Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Motor City Blues

Well, it sure was interesting about the Senate debate on whether to bail out, er, excuse me, loan the Big 3 auto companies enough money to keep them on their feet for awhile. Even in the Detroit area, it's a big debate and not an automatic "they should do it" as most people might think. Sure, it's understandable about the effect it would have on this area but a lot of people also feel that government shouldn't be involved in running businesses. However, the major point that has most people for the auto loans is the fact that since the government GAVE the financial companies 700 billion dollars, what's 15 more in a loan? Unless you're from the Detroit area, it's hard to realize what a devastating impact this would have on the area. Although other parts of the country are feeling the financial pinch, it's a full blown disaster in Detroit. Detroit is one of the largest cities in the United States...sure, it's a declining population (and amazingly so) but in land area, it may be one of the top. Detroit is 139 square miles. That means you can take the entire land areas of Manhattan, San Francisco, and Boston...and they still wouldn't add up to the physical size of Detroit. I think a lot of people forget about the incredible loss of population in Detroit. In the 1950's, the actual city of Detroit had over 2 million people (for comparison, Manhattan has 1.5 million currently). The population now is under 900,000. That means in the last 4-5 decades, Detroit has LOST 1.2 million people and each day, the population shrinks even more. Over 40% of Detroit land is completely vacant. Detroit is more than a mere ghost town, it may be the first ghost city in U.S. history. Yet, the surrounding areas around Detroit (the immediate suburbs which constitutes the "Metro" area numbers around 4.5 million and still has some of the most affluent areas in the country and most of the region is solidly middle class. But there are signs the entire region, if not the state is starting to crack under the strain of these tough economic times. The Detroit newspapers, Detroit News and Free Press, are no longer going to have home delivery every day. And the papers they put on the newsstands are going to top out at 32 pages. 32 pages? That' s not a newspaper, that's a tabloid. Switching everything to the Internet...but I for one, do not want to read my morning screen, I want the physical newspaper. The University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor is one of the great public universities in the country with some putting it at the top. However, the State, in finding ways to cut the budget is now thinking of pulling all revenues to UM and force the University to become a private school. If the auto companies go under, or bankrupt, the State will likely collapse. A lot of the tax revenues depend on the auto companies and the suppliers. Michigan is a surprise to most people who visit as they associate it with Detroit and Ann Arbor. Yes, we also have Lansing, Grand Rapids, Flint, and a few other stand alone cities but the vast majority of Michigan is small town and rural. Once you leave the city areas, Michigan is trees. I've been hearing of the demise of editorial cartoons on some message boards and the beginning rumblings of comic stores joining book stores in suffering lagging sales. It wouldn't take much to push the retail businesses out the door and of course, with the 32 page newspapers, it's highly unlikely that cartoon and comics are going to be a big concern. Borders, headquartered in Ann Arbor, is near collapse and that doesn't bode well for the book market and potential graphic novel market boom that everyone keeps waiting for. Yeah, it sucks here. There's still a lot of good things about the area. I live half way between Detroit and Ann Arbor and both downtowns are about 20-30 minutes away. I have the small town feel in walking distance yet also have the commercial road with every big box store you can think of mere minutes away including a shopping mall of 200 stores. If I drive 5-10 minutes west, I come across horse stables and cows. But the value of my house is sinking like a rock, just as it all over America. We're still not underwater but most of our neighbors would lose money by selling. So, we're staying put for awhile. Luckily, I teach at college so that is a pretty strong position as the community colleges are busting at the seams as people go back for training or new careers. The cost of universities also drives people to community colleges. My wife is a pharmacist so she's pretty secure as everyone always needs their drugs. But I know that my daughters are not looking to stay in Michigan and so I expect that I'll be spending a lot of time travelling in the future. Yet, in the Detroit area, the people are resilient (you have to be) and its still a positive Christmas season. Likely, Detroit will lead the way in donations as they always do and most people are not going to let their holidays suffer but they'll just buy fewer gifts. Last year I mentioned about the pagan rituals that became incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas and actually got some nasty emails. I'm not going to repeat myself here but again, ignorance reigns far too often in religion so all I can suggest to people who get offended by such talk, do some research. Getting mad about something doesn't change it. Regardless, I hope that everyone has a great holiday season. Even though I celebrate the season for different reasons than some, I still do in fact enjoy it. Whatever reason...happy holidays.


Anonymous said...


Gary Reed said...

Not sure why this was left as a comment...because I was the original publisher of The Crow?

I have no concerns or thoughts regarding the new version as I hadn't seen anything but the original film when it first came out.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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