NYT: Detroit, The Billionaires' Playground

Mark Binelli, author of a recent book on Detroit, casts a skeptical eye on the so-called recovery of "Detroit," taking care to distinguish between Detroit the auto industry and Detroit the city.  

It wasn’t immediately clear if God also made second-tier assembly line workers starting at 14 bucks an hour, but no matter. Detroit was back! Unless, of course, by “Detroit” you meant the actual city rather than the auto industry, in which case, well, the picture becomes a bit more complicated. Battered for decades by the same problems — a steady loss of people and jobs, a soaring murder rate, a wholesale erosion of its tax base — the city now faces the prospect of running out of cash as soon as the end of the month, which would mean the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history.

Binelli, whose book, “Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis,” received good reviews nationally but not a whole lot of attention locally, analyzes ideas to help the city. "Three recent proposals on ways to patch holes in Detroit’s budget illustrate just how desperate things have become," he wrote.

The ideas are the state park for Belle Isle, the Ayn Rand-inspired commonwealth for the island and Dan Gilbert's suggestion via Twitter of an Epcot-like auto attraction in central Detroit.

Binelli's conclusion is blunt. 

Detroiters who are worried about ceding local power to Michigan’s Republican governor shouldn’t forget the ways in which power has already been ceded to an unelected oligarchy, whose members might, no matter how ostensibly well intentioned, possess questionable ideas about urban renewal.

Read more:  New York Times
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