“Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher. The truth hurts, you know? Tough shit.”
The words of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, as quoted in The New Yorker under the headline, “Drop Dead, Detroit.”
Reading negative articles about Detroit isn’t new to me or any other Detroiter. However, your statements struck me for a variety of reasons. It seems that our definitions of “truth” are wildly different, and since you can’t find a positive thing to say about Detroit, let me do it for you.
Detroit is filled with some of the hardest working individuals I have ever met. Detroit is filled with art, culture and life. Detroit is home to entrepreneurs, artists, artisans and engineers. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” And that’s what we do.
“I used to say to my kids, ‘First of all, there’s no reason for you to go to Detroit.”’
Where should I begin? Motown, Greektown, Slow’s, Shinola, Eastern Market, the DIA, the Heidelberg Project, Wayne State, the Detroit Library, the DMC, the Fox Theatre, the University of Detroit Mercy (your alma mater), the Detroit Symphony, the Detroit Opera House, College for Creative Studies, Mexicantown, the Renaissance Center, the Riverwalk, the Masonic Temple, Hart Plaza, Belle Isle, the Michigan Science Center... just to name a few. Let me assure you, there are plenty of reasons to come to Detroit.
Throughout Detroit, gentrification has been taking hold quickly. From Corktown to Midtown, renovation and inspiration has taken root. Up-and-coming neighborhoods on the eastside of Detroit have opened restaurants, cafes and bars. New bicycle lanes painted down Lafayette provide easy alternative routes for Detroiters who work downtown.
Wayne State, a premiere research university, hosts thousands of students from all over the globe, offering a cultural experience unlike anything else. This unique mixture of culture fosters a community filled with innovation and creativity. Midtown has quickly become the culture hub of Detroit. Art galleries, cafes, restaurants, theatres, food trucks and museums line the streets of Midtown.
And guess who’s supporting these businesses and attractions? People who have reasons to be in Detroit. We work here, we play here, and we live here.
Over in TechTown, a knowledge and technology district in Midtown, entrepreneurs create, expand and grow companies. According to their website, TechtownDetroit.org, “We accelerate economic growth in Detroit by growing strong businesses and driving regional collaboration.”
This is what fuels Detroit. This is what is keeping Detroit alive. You of all people should know that. Or have you forgotten about your involvement with 2011’s “Believe in Detroit” campaign, in which you declared to the masses “I’m a believer. Are you?” You said then, “We can all benefit from a vibrant city.” Where is this attitude now? These aren’t quotes from 30 years ago; these are quotes from three years ago.
In 1805, Father Gabriel Richard penned Detroit with the motto: “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” or “We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.” This motto is truer today than ever.
In your own words, Detroit is “a great American city.” Detroit was once the Paris of the Midwest, the hub of industrialization in America, the Motor City. Detroit rose quickly, and fell even quicker. However, the rise of Detroit is becoming more and more well known. Various projects offering incentives to professionals to move to Detroit, in combination with notoriously-low home prices, has caused a wave of young working professionals to call Detroit home. Potentially this is the reason for your hostility towards the city: are we offering too much competition to your beloved Oakland County?
That’s not to say Detroit is perfect - it’s far from it. But pushing people away from the city is the single most toxic thing one could do to Detroit. The only way Detroit will succeed and rise back to our previous glory is if we have the support from our surrounding communities. Our neighbors. Your “bashing” of Detroit does nothing but push away potential business and potential success.
With or without you, Mr. Patterson, Detroit is pushing forward. Your opinions on Detroit are nothing more than outdated, ignorant assumptions, based upon years of convincing yourself Oakland County is above us. With or without your support, Mr. Patterson, Detroit will continue to rise from the ashes and will prosper. We won’t drop dead. The truth hurts, you know? Tough shit.