If Detroit’s recovery was at issue in litigation today, the city’s defense would be a failing argument that would subject officials to scathing scrutiny both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion.
And the evidence that embarrassingly contradicts the touted comeback is contained in a recent report released by the Detroit Future City.
The blistering “139 Square Miles” report shows the city’s majority African-American population lagging behind in the socioeconomic index, and that such a trend could continue even as it attempts to present an optimistic tone for the future. But the numbers in the report don’t lie and we need to deal with that reality.
“Since the first quarter of 2010, Detroit has added 30,000 private-sector jobs, increasing the total jobs in the city to 238,400. The rate of private job growth in this period has been slightly higher (17 percent) than in the rest of the country (16 percent). Notably, this growth has not only been concentrated in downtown and Midtown, but also in many of the city’s key industrial areas. Detroit has matched or exceeded the region in traded clusters, but has had lower job gains in neighborhood-serving businesses,” the report stated.
The statistics contradict city hall’s standard mantra that the neighborhoods are seeing growth. The report affirms what Detroiters have been saying all along: That economic growth only exists in and around the business district, while citing that only 33 percent of jobs in Detroit are held by blacks compared to 61 percent for whites.
The report notes the obvious about Detroit’s 40 percent poverty rate and found that 57 percent of children live in those same conditions. But the study introduced a more startling fact: It found that 20 percent of seniors are in poverty and that 53 percent of residents live in areas of concentrated poverty.
These are not the numbers that should be attributed to a comeback city. Rather, these stats are a serious warning about an impending social disaster if measures are not taken to address such decline. There is an urgent need for city government to recalibrate and double efforts to either grow the city or stem the tide of this economic malaise.
Take, for example, the median income in Detroit that the report highlighted as of 2015. It was less than half of the region “with nearly a third of households making less than $15,000 per year and only 6 percent of households making more than $100,000.”
And family income, which has fallen continuously since 2010, according to the report, shows that blacks are hurting the most.
“The decline has been greater for African American Detroiters (-17 percent) than white residents since 2010 (-8 percent),” the report stated.
The bottom line is we can no longer continue to debate whether the city is coming back or not. The numbers in this report don’t lie and give us a bleak future amidst a high degree of optimism expressed in the report’s preamble. Detroiters don’t need optimism as much as they need their leaders to go to work with concrete plans that will stop the decline.
Many leaders in the past have expressed hope for the better. But that hasn’t changed the circumstances in this city. Yes, good investments are coming into Detroit. But they are not impacting the majority in the city.
Fair enough to say that some of the decline outlined in this report began to take place before the dawn of the Mike Duggan administration. But the mayor is in the driving seat now. That means he has an obligation to tackle this issue.
If the historic bankruptcy was meant to signal a new era of revitalization in the city — by massively reducing Detroit’s debt — the findings in this Detroit Future City report dashes the hope of many residents who have yet to feel positive impacts of the recovery.
Because the bankruptcy was meant to put Detroit government in a stronger financial position so that it can deliver for the people.
The report coming in a re-election year becomes an added significance for debate.
The writer hosts “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Super Station 910AM. This column appears Mondays and Thursdays.