Coleman Young's vision for Detroit .... and why we shouldn't pay for his fiasco

How Coleman Young Ruined Detroit


Young [WIKI Coleman Young] was far left, a fellow traveler of the CPUSA through membership in affiliated organizations and was deeply involved with the UAW. He was Mayor of Detroit for 20 years, from 1974 to 1994. I believe he made a cynical decision to make Detroit a majority black city, largely for his own political benefit. Whites had left the city in large numbers following the riots in ’67, but Young, I believe, was happy to see them go and subtly let them know they weren’t really wanted there anymore. The higher the black to white ratio in the city, the tighter was his grip on power.

In his years in power there were two techniques he used to cement his power and influence. One was to pack the city payroll with supporters, a tried and true tactic of municipal governments everywhere. However, his deep ties to the union movement opened the door for a huge amount of influence in compensation negotiations resulting in the high wages and generous benefits, including pensions, which are plaguing the city now....
The second technique he used was to keep race relations at a boil. When I moved here in 1978 the Detroit metro area was almost unbelievably segregated. Most suburbs, with a few notable exceptions, had only tiny black populations. Almost all the blacks in the metro area lived in the city and almost all the whites in the suburbs. My first drive up Jefferson Ave from the center of the city into the Grosse Pointes was eye opening. Within 3-4 blocks it changed from a filthy street with abandoned buildings and rundown store fronts covered with graffiti and protective steel gratings to a tree lined avenue with large well maintained homes with immaculate landscaping. There was a virtual Maginot line at the border of Detroit..

Young was a master of exploiting this divide and creating friction with the “suburbs” (dogwhistle for “whites”) and regularly used this to foster a “them (white) vs us (black)” mentality in his voter base. He was always the guy standing up to “the suburbs” and they loved him for it. He was mayor for life. Sadly, this technique was extremely effective, to the point where it not only worked on blacks in Detroit, it also worked on the whites in the suburbs. To this day, almost twenty years after Young left office, the animosity is such that any cooperative endeavors between Detroit and its surrounding communities are always fraught with a significant dose of racial politics. Blacks always think that whites want to take over and whites don’t see any benefit in doing anything that helps the city.

While the racial segregation of the Detroit metro area has eased over the years, this has actually worked to the detriment of the city. Over the past several decades crime has gone up and services have declined, making the city a much less desirable place to live, as population figures confirm. The vast majority of that population loss, I believe, has been the black middle classes who left the city for the suburbs. It is perfectly understandable that they want to move their families to where the streets are safer and services are better, most notably the school districts. The result is that the city is now largely populated by an underclass that is very poorly educated and pretty much only capable of working at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. Functional illiteracy has been estimated at nearly 50% and over a third of the population is on welfare. It is a tragedy and it will be a primary factor in keeping the city from any meaningful rebound, at least in the next couple of decades. The human capital is just not there to rebuild an economic infrastructure capable of lifting the city out of its financial difficulties. (Digression: if current lawsuits filed by pensioners to protect their interests are successful a huge proportion of meager city operating finances will be untouchable and other city services will suffer enormously in the future, digging an even deeper hole for the city.)
Dems Favor Federal Bailout of Detroit, But Majority of Public Opposed

A new national poll from Quinnipiac University shows that a majority Democrats believe the federal government should bail out Detroit, but an even larger majority of Americans oppose such a move. Fifty-one percent of Democrats support Washington providing federal assistance to Detroit, which last month became the largest American city ever to seek bankruptcy protection. Not surprisingly, there is a strong partisan divide on the question of a federal bailout for the Motor City. Seventy-three percent of Republicans oppose a bailout, while only 18 percent support the idea. Independents are nearly of the same mind as Republicans on the issue: 68 percent oppose federal assistance for Detroit and 28 percent support it.

Comment: Detroit should stand as a monument to Democratic "leadership" .... so all can see the folly


  1. WSJ today: How Detroit Can Rise Again:

    Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and city councilwoman Monica Conyers were recently convicted of corruption. Separately, Kilpatrick charged more than $200,000 of party expenses on his city-issued credit card, which he probably figured would go unnoticed given the government's sloppy accounting. Though newspapers reported the expenses in 2005, he was re-elected anyway. Detroit's ex-treasurer and several pension-fund trustees have also recently been indicted in a pay-to-play scandal.
    Not far outside of Detroit's downtown business district is the emergent hipster colony of Corktown, where do-it-yourself, brew-your-own-beer types are fixing up cheap, rundown houses. The pioneers grow organic vegetables such as corn on nearby vacant lots. Corktown represents the frontier of civilization in Detroit.

    Travel a couple of miles farther out, and the scenery begins to resemble the wild, wild West. There are no shopping centers or chain supermarkets. Sixty six thousand vacant lots and 78,000 abandoned or blighted buildings, including the old Packard factory, occupy 130 square miles of no man's land. Yards are overtaken by knee-high weeds. A house with unbroken windows and shutters is a rarity.

    These neighborhoods were deserted over the last 60 years by white, middle-class families leaving for the suburbs. The exodus accelerated after the 1967 race riot and during Mayor Coleman Young's regime from 1974 to 1994—a regime that inflamed racial tensions in part by tagging white police officers as racists.

    The likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have continued to stir racial grievances here by leading protests against Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager, even though Mr. Orr is black. In Mr. Jackson's words, the emergency manager would create a "plantocracy, or a plantation-ocracy."

  2. One wonders how the city could be transformed simply by persuading someone to come and mow the lawn.

    Or, for that matter, how many missing persons cases would be solved if they did. Sigh. It might take a strong stomach!

  3. (additional note; Governor Snyder went to Detroit, did exactly what I suggested, and found a body. Sigh.)


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