One Answer to the Detroit “Problem”

Detroit is getting a lot of bad press. Recently, the city filed for bankruptcy. While dozens of cities across the country are facing the same bleak road ahead, to see a once great metropolis fall, is troubling. There are two culprits: a ballooning deficit caused by a public sector pension program, which can no longer pay for itself, and an exodus from the city, the “brain drain”. Almost twenty percent of properties within the city sit empty. With an unaffordable pension system eating away at basic services and a flight to the suburbs, both problems compounding each other, Detroit must find a way to lift itself up.

There is not a lot that the citizens can do to help the economic woes of the city, but they can still do one thing: cultivate a community.

“Any neighborhood can become a wasteland,” said William Barlage, head of East English Village Homeowner’s Association on Detroit’s east side. “It takes a community to stop it.”

The Huffington Post reports on one neighborhood taking responsibility for the abandoned homes and in the process, ensuring that nearby homes don’t succumb to the domino effect facing so many neighborhoods across Detroit.

What is the difference between a city and a community? A city should be able to pick up the trash, keep public areas clean, and ensure that the citizens feel safe. Beyond that, there is much more that defines a city. That sense of place, the thing that drives people to make their homes there, and to take pride in what they own, that comes not from the city, but from the community. A city is the government, a community is the people.