National Magazine Lists '10 People Who Could Help Save Detroit'

June 05, 2013, 6:52 AM by  Alan Stamm

Here we go again. A national magazine's cover story that speaks of Detroit's abandoned homes, shrinking population, homicides and 23%  jobless rate that "puts Detroit first among America’s biggest cities."

On a brighter note, the latest issue of Governing magazine -- a monthly for policy geeks -- headlines its lead article "10 People Who Could Help Save Detroit."

Staff writer Ryan Holeywell defines his illustrated gallery list of seven men and three women as "people who will play a critical role in rebuilding the Motor City." 

There are those who simply will not accept the conventional wisdom that Detroit is doomed — and are working hard to prove it wrong. A charismatic billionaire is investing huge sums of money downtown. Young people, drawn by cheap rent and the opportunity to play a role in Detroit 2.0 (whatever that may turn out to be), are moving into the city.

And while the state’s takeover of Detroit’s governing functions is controversial, some think it could finally prompt meaningful reforms.

Portion of Governing magazine's June cover.

So emergency manager Kevyn Orr makes the cut, as does civic booster-in-chief Dan Gilbert.

The full list (below) may reflect the perspective of a Houston-raised writer working in Washington, D.C., for a publication that bills itself as "covering politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders."

One potential oddity is that Orr and William F. Jones, Jr., head of Focus: HOPE, are the only African Americans listed -- though a shorter business-focused sidebar is about Detroit native George W. Jackson, Jr., president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and Sandy Baruah, head of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Jackson is black and Baruah is of Indian descent.

The cover story's imbalance raised by a Governing website reader who identifies himself only as Derrell:

"This list sure lacks diversity. I'm pretty sure if you looked hard enough you would find more African Americans who are more than qualified to be part of your 'save Detroit' list."   

Detroit journalist Aaron Foley also sees a problem. "While there are some good people on the list," he posts on his Facebook page, "there wasn't room for a Kym Worthy or maybe a Rashida Tlaib (instead of [Phil] Cooley yet again?)"

As part of that discussion thread, Detroit News writer Darren Nichols tosses out a handful of influential Detroiters who could have made the list more diverse. Among his suggestions are Karla Henderson, the city's group executive for planning and facilities; George Jackson, head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation; Faye Nelson, head of the RiverFront Conservancy; and Larry Alexander, head of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.  

"Those listed [by Governing] all play a key role," Nichols comments. "It's just at times, a deeper dive needs to be taken. And it's not just about race. I mean they failed to mention Cindy Pasky, too." (She's founder, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions.)   

With those examples of grass-roots reaction, here's who the magazine -- with about 80,000 print issue subscribers -- predicts will have "critical roles" in Detroit's future, in the order published:

  1. Phil Cooley, restaurateur
  2. William F. Jones Jr., CEO, Focus:HOPE
  3. Sue Mosey, president, Midtown Detroit Inc.
  4. Robert Anderson, city's planning/development director
  5. Dan Gilbert, chairman/founder, Quicken Loans
  6. Leslie Lynn Smith, president/CEO, TechTown Detroit
  7. Tom Nardone, The Mower Gang 
  8. Bill Pulte, Detroit Blight Authority
  9. Kevyn Orr, emergency manager
  10. Deirdre Greene Groves, executive director, Challenge Detroit

Disclosure: The writer of this article participated in Aaron Foley's social media discussion and previously worked with Darren Nichols.

Your turn: Who would you add or subtract from Governing's list? Post a comment below.

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Photo Of The Day 

Potd_img_8262_379 Abstract painted door on Saint Aubin Street and Gratiot Avenue, near Eastern Market.

By: Michael Lucido