Seriously, Has Nobody Seen RoboCop? Dallas Has Been "New Detroit" For Years.

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Apparently a whole lot of people around the country took a look at the very strange campaign advertisement for Debbie Georgatos that Wilonsky posted here Sunday morning -- a video to promote her unsuccessful campaign for chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party. Judging by the comments, most people focused on the elements of elephant abuse and incipient psychosis, but I, of course, was struck by a certain theme at the very end of her video -- Detroit abuse.

In her spooky-doo apocalyptic vision of what would happen to Dallas if she were not elected, Georgatos showed images of bombed-out buildings and decay in the Motor City, my old hometown.

It so happens that yesterday a New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman, published an online story about Detroit and the role of urban farming and local food in creating a whole new sense of community and optimism there. I guess I can't get you behind The Times's paywall to read the whole thing, but I think I can stay within the confines of fair use by bringing you a couple of excerpts:

"Imagine blocks that once boasted 30 houses," Bittman writes, "now with three; imagine hundreds of such blocks. Imagine the green space created by the city's heartbreaking but intelligent policy of removing burnt-out or fallen-down houses. Now look at the corner of one such street, where a young man who has used the city's "adopt-a-lot" program (it costs nothing) to establish an orchard, a garden and a would-be community center on three lots..."

If that seems like a lot of imagining for one day, then listen to this quote from a Detroit resident:

"As Jackie Victor, co-owner of the Avalon Bakery, an unofficial meeting place for the Detroit food movement, says to me, 'Imagine a city, rebuilt block by block, with a gorgeous riverfront, world class museums and fantastic local food. Everyone who wants one has a quarter-acre garden, and every kid lives within bike distance of a farm.'"

I have dealt with Ms. Georgatos on the phone as a reporter. She's a Tea Party person, of course, but I found her to be fairly reasonable, just very conservative. I think Detroit probably is outside her ken, but I have to imagine that if she were to go there and see what Bittmann is writing about, she would heartily approve, and maybe her heart would even fly up. Who can be against gardening?

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Debbie Georgatos would no doubt love Detroit.
I think the Tea Party party and I share belief in one narrow but important area. We all believe that personal destiny is a creature of morality and values.

What Debbie Georgatos doesn't know about Detroit but I do -- because I lived there a very long time ago -- is that people in Detroit are formidable. You're talking about people whose parents came with nothing in their pockets from Kentucky, Mississippi, Iran and the Ukraine to lift their families up by building cars and trucks with their hands. People from families like that grow up tough, obdurate and optimistic.

Detroit will rise from those ashes. Its people will lift the city up with their hands. They will do it with community gardens and neighborhood farmers markets, local food and salvage art. I'm sure Georgatos knows that hardship evinces nobility in human beings just as surely as fat times corrupt them.

Nobody turns his or her back on Detroit. I can give you several reasons why that's not a good idea.

OK, if you racist commenters out there know of any other racist commenters who haven't gotten out of bed yet, could you give them a call? I'd like to get this next part over with as quickly as possible.

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21 comments
matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

Don't forget the rabid contingent of coyote and maid fearing citizens that are against community gardens.  Nothing like 25 lb scared animals and feather dusters to strike fear in the heart of Dallas.

JRinDallas
JRinDallas

I think this speaks to the pervasive insecurity of Dallas establishment-types. It's fine to do comparison studies--find out what other cities are doing well or not-so well. But the insecurity propels Dallas to chase its own tail by trying not to be something rather than just representin' straight-up Dallas-ness. Some will say, haha, 'Dallas-ness'...what a concept if there is such a thing. Heh. It's really about getting the small things right and doing what works for Dallas rather than focusing on what 'not' to be or what we'd rather be. Basically, chill. If we have crappy levies, schools, and communities...we won't necessarily become Detroit, we'll just become or continue to be a crappy city. Period. (In the case of the levies, DALLAS will be the example for Georgatos-type videos in other counties and cities. We would be so lucky to be Detroit if it means our city didn't flood due to neglect and rank incompetence.)

TimCov
TimCov

 Jim, we actually agree on this. I think the worst for Detroit is behind it. It does have some big obstacles (like the low literacy rate that has been mentioned). Because of the economic diversity in Dallas (as has been mentioned), I don't think the Dallas area will ever reach the lows that Detroit reached. But, it would be best if we all worked to avoid the lows that Dallas can reach.

As an aside, I wish I could buy out one of my neighbors and turn the entire property into a small farm. I imagine that if cities would make it easier to do this in rundown areas of town, many of them would see a massive revival. There is a point at which the density of development can work against the recovery of areas on a downswing.

Texasoil
Texasoil

 There is a big difference between the two and she is afraid of the inner city becoming like Detroit by the way of people feeling like they are entitled to things. Detroit was built on one industry and one industry only. The auto industry.  When that failed people where lost. they felt entitled to a union job and its benefits. Now who is going to build there? Now Dallas on the other hand has been through the build up from the military during the cold war of the 70s and 80s that went bust. the saving and loan crises of  the 80s that went bust. The telcom boom of the 90s and 2000s that went bust and know we are going through nano tech and bio medical. We constantly reinvent our selfs. We have a good education system and a highly educated population here. And our tax system encourages business to expand and locate here.  You are not giving any thing in north Texas but the opportunity to make it. You are what you make your self.

Oy Vey All Day!
Oy Vey All Day!

Is this why we play the Lions so regularly on Thanksgiving? Coincidence? I think not! 

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

JS, Detroit's become a cliche for urban decay.  It's shorthand.  It's a stereotype used by the ignorant, but you can hardly say it wasn't partially earned.

I think that some people actually cheer against Detroit's recovery, and I find that monstrous.  But these jabbering, goggle box neo hippies who envision a new Detroit rebuilt as a green haven with lower population density are fooling themselves.  The main thing cities need is more people. Density breeds creativity and innovation.

Detroit will recover, and I'm going to cheer for it, but I'm pretty sure that recovery will look like every other recovery: more business, more jobs, and more people.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

JimBo -- you like so many others left Detroit.  The recent announcement about the high levels of functional illiteracy have also not done that city a lot of benefit.  But why do you turn this into a racial issue.  Surely all their problems come from being the home of the Red Wings Hockey Team.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

 Jim, you're right...Dallas is a city of both the very rich and very poor. Unlike detroit, many here dont have the drive or common sense to bring a city back from the brink. Look at the southern sector, where its become a poverty fifedom run by the likes of men and women who keep their people under their thumb and only allow "good works" to be done only when and where they want it, nor to mention when they get a cut of said proceeds. 

alfredo
alfredo

Google "abandoned Detroit" and enjoy the pretty pictures of the abandoned buildings and factories. 

Anonymous
Anonymous

 We have a lot of positives. We are economically diversified. But we don't have a highly educated population or a good school system. I'd also argue that our tax system encourages successful businesses to relocate here - not to be born here.

Anne Elk
Anne Elk

You left out the most important difference.  Texas and Texans are not pro-union.  I guarantee that if you were to open a business in Detroit the employees would not be grateful for the opportunities provided but instead would have you up to your neck in unions before you could open the doors.  It's a very "Us" vs "Them" mentality.

Alexander
Alexander

We never play the Lions on Thanksgiving. The Lions always host the other game.

rubbercow
rubbercow

I think his care-free days came to an end after he was involved in that episode over there in Alabama - you know with what those mountain men did to Ned Beatty and then being involved in the killing of one of them.  I think that experience (and that of having his arm bent grotesquely over his head) put him on the path toward evil.....

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

 you make a good point. However.. I keep talking to people who say that economy and society is changing rapidly in fundamental ways. I'm not so sure that what they are doing in Detroit, which looks at first glance like the 19th Century isn't more like what the 21st century is going to look like. There's huge reasons for moving away from agribusiness and urban farming could really be a part of that.

elbueno
elbueno

Recovery comes from the people willing to invest their time in improving a place. Jobs, business and people don't just magically appear...they appear after a group of pioneers -  usually artists, innovators and activists - make a place more livable.This is where Mike Rawlings, and the city of Dallas as a whole, have things completely wrong. Make it easier for the innovators and the entrepreneurs, not the big businesses and the corporations.

Guest
Guest

The racist comment is in reference to the comments on the blog item he posted earlier this week Oak Cliff's Better Nature Takes Charge . It's nasty.  

rubbercow
rubbercow

There are actually some genuinely gorgeous buildings that have been abandoned up there.  Kind of shocks you to your core to see something abandoned.....

Oy Vey All Day!
Oy Vey All Day!

I was waiting for someone to jump on that, but you guys usually come at it more violently. Where's the FUs and the you ain't no True Texan comments at? Geez, slow day here.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

 I don't think we disagree.  And I'm pretty sure Detroit has learned its lesson on courting fickle large businesses.  I'm just sick to death of hearing about how urban farming is a new way to develop a city.  Utter BS.

JimS
JimS

J. Erik: My mother-in-law grew up on a farm, and it caused her to be very determined to become urban instead.  

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