banner james carlini - Carlini's CornerBy James Carlini

The city of Detroit is faced with a 50/50 chance of bankruptcy and this should not be taken lightly. Many can criticize what led up to this financial catastrophe, but the more important issue is what can everyone learn from it?

Detroit is not alone on being an American municipality on the brink of financial disaster. Many other cities and counties across the country face the same economic problems and should be watching very closely as to what happens to Detroit. They spent too much, promised too much to workers, and continue to spend when they do not have the same amount coming in on revenue streams.


How do we use Detroit as something to learn from, rather than just being another crash on the economic highway that we drive by, stop to view and shake our head, but not learn anything from? (Picture is abandoned Packard Plant in Detroit, Yves Marchand, TIME Magazine, more here,29307,1882089_1850984,00.html )


Here’s an interesting concept. Make Detroit a MUST SEE city for every municipal city planner, economic development commission and everyone else tied into municipal government. (including union leaders for teachers, police and fire, etc.)

Forget universities and their government curricula. Make Detroit the “lab school” for those needing a dose of political and economic reality when it comes to running a city. These are all questions that need to be carefully reviewed and answered:

  • What went wrong?
  • What led up to the financial collapse?
  • Is there a way to re-build and re-invent itself? (There may not be.)
  • How do we avoid becoming another Detroit?
  • What economic and infrastructure safeguards should we institute so that we do not fall into the financial abyss?

Why not learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of repeating them in your own city? Sound too logical? Maybe it’s time to get rid of a lot of uninformed deadwood in political leadership positions and replace them with people who understand how to overcome real obstacles.

Detroit is a wake-up call that ALL other cities cannot afford to ignore or be unaware of.

Instead of holding some typical glitzy, all-you-can-drink-and-eat “economic development summit” in Las Vegas or some other great convention town for municipal administrators and unions, set one up in Detroit complete with bus tours into neighborhoods that have returned back to farming.

YES, farming – because they don’t have anything on the land anymore and they have turned it into a piece of farmland because there is no economic development or city services covering that area.

It would be like the American municipality version of “Scared Straight” for city/municipal administrators, local government agencies, and their vendors as well as union leaders. The main message to all, “Wake up, you don’t want to wind up like this.”

Detroit would benefit directly from this program as they would get some much-needed money coming in from tourism which is not one of their strong suits anymore. This would give Detroit a solid infusion of cash from the outside that would pump directly into their economy with more people utilizing their hotels, restaurants, taxis, airport, and so many other places that would sustain real jobs.

Not too many people are looking on Expedia or Travelocity for vacations to downtown Detroit. This program would be a catalyst for that activity.

Detroit must re-build its platform for commerce. Creating a recurring conference for municipal government officials as well as all the affiliated organizations that deal with them would be a worthwhile project that would offer pragmatic insights that could be built upon in other cities.

CARLINI-ISM : “Regional economic development is key for regional

Copyright 2013 – James Carlini



  1. Good perspective and good points made but it appears to avoid the murky depths of the situation and the economic impacts over-time. Clearly what we see are the results of a lot of failed visions but also the success of several plans. You avoid topics like the glitzy Canadian casinos across the river, massive tax breaks for corporation that all moved to the suburbs anyway, the payment of no corporate taxes by the largest auto makers, the Federal Reserve’s move out of downtown, the bankruptcy of major industry in the area, the vast chasm between the haves & the have not, the state’s / governor’s privatization agenda (and all that encompasses) etc., Unfortunately Mr. Black, this was years in the making, not simply the result of a few minorities inheriting a flaming, honey dipped cheese puff then pointing the finger at them and saying “look, they’re on fire”. You don’t need to go to Detroit to know what it’s like to be poor, screwed over and have no opportunities for social advancement and eventually to end up in a privatized prison system.

  2. TPerkins – wake up are read the article a little better. The focus is to show city administrators how DECAYED Detroit is and that seeing that decay would shock them into doing some better things for their own city. You ever watch the series “Scared Straight” or “Beyond Scared Straight”?

    It’s not about seeing some plots of vegetable patches or “selling” the idea of economic development based on urban farming. The “venture” is to take apathetic municipal government employees and their colleagues through a war zone to see how bad you can run down a city. It’s to shock them into getting their own cities back on track both financially and economically.

    You miss the point.

    Please do some indepth reading comprehension next time before you comment on another article like this. Thanks.

  3. Sorry, Mr Carlini…not Mr Black.

  4. Mr Black,,turning this into a tourist attraction, hoping people will visit Detroits neighborhoods to see farm land???? sorry, I do not think the demand/supply curve and basic economic principles will support such a venture. Are you sure you didn’t work for the previousDetroit city planning and development. really…..Please do some more indepth research before you write another article like this.

  5. Mr. Black – thank you for your feedback.

  6. Mr Carlini…… i was born in Detroit and have lived and worked there at various times i feel i am qualified to speak to your article….you are 100% right about Detroit being a wake up call for other cities……being 64 years old i have watched the slow motion train wreck that is Detroit now… is a perfect example of reverse racism..(it’s our city now and we’ll run it the way we want”)….. it pains me to say that as i feel i am very liberal on most social issues…….local governments must work together as they are all connected…..i’ll stop now before i really start ranting (lol)
    keep up the good work
    Robert Black
    Dearborn Michigan

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