Tear down havens of hell


While Americans are responding differently to the end of an intense campaign season, one thing that all Americans could agree on is that fixing our inner cities should be our No. 1 priority.

A national strategy that would eliminate significant amounts of inner city crime, drugs, arsons and murders would be a massive cleanup and removal of abandoned, dangerous and blighted buildings. These structures, which range from 7,000 to 30,000 in many inner cities, serve as havens of hell: each day, innocent children walk to school in fear that they may be the next casualty, dragged into one of these abandoned structures by people of bad intentions.

If you do not have a sense of how blight drives physical and mental hurt in our inner cities, take a ride through some of Detroit’s hardest hit streets, and you will appreciate how hard this must be on our children.

This should not happen in the United States of America.

A proven blueprint, however, exists and has significantly reduced crime in areas of Detroit, a city plagued by over 30,000 blighted buildings. By using private sector techniques in a charitable blight removal setting, the Blight Authority — our non-profit dedicated to eliminating urban blight and putting communities back on their feet — cleared over 600 lots and 21 city blocks of blight within days in inner city Detroit.

This concentrated, large-scale blight removal instantly changed the Detroit neighborhoods physically and reduced criminal activity overnight. City residents rejoiced at the cessation of nightly gun shots which had reverberated throughout their neighborhood.

The Blight Authority also partnered with the Mayor of Pontiac, leading to more than 760 of the 900 blighted buildings being demolished. As a result, Pontiac is over 80 percent blight-free and on track to be 100 percent blight-free by 2018. Pontiac’s arsons and violent crimes are down, property values are up over 15 percent, and kids can finally walk to school safely.

Imagine if these strategies were used across our nation, but with the large resources of HUD and the federal government.

By bringing in new and competitive contractor standards, removing red tape, and holding politicians accountable, President-elect Donald Trump has a big opportunity to revitalize our precious and vulnerable neighborhoods.

The incoming administration can eliminate corruption and also ensure that money is being properly accounted for. Recently in southeast Michigan, a city’s demolition program was suspended by the federal government and is reportedly being investigated by the FBI and SIGTARP, a law enforcement unit of U.S. Treasury.

America’s future is bright, but we need smart and quick action to clean up the soul of America, our inner cities. Our most vulnerable children are depending on our collective action.

Bill Pulte is founder of the Detroit Blight Authority.