America’s disaster

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The longer the economy remains a disaster, the more people may start wondering whether some of America’s cities are anything but a lost cause and, if so, what does that mean?

In Highland Park, Michigan — Detroit — the city can’t even pay its electric bill, anymore, so the city is turning off street lights.

“How can you darken any city?” the Associated Press quotes Victoria Dowdell asking as she stood in the halo of a light in her front yard. “I think that was a disgrace. She said the decision endangers everyone, especially people who have to walk around at night or catch the bus.


In 1980, the census counted 27,000 people living in Highland Park. By 2010, that number had fallen to 11,776.

The median household income is $18,700, compared with $48,700 statewide. And 42 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty.

“It’s pretty ghetto,” Cassandra Cabil said from her front yard. Voices drift in the darkness from down the street, but the speakers can’t be seen.

It was an auto city, of course, and nobody thinks the jobs are ever coming back.

Yesterday on Twitter, actor Denis Leary called attention to this documentary being made about Detroit.

BURN: One Year on the Frontlines of the Battle to Save Detroit (Kickstarter sneak peek) from BURN on Vimeo.

In Washington state, the governor is thinking about getting rid of school buses.

For the most part, it’s not that dire — yet — in Minnesota, where MPR’s Ground Level project has been documenting the cuts that cities are making: Foley, for example, is cutting police protection, Nowthen is about to decide whether to also give up all but emergency services, libraries are being closed, and businesses are closing and cutting back.

Street lights, cops, libraries, school buses. These were once the “core services” of government and their demise signals a new phase of deterioration.

The unanswered question is: Can it ever change or is this the new America in which we try to “save” only those whom we believe can be saved?