The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Nove
Page 4-Sunday, November 12, 1978-The Michigan Daily
"It shall rise again from the ashes.
-time philosophy for modern Motor C
ROM ANN ARBOR, Detroit is just a
forty-five minute drive east on I-94. To
someone who has never ventured east of
Ypsi, just the word Detroit-meaning "city of
straits"-can immediately bring to mind images
of riots in the streets, gun duels on Woodward
Avenue, and a wild west atmosphere of gang
Or one will remember Motown-Diana Ross
and little Stevie Wonder. And Detroit, of course,
means cars-complete with the soot and the
grime of the assembly plants.
Some people think of Detroit as the
Renaissance Center, that massive concrete
intrusion onto the skyline that has led more than
one critic to suggest that Ren-Cen only adds to
the impressions of Detroit as a city under seige.
On the side of the Ren-Cen that faces the city
across Jefferson, there are two large concrete
barriers that house the heating system for the
If first impressions are lasting, Detroit may
have reason to echo Rodney Dangerfield's cry of
dismay: "I don't get no respect."
But if all the economic, social and political
indicators are correct, Detroit is on the rebound.
A Market Opinion Research poll prepared for
New Detroit,--a pro-Detroit business
organization, shows that 71 per cent of Detroiters
now have faith in their city's future, compared to
half that number two years ago.
"People (polled) were saying there is a
spirit-a new electricity-that seems to be
moving through the town," said New Detroit
Vice-President Ed Hodges. "They were saying
that Detroit is the most exciting place to be right
now. From where I sit, I don't think I'm being too
overly optimistic. From where I sit, Detroit is
simply blossoming. You find a lot of people
feeling good about Detroit. Just living in Detroit
is an exciting experience."
The statistics back up Hodges' upbeat outlook.
The Michigan Employment Securities
Commission says employment is up in the city,
while the auto industry has reported its biggest
sales year since the 1973 recession. White flight
to the suburbs is continuing, even New Detroit
will admit, but there is also a significant number
of people moving back into the city.
For an optimist anyway, that's a sign of
resurgence. For a pessimist, it's a case of having
been down so long bottom looks like up. But if
whether or not Detroit is on the rebound depends
on one's yardstick for comparison, then one
thing is certain: Detroit is on the way up and Ren
Cen is providing the impetus.
Ren-Cen's financial contribution has been
documented in a report from a New York
analyzing firm. The report states that the office-
hotel complex has pumped more than $1 billion
into the city's sagging economy.
Keith Richburg is a Daily night editor and
a native of Detroit. Daily photos by A ndy
By Keith Richburg
But what that report couldn't measure is how
much of Ren-Cen's impact is symbolic. The very
size and intrusiveness of the structure is enough
to strike awe, and convince even the hardest
cynic that Detroit really does have a future. It's
more style than substance, but that seems to be
enough to create a new positive image about the
"You can take numbers and add, subtract or
divide them, but the most interesting thing we
found was the absolutely fascinating changes in
people's attitudes about Detroit as a place to
live, work and invest," said Stuart Matlins,
whose New York firm conducted the research.
Now with Detroiters placing more faith in their
own city, the problem is to convince everyone
outside the city that Detroit isn't as bad as the
negative publicity suggests. Or as one Detroit
optimist put it, "As more people come and visit
Detroit and see what it's like, we'll get more
respect. Our image will improve."
However, there are critics who argue that the
optimism about Detroit is only superficial, since
the problems like crime and the decaying state
of the public schools are not solved by the
"This talk of renovating downtown is great.
but why can't we also build some low-income
housing? " asks Marxist city councilman
Kenneth Cockrel. He said the private money
being used to rebuild downtown "should be
channeled into creating better schools, better
public health services.".
This interest in downtown redevelopment is
the master plan of the city's first black mayor,
Coleman Young. Young's theory has been that
with a revamped downtown and improved
business climate, people will begin to feel good
about the city, and social improvements will
R, PUT ANOTHER way, you can't
improve the public schools and build
low-income housing until you have a
sta le economic base, and that requires solicit-
ing the support of corporate barons and
financiers and convincing them that saving
Detroit is in everyone's best interest.
"I think it's important to -business to have a
good climate," said one Michigan Bell executive.
"It helps our market where you have a stable
community. People need a good climate,
business organizations need a good climate. We-
depend on each other."
Coleman Young's 1977 landslide electoral
victory-a whopping 59 per cent-was seen as a
vote of confidence in his plan. After the election,
Young sat down with the city's power-
holders-business, labor, and politicians of both
parties-and emerged with a pact Young himself
calls "a mutuality of self-interests."
Young's own self-interest in that coalition is
power-power for himself and power for the city.
Young is the representative of Detroit blacks,
who are now a majority in the city, and he wants
to use his reign to consoli'date black political
power in city hall, and to make sure the city
never slips back into control by the conservative
As for his own personal power, Young would
very much like to be Detroit's mayor Richard
Daley. "I certainly would like to stabilize and
build Detroit the way Daley stabilized and built
Chicago," Young says candidly. "Chicago is
outstanding among cities. It's an old industrial
city like Detroit or Pittsburgh or Cleveland. But
it's growing. It's thriving, because Chicago, in
the first place, had a city government that was
strong enough to resist being dismantled and
horsed around by the suburbs. And that type of
strength is essential for a city."
So in his effort to rebuild Detroit, Young-the
avowed socialist and former street radical-has
enlisted the aid of the capitalists. Henry Ford II
financed the $300 million Renaissance Center,
and then ordered his Lincoln-Mercury division to
move into one of the towers, despite
protestations from suburbanites afraid to work
in Detroit. Meanwhile, Max Fisher has planned a
2,100 downtown apartment complex and the
Rockefeller family is spending $70 million to
build two office tower additions to Ren-Cen.
General Motors has announced plans to rebuild
the New Center area near the Fisher building.
"He really knows the game," Henry Ford II
once said of his friend Coleman Young. "He
plays the black side. He plays the white side. He
plays the business side and the labor side. That's
Coleman Young did not make the mistake of
alienating any faction that could eventually be
useful to him-and Detroit. He cuddled up to the
long-serving Republican governor William
Milliken, and it paid off handsomely. When the
mayor requested state troopers to patrol Detroit
freeways-freeing the Detroit police to cover the
rest of the city-he got them. And now Detroit is
being considered as a possible site for the 1980
Republican convention, largely at Milliken's
Young also got on the good side of Jimmy
Carter, early on when it was not politically
popular. And that has paid off also. Detroit is
receiving a healthy infusion of federal dollars
that will, among other things, help construct
three new parks east of downtown on Jefferson.
Detroit's latin motto translates: "It shall rise
again from the ashes." That slogan was chosen
after the fire of 1805, but, ironically, it is perhaps
more appropriate today.
The modern "fire" was the riot of 1967. In the
early sixties, Detroit was considered a "model
city" for having avoided the urban violence that
had erupted in Watts and other cities across the
nation. Jerome Cavanaugh, the young 'liberal
mayor, was credited with building a
representative city that appeared to be escaping
the black discontent that gutted other American
THEN, ON A sweltering Sunday morning
in July, blue uniformed police officers
raided a west side Detroit "blind pig,"
an after-hours gambling spot. A crowd gathered
as police officers hustled the blind pig patrons,
all of them black, into the waiting squad cars.
Some witnesses remember police shoving black
prostitutes down stairs. The crowd grew into a
mob. A brick was thrown. Then a bottle. Within
hours, the "model city" was under seige.
When the riot was over four days later, 43
persons had been killed in the worst outbreak of
urban violence in U.S. history. Interpretations
varied as to whether Detroit's was a race riot or
a class riot. But pointing fingers and extensive
analysis did not stop the city's rapid slide
downhill after July, 1967. Whites, fearful of
another pending uprising, began to move out.
Street crime skyrocketed. And Detroit was
tagged as "Murder City, U.S.A."
In January, 1971, conservative white police
commissioner John Nichols instituted a decoy
operation to combat street crime. Known by the
acronym STRESS (Stop
Safe Streets), the decoy
officers impersonating p
attacks. Police officers
people, and derelicts, an
upon by street thugs.
In eight months, STR
persons, nine of then
department and the blac
head-on over STRESS. B]
and reactionary militia o
whites saw STRESS as a
in controlling runaway
STRESS was no doubt a ra
Hostility between bla
already at a high point,
whites migrating to the
As,the whites left, prop(
and the city's tax base er
public school system de
voters consistently to
increases. Meanwhile, ti
and became almost inde
some suburbanites entE
scare stories of murders,
the expense of black Detrc
One Grosse Pointer sug
idea of blocking all th(
Detroit into that suburt
Then, in 1971, the safe
white suburbs was mom(
the spring of that year
declared that the school
Pontiac, Michigan were
cross-district busing be i
the situation. A few r
federal judge, Stephen R(
by the NAACP that Det
also segregated, and hE
would bus white suburba
schools and send blac
a t z