Tedder: Problems of blight and oversight
We all want to help Detroit. The restoration of this once-powerful, vibrant and prosperous city is a concern for residents statewide because, as many have said, the fate of that city is tied to the fate of Michigan.
So at first blush, the swift vote of the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority board to send nearly two-thirds of the U.S. Treasury’s $32.7 million in Michigan blight assistance funding directly to Detroit seems like the right thing to do. Certainly, blight is a problem in Detroit that we need to combat.
Yet, something about the hastiness of that action left me and a number of residents particularly uneasy.
One of the hallmarks of Michigan’s Lost Decade was a tendency by state government to increase appropriations as a knee-jerk attempt to provide a solution.
These lessons of recent history seem to have eluded the housing board, which recently voted to approve $21 million of your tax dollars hardly 24 hours after the U.S. Treasury approved that funding for blight removal. What’s more, their ability to do so without oversight feels like a holdover from an era which led our state to suffer.
The response from my community is echoing across other areas of blight in our state. At my back door, Pontiac has struggled with ongoing, unanswered blight, while Detroit’s recovery continues to ramp up. Further, while the $11 million remainder of the funding went to Flint, the massive blight of Summit Place Mall in Waterford goes ignored. Residents feel for Detroit, but we have problems at home that need the same amount of attention.
How much assistance should go to other areas? I don’t have that figure yet, but I know the number isn’t this close to zero. There are significant blight problems throughout our state that Detroit’s turn-around is not guaranteed to fix.
This is a problem with transparency and oversight, not people. Detroit’s leaders, the governor, and all involved parties want the same thing for the city. I want to personally thank Mayor Mike Duggan for doing a great job on numerous fronts with Detroit’s bus city, lighting authority and more. Detroit’s comeback is going to require monumental change, and I’m happy to be a partner in that.
However, there are now questions regarding the significant increase in costs behind Detroit's current blight demolition project. These are questions that should be answered before millions more are spent. We need to make sure that this money does the most good in improving Michigan’s recovery.
Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston, represents Michigan’s 43rd House District.