflect any light going up down and any snow on the ground reflects lights shining down up. The result is and orange/pink/gray sky that's nearly as bright as early dawn.
posted by maryr at 9:16 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How to realize the Power of Darkness:
Wait until it's seriously cold winter. Go to a big frozen lake, where the ice is completely safe. Wait for a moonless night, then hike out into the darkness.

Observe the sparkle of starlight on the snow. The light sparklingly there in the snow has travelled astounding distances before it got reflected off that snow, and caught in your eye. Only this time, it was Dark, and you could See it.
posted by Goofyy at 4:56 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


(geez, and Bridge of Sighs was playing)
posted by Goofyy at 4:58 AM on May 27, 2012


maryr: "Unless it's cloudy, it's never really dark.

Actually, here in my extremely densely populated city here in the Northeastern US, I've found that the nights with the worst light pollution are cloudy winter nights. The clouds reflect any light going up down and any snow on the ground reflects lights shining down up. The result is and orange/pink/gray sky that's nearly as bright as early dawn.
"

Yeah, I meant when you're out of the city. I learned what "pitch black" really meant one night when I was staying out in the middle of nowhere and the power went out in the entire valley. No farm lights, no nothing. There was just no light, period. That is literally the only time I have not been able to see anything at all when outdoors at night. I suspect even a cat would have had difficulty that night.
posted by wierdo at 3:56 PM on May 27, 2012


If Yakuziztan were doing this

Is that somewhere around Uzbekibekibekistanstan?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:09 PM on May 27, 2012


Every time I think I've heard the saddest fucking thing about Detroit I hear a new saddest fucking thing.

This would make sense, unless and until you understand that folks like "Oriole Adams" bailed on her/his city when it was convenient, but nonetheless proceeded to shit on their hometown when convenient from their financial perspective. It's impossible to make sense of this town unless and until (again!) you understand how white privilege (and mobility) functions here and elsewhere.

But thanks for the condescension, "Oriole Adams"!
posted by joe lisboa at 11:36 PM on May 29, 2012


joe lisboa: "I know an easy solution - how about paying taxes?

Fuck you. I'm sorry, I meant to say: did you read any of my previous posts on this matter? My wife and I pay several thousands of dollars each year in city income tax. So, come again? By that I mean: what the fuck are you possibly barbling about? Yes, "barbling." You evidently don't deserve a real verb given your lack of reading comprehension skills.
"

My apologies, but I'm not talking about you, and Detroit, in particular, I'm talking about the US in general. I appreciate that those in failing urban cores are stuck paying comparatively high local tax rates to often-failing city administrations would not be convinced that throwing good money after bad to those administrations would be a good solution.

However, the truth remains that US tax rates are at their lowest in decades across the country and, not coincidentally, US infrastructure is crumbling. But hey, feel free to spit venom in my direction and call me a clueless Euro-socialist if you like - my street lights are still on.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:22 AM on May 30, 2012


But hey, feel free to spit venom in my direction and call me a clueless Euro-socialist if you like - my street lights are still on.

Uh, what? I'm a clueless Euro-socialist, too. I just happen to live in the States and pay taxes in this city that's apparently up for discussion and/or dissection, here, from folks who haven't the foggiest fucking notion what they're talking about (my apologies, Dave, I'm not talking about you).
posted by joe lisboa at 12:29 AM on May 30, 2012


Also, too (look it up, it's a sarcastic reference, bloke), if you're a true Euro-Socialist, I'm (we're!) looking forward to your check paying to keep our street lights on! So, thanks for that!
posted by joe lisboa at 12:30 AM on May 30, 2012


joe lisboa: "Uh, what? I'm a clueless Euro-socialist, too. I just happen to live in the States and pay taxes in this city that's apparently up for discussion and/or dissection, here, from folks who haven't the foggiest fucking notion what they're talking about (my apologies, Dave, I'm not talking about you)."

Understood - I abhor the whole genre of 'urban apocalypse' photography and writing that often seems to forget that real people live there and the assumptions that it breeds about how doomed or resurgent cities or towns are and in what way. As you have vociferously noted, it clouds the picture and often allows people to think they know what the issues are and worse, decide that places are unsalvageable.

joe lisboa: "Also, too (look it up, it's a sarcastic reference, bloke), if you're a true Euro-Socialist, I'm (we're!) looking forward to your check paying to keep our street lights on! So, thanks for that!"

Absolutely. I love paying taxes and seeing functioning public services and shared spaces as a result. Crucially, however, I believe firmly that governing trends and rhetoric that allow people to essentially opt-out of the public good through privatisation and then gut the services and infrastructure that make a modern country function (purely to pad already swelling bank accounts with the gains from absurdly low taxes) are a genuine danger to the fabric of democratic society.

Put simply, failing urban cores where angry residents are tired of seeing their tax money disappear into a black hole that gives them nothing back would not be happening if the country as a whole (in particular high earners and corporations that build their businesses on the foundation of American education and infrastructure) would recognise that having a functional country costs money and the market sucks, generally, at providing public goods in a way that does not entrench division and inequality. If everyone, across the US, paid taxes at anywhere near sustainable rates, these issues might not go away entirely, but they would certainly be mitigated. Sadly I think the political culture in the US has degenerated past the point where that is ever going to happen, short of some incredible, unknowable internal schism that makes the consequences of breaking the post-war social contract clear to everyone. And I wouldn't wish such a Damascene moment on any country or people.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:54 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


was a steel town, and that industry pulled back. Minneapolis does not have better weather. Yet neither of those cities are hurting to the same degree as Detroit."

Akgerber got it. Pittsburgh was in alot of hurt for a long time, and this was the first year when Allegheny county didn't lose population. it took 20 years of planning money and major foundation support to reorient its economy around healthcare and education. Those industries' boats have sailed. Other cities aren't going to turn their entire cities around on them.

Detroit was sapped of political effort and will by its suburban sprawl and white flight. Detroit's suburbs are doing fine, but they no longer have any skin in the game to save the city. Major effort started only a few years ago, its all open.
posted by stratastar at 8:28 PM on June 6, 2012


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