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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Schools and parks

It has been a while since I last posted - I apologize for my absence.

In the meantime, I still have not heard back from Mr. Bobb about my offer to volunteer and help his effforts to fix the Detroit Public Schools. I followed up with a phone call to his office last week, and his assistant told me his chief of staff still hadn't looked at resumes and offers to help...I think that is a bit outrageous, but sadly, it isn't the worst I've seen in terms of volunteer management.

Alas, more bad news out of the Detroit schools today - today's Free Press reports that the district may have to declare bankruptcy (that isn't even the worst news - a number of students were shot this afternoon waiting for a bus!). Here are some highlights from the article:

"Calling the Detroit Public Schools budget the worst he's ever seen, the state-appointed emergency financial manager said Monday that he is considering other measures -- including filing for bankruptcy."

" "I cannot balance the budget," Robert Bobb told the audience of less than 100 people at a public hearing at Cass Technical High School. "I never thought I'd hear myself say that.""

"DPS will enter the next school year with a deficit of about $259 million, down from the projected $430 million, Bobb said."

On a brighter note, I am a bit closer to piloting my idea to turn abandoned plots into mini-parks. Imam El Amin liked the idea, and we've identified a small lot owned by the city near the Muslim Center that we could convert. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lack of Retailers in Detroit

I know the residents of Detroit on this blog have encountered the lack of retail stores in the city and found it to be problematic. This WSJ article discusses the issue.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Returning to Nature? Not a bad idea!!!

"US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodbye, GM (by Michael Moore)

Goodbye, GM
by Michael Moore

June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General
Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have
made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by
friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen
to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in
the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you
lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be
your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned
obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart
after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new
one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles
that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe
as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh --
and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly
fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly
ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would
become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent
on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers
for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line
of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record
profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus
destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans.
The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated
the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was
going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this
blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the
Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water
system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body
not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy.
It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my
hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness,
physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I
grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that
21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I
know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants
$50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still
trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM
is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though,
is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting
down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still
had them when we realize that those factories could have built the
alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we
realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and
bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed
our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the
bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to
implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the
nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried
to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power
structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have
been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and
sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor,
the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must
immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass
transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in
Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the
assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion
took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted
against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate
leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in
Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler
are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for
global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we
call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million
daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them
would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies
against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they
can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil
that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are
sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th
century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore
down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are
not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are
only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end
days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people
willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can
of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert
the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars.
Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of
those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the
new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the
conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this
country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th
anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens
of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under
30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five
decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology
already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by
train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the
unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country.
Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7
hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our
large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories.
And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the
GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or
all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people
to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going
to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be
building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will
take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build
windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy.
We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an
eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or
train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of
gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or
to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have
built for them.

Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a
smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or
Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money
into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange
odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the
world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new
form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the
internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We
enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the
back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the
races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean
for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over.
It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must
seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very
sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed
away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another
97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this
country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Michael Moore