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April 04, 2014 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-04

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4 - Friday, April 4, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4 - Friday, April 4, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

W1e1idhigan &Ut*(
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Building Detroit's foundation
The new bankruptcy plan addresses important basic needs for the city
D etroit's new bankruptcy plan, filed in federal court this past
Monday, outlines a strategy to invest $1.5 billion in the city over the
next decade. The two major components of the plan allocate $520
million toward blight removal and another $464 million to public safety.
The bankruptcy plan promotes positive goals for Detroit. Crime reduction
and blight removal are excellent priorities that are necessary for building a
strong foundation in the city. Moving forward, Detroit should implement
other long-term goals that address the source of these problems.



F~ouv~A~ B ur
Creae aregiona lndan

T he dauntingtaskofmapping
and demolishing nearly
80,000 vacant and blighted
homes in the

city of Detroit
is currently
underway. But
blight removal
has been a major
priority for the
last two mayoral
under Kwame
Kilpatrick and
Dave Bing,
and neither


On Monday, Detroit filed its adjusted
bankruptcy plan electronically. The plan
proposes a $1.5 billion investment over 10 years,
mainly focusing On city crime and blight. Other
planned investments include improvements
to city services, expanding the existing bus
transportation system, parks and recreation
area upgrades and improvements to the
Coleman A. Young city airport.
For five years in a row, Detroit has topped
Forbes' list of Most Dangerous Cities. Its
reputation deters potential businesses
and consumers from coming to the city,
shrinking the city's tax base and job market.
Improvements to public safety may change
this pattern and bring much-needed revenue
to local businesses. Better safety would allow
for more traffic from tourism and increase
incentives for businesses to locate themselves
in Detroit, both serving to increase economic
activity. A more prosperous economy and a
friendlier job market may further help reduce
crime in the city.
The plan for blight removal could also
improve the city's public perception. There
are an estimated 78,000 vacant structures in
the city. These are threats to public safety and
decrease the value of neighboring homes. 60
percent of fires in Detroit occur in abandoned
buildings and these buildings can become
havens for street crime. Eliminating them
would mean Detroit police officers no longer
have to patrol abandoned areas and could

increase their presence in other populated areas
of the city. Removal of abandoned structures
also opens up space for valuable community
initiatives like urban farming. However, the
citymust work closely with existingresidents to
prevent unnecessary relocation and also ensure
that structures being razed are unsalvageable
for future or alternative uses.
Though the investments provide the
necessary funds to help steer Detroit, more
progress on addressing the source of Detroit's
issues needs to occur. Detroit needs more
residents to contribute to the city's tax base,
as well as contribute toit§ vibrancy. Gov. Rick
Snyder proposed a plan to issue increased
numbers of EB-2 visas to immigrants
living in Detroit, which could boost the
population of the city while providing needed
high-skilled workers.
While the plan sets aside a substantial
amount of funding for public transit,
continued funding is also important to this
economic revitalization. Safe, reliable public
transportation can help current residents get
to work while simultaneously attracting new
residents who don't own a car. Similarly, public
parks and community spaces must continue to
improve to increase the quality of life for both
current and future residents. Further, while
the use of funding to secure the city is viable
and useful, it is necessary to address long-term
origins of crime like endemic poverty and
elevated high school dropout rates.

made a significant dent in the
growing problem.
Still, the Detroit Blight Removal
Task Force - commissioned in
late 2013 to catalog every parcel of
land in the city and create a plan to
deconstruct those structures des-
ignated as economically unviable
within six years - represents the
city's best attempt yet to raze dilap-
idated structures that constantly
threaten residents' personal secu-
rity and livelihood.
Unfortunately, the already
difficult task of massive blight
removal - with a price tag poten-
tially exceeding $1 billion - is just
the beginning.
But to this point, city officials
haven't had the answers to the
toughest questions concerning
city redevelopment: What hap-
pens when the mapping is fin-
ished? When the blighted parcels
are cleared? And, most important-
ly, what happens with the vacant
homes and structures deemed "eco-
nomically viable"?
Though it's hardly a panacea to
any city's redevelopment efforts,
land banks represent one impor-
tant, and underutilized, tool to
answer those questions in Detroit.
The idea behind land banks is
simple, and they are already per-
vasive in Michigan. Land banks are
quasi-public entities, often over-
seen by elected county officials that
utilize the best practices in urban

planning and community develop-
ment to help stabilize communities
and clear blight. Typically, state
legislation enables land banks to
possess foreclosed homes before
they become available to specula-
tors and the broader public through
county auctions.
Land banksbenefit neighborhoods
suffering from rampant disinvest-
ment, foreclosures and high vacancy
rates by being mission-driven with
no profit motive. In these environ-
ments, oftentimes the market for
housing has all but deteriorated, and
foreclosed homes can sit on the coun-
ty auction list for years. Not demol-
ished due to lack of funding, these
residences quickly become targets
for scrapping, arson, squatting and
other illegal activities detrimental to
the surrounding neighborhood.
For better or worse, the city
already has its own land bank -
the Detroit Land Bank Author-
ity. But since its inception the DLBA
has never lived up to its poten-
tial, even if that's no fault of the
organization itself.
As John Gallagher's most recent
book, "Revolution Detroit: Strate-
gies for Urban Reinvention", notes,
the DLBA has been hampered politi-
cally since its founding in 2010. For
example, Detroit City Council pro-
vided no funding for the organiza-
tion and required it to purchase all
homes from the city at fair market
value. Even more importantly, the
DLBA lacks the essential ties to the
county to take foreclosed properties
before they reach the county auction
block. From the beginning, the DLBA
has been overly dependent on outside
funding to support the organization.
Even recent 'signs of improve-
ment fall, far short of remedying
the DLBA's dearth of power. New
mayor Mike Duggan and City Coun-
cil approved a measure in February
enabling the land bank to file public
nuisance lawsuits against blighted-
property owners in an effort to hold
these owners accountable for ruined
structures. Thoughthese efforts may

prove significant in the long run,
they don't go far enough in making
the DLBA a major player in the city's
redevelopment scene.
In fact, if confined exclusively to
Detroit's city limits, the DLBA will
never live up to its potential.
The most successful land banks in
the country have access to a diverse
housing stock. With avaried housing
inventory, land banks can capital-
ize on a basic formula. Land banks
spruce up and sell homes in high-
er-quality neighborhoods, at rates
higher than they would've fetched
at auction, before reinvesting those
"profits" in declining neighborhoods,
often through strategic home reha-
bilitation or demolition.
The Genesee County Land Bank,
one of the model land banks nation-
ally, pioneered this concept as Flint's
leading community development
organization since 2004.
However, Detroit's housing stock
by itself remains too uniformly
depleted to capitalize on this model.
But if housing diversity is the issue,
then there's a simple practical solu-
tion - however difficult politically in
the Metropolitan Detroit context -
greater regional cooperation.
The creation of a regional, tri-
county or Southeast Michigan land
bank including Wayne, Oakland and
Macomb counties at a minimum,
would clearly contain a diverse
enough housing stock to aid stabi-
lizing and redevelopment efforts in
Metro Detroit's strugglingneighbor-
hoods that exist in every county - if
invested with the proper authority.
Just like the demolition of 80,000
properties in Detroit won't stem the
tide of disinvestment in the city, the
creation of a regional land bank cer-
tainly isn't a panacea to curing allthe
region's redevelopment ills. Regard-
less, employing both would mark a
major step forward in the stabiliza-
tion and revitalization of Detroit and
the broader area.
- Alexander Hermann can be
reached at aherm@umich.edu.

Barry Belmont, Edvinas Berzanskis, David Harris, Rachel John, Nivedita
Karki, Jacob Karafa, Jordyn Kay, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Victoria
Noble, Melissa Scholke, Michael Schramm, Matthew Seligman,
Paul Sherman, Allison Raeck, Linh Vu, Daniel Wang, Derek Wolfe
Embracing technology
There is no greater pleasure in the morn- from this monster of wires and touchscreens.
ing than waking up to the light of a glow- Yet, my 18-year-old thumbs are hopelessly
ing screen and the rapid click of texts, ping clinging to my phone as I am writing this.
of Facebook messages and buzz of e-mails. The realist in me knows that neither of these
These sounds, a rumbling electronic cadence, ways of life is feasible or balanced. At the
are the heartbeat of our generation. same time, I don't believe that our generation
The thrill of the present rushes through is completely mindless when we use technol-
my veins. These sounds, these notifications, ogy. But maybe, we're not using our brains
are my only connection to the present. I am properly to their full potential.
an old soul. There's a special place in my heart I'm not going to be your parent and force
(and in my scrapbook) for handwritten let- you to stop texting at the dinner table. But,
ters and tangible photographs. I prefer face- I'm not going to be your friend who lets you
to-face conversations rather than a bunch of scroll through your newsfeed while I'm try-
one-worded - sometimes one-lettered - text ing to have a conversation with you. Use tech-
message reflexes. I often daydream about my nology for good. When we wholeheartedly
future rather than mindlessly scroll through dedicate our time to a mindful post, we won't
a Twitter feed. Nevertheless, technology have to resort to mindless scrolling. Use it to
keeps me in the present. No matter how hard communicate - to others, to the world. Don't
I try, I am a teenager and I am bound to just tweet to complain - tweet what's impor-
this technology. tant to you. Show others your world (in 140
Media shapes our culture, and technology characters or less, of course). Facebook mes-
changes our society. Though those beliefs sage one of your hundreds of "friends" and
may seem to be restricted to the scholarly elite work to develop an actual friendship. Instead
of communication studies, they are notice- of just reblogging an idea, come up with
able in our everyday lives. Recent findings by your own.
neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Manfred The possibilities are endless. Whenever I
Spitzer have marked the computer as "poi- think of endless possibility, I can't help but
son for kids" since computer use in children think of my favorite childhood film, Willy
was associated with "aggressive behaviors Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." One
and attention issues." Attention issues due of my favorite Wonka one-liners (which
to media use have been so pervasive among I later found was a quote by poet Arthur
young people that it is now referred to using O'Shaughnessy) was "We are the music mak-
the term "digital dementia." When we multi- ers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."
task between screens (e.g. my daily routine of Though Wonka lived in a world of unlimited
lecture slides, Facebook, lecture slides, Twit- candy, we live in a world of unlimited ideas
ter, lecture slides, texts), we may also develop and we have the means to spread them more
memory problems that decrease our attention than any other generation could even fathom.
and "impair learning." The scientific basis Make music. Dream those dreams. Make
for "digital dementia," according to pediat- them known. Help eliminate the "narcissis-
ric medical director Dr. Bradley Berg, is that tic" and "impatient" stigma of the Millen-
our "neural pathways are not stimulated." In nials. Redefine our generation. Redefine the
other words, we're just not using our brains. heartbeat of our generation.
The old soul in me wants to tell you to go
to an ashram and completely free yourself Rachel John is an LSA freshman.
Keep up with columnists, read Daily editorials, view cartoons and join in the debate.
Check out @michigandaily to get updates on Daily content throughout the day.

In response to 'Focus on the issues'

To the Editorial Board of the
Michigan Daily:
Your editorial published on April
2, 2014 (From the Daily: Focus on
the issues) is filled with inaccu-
racies, misguided judgments and
ideas that threaten the foundations
of student governance.
We'll begin the inaccuracies.
Your article reads, "Individual
candidates who receive 10 or more
demerits and entire parties that
receive 28 or more demerits are
automatically disqualified from the
election." False. Individual candi-
dates who receive 5 or more demer-
its and entire parties that receive 10
or more demerits are automatically
disqualified from the election. I
would be curious where you came
up with 28 demerits - one hopes
it was a typo on your part and not
actually the carelessness to not
check the election code.
The very next sentence reads,
"Alleged violations are reviewed
by the Central Student Judicia-
ry, which assigns any applicable
demerits." Again, wrong. Violations
and demerits are determined by
the University Elections Commis-
sion. Decisions made by the UEC
can be appealed to the Central
Student Judiciary.
Finally, your article asserts the
executive candidates for FORUM
last year "received a majority of
votes" but were disqualified. Well,
no. They received a plurality of
votes. Does your editorial board
own a dictionary?
These inaccuracies do not funda-
mentally undermine the rest of your
assertions, but they do demonstrate
a fundamental misunderstanding of
the system you critique. An embar-
rassment for a student paper that
prides itself on accuracy, and it sheds
doubt on whether you understand
the electoral process for your cri-
tiques and suggestions to hold any
merit. I contend they do not.
Let's move on to the misguided
judgments. You article asserts that

because "four new complaints were
filed" over the weekend, "CSG is
obviously not capable of monitoring
itself." That is actually exactly what
CSG is doing here. Parties failed to
adhere to the election code written
by the CSG Assembly. Other parties
monitor the behavior of those parties
and they hold each other account-
able. In this case, three parties failed
to submit receipts for their expenses
- a clear violation of the election
code. And an important one, I might
add, otherwise parties could lie about
their expenses and spend outside the
campaign finance limits. These are
hardly insignificant charges. Even
then, finding the parties guilty of fail-
ing to file receipts has no impact on
the results of the election - at most,
each party could have received four
demerits, far short of the 10-demerit
disqualification threshold. Clearly,
these were not submitted to dis-
qualify a party, but rather to enforce
the code and set a precedent for
future elections.
Furthermore, the Make Michigan
team withdrew another complaint
regarding improper use of e-mail
privileges. President-elect Bobby
Dishell said he withdrew the com-
plaint because it would have had
marginal impact on the election. The
parties are not only monitoring each
other, but monitoringthemselves.
Your article also calls the dis-
qualification of last year's FORUM
candidates a "debacle." Again, I
would call this a very misguided
judgment. You essentially endorse
allowing candidates to act in fla-
grant violation of the election
code without any consequence.
These are not "petty scandals."
They are violations of the elec-
tion code that could significantly
impact the results of the election.
In order to maintain the integrity
of the elections, there needs to
be consequences for violating the
rules repeatedly.
Finally, your article lands on a
suggestion that would threaten

the foundation of student gover-
nance on this campus. You suggest
that a judiciary made up of faculty
representatives monitor each elec-
tion. Presumably, parties would
still monitor the behavior of one
another and file complaints. Those
complaints would just be heard by
a board of faculty representatives,
rather than a board of students.
What exactly would this fix? The
"petty scandals" would still have
taken place, the charges would still
be filed, and the cases would still
be heard. But instead of a board of
students hearing the cases regard-
ing student elections, there would
be a board of faculty members. This
could allow for extensive faculty
influence over the CSG electoral
process, essentially destroying the
self-governance of students.
The faculty, the administration
and the students are three separate
pieces of the shared governance of
the University. The student voice has
already shrunk enough over the last
decade; do we really need to dimin-
ish it further by allowing the faculty
to control the student leadership?
Most of all, though, your article
ignores just how well the system
worked in this election. Make
Michigan candidates Bobby Dishell
and Meagan Shokar won the elec-
tion by more than 1100 votes and
will take office in two weeks. No
candidates were disqualified from
the election. The parties who vio-
lated the code accepted responsibil-
ity for their mistakes and accepted
the (inconsequential) demerits that
came along with it.
I look forward to the continued
work of CSG over the next year,
and I hope you offer more informed
critiques of their work than this
article demonstrated.
Michael Proppe
Michael Proppe is a Business
senior and Central Student
Government president.

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