Author Must Know His Idea Is DOA: Merge Detroit And Suburbs

A Chicago writer delivers mostly familiar riffs on Detroit's "financial death spiral" at the online magazine Salon, where he sets the scene with a vignette from "a bench in the overgrown park at the corner of Chene and Ferry."

Edward McClelland, who's not-coincidentally promoting a new book, introduces scrappy scavenger J.C. Hood, "drinking an Old Milwaukee tallboy he’d bought at a Yemeni party store."

Chicago author Edward McClelland envisions "a megacity composed of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties."

'Nuf said about same old songs -- you catch the drift.

On to the if-only-this-would-work dream of regionalism to the rescue:

Since Detroit can’t maintain the accouterments of a modern American city with its current tax base, the most practical solution to its problems is regional consolidation. Detroit should merge with its suburbs, as Miami, Indianapolis and Toronto did.

A megacity composed of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties would contain 3.9 million people, making it the second-largest city in the United States. Detroit could consolidate its police and fire services — which consume nearly 60 percent of its general fund budget — with surrounding departments. . . .

McClelland doesn't pretend this notion is novel -- or part of the real world, actually.

That has been politically impossible because of black-white resentment and urban-suburban enmity.

But the Age of Emergency management could wipe the slate blank, his magical thinking goes. 

With Mayor Dave Bing’s powers usurped by the emergency manager, the city’s objection is moot.

Ah right . . . and Kevyn Orr presumably has time, as well as political capital, to roll another boulder uphill. 

Suburbanites would still resist, but they’d benefit from the efficiency of a single local government and from a stronger central city, which would make the entire area more attractive to out-of-state business.

As for complaints that the suburbs would be forced to subsidize the city’s underfunded-by-$3.5-billion public pension system, well, hundreds of thousands of suburbanites grew up in Detroit, where they were educated by schoolteachers and kept safe by cops and firefighters who are now in danger of having their retirement benefits cut. Moving across 8 Mile Road should not relieve them of all responsibilities to the city they fled.

Of course, so obvious. Ex-Detroiters must have strong emotional ties to teachers and first responders of decades past, bonds powerful enough for a  popular movement to bail out two Detroit pension funds with their property taxes.

Who could doubt it? How could Brooks Patterson, Bob Ficano and Mark Hackel resist the groundswell?

As it happens, those excerpts aren't the most audacious parts of the Salon essay. Its original headline was "White People Killed Detroit."

Even the author was "embarrassed" that an editor put that atop his post, he tweeted. It was recast as "Who Killed Detroit?" after online pushback. Sample comment at Salon:

Imagine a headline along the lines of:  How black people killed N'awlins  (or Memphis or Newark.)

Embarrassed or not, McClelland no doubt hopes most reader scroll all the way to the pitch for his May hardback, "Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland" -- though more than a few may wonder about the balance of kooky ideas vs. constructive ones in its 352 pages.  

Read more:  Salon

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