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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Mower Gang", Reverse Vandalism, and Detroit Velodrome

After reading some data (that Michigan median household income is 21%, or $12000, lower in 2009 than 2000 - http://detnews.com/article/20100928/METRO/9280389/Census--Recession-took-greatest-toll-on-Michigan) proving what we already know (that Michigan has been hurt worst by this recession and over the past decade), I was thankful for a feel-good story.

Here is another positive headline of Detroiters taking improvement efforts into their own hands and not waiting for permits or bureaucracy or the police or funding: http://detnews.com/article/20100928/OPINION03/9280373/Renegade-rehabbers-get-Detroit-Velodrome-rolling

This group, the "Mower Gang", just started in August, and is cleaning up city parks that have been left to rot by the city. It looks like the most high profile project they have undertaken is to restore the Detroit Velodrome at Dorais Park (a bike racing track built in 1969, after the riots actually). They will have it ready for an ad hoc fundraising race on October 16.

It is encouraging to see that more and more people are taking matters into their own hands to fix Detroit. It is not some kind of anti-government Tea Party sentiment at work here I think, but rather, the realization that sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and if you don't fix it, who will?

Some interesting highlights from the article:

"Billing itself on Facebook as "a crafty crew that refuses to let small budgets and bureaucracy stand in the way of a great playground," they set out to do good in a concrete way, without fuss."

"As the 23-year-old Didorosi says on the Thunderdrome website: "A lot of young people are starting to ignore their parents' warnings and rediscover a lot of great stuff (about Detroit)." "
"In the meantime, "reverse vandalism" seems as if it ought to be legal."


Didorosi: "Ignore the past, ignore the rot, and just do: make, improve, fix."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Detroit Lives" documentary

After seeing the new "Detroit Lives" 32-minute film with Johnny Knoxville, Nolan Finley wrote a piece today that I surprisingly agreed with quite a bit (http://detnews.com/article/20100926/OPINION03/9260306/1008/A-new-vision-for-Detroit).

Basically, the film got him to thinking that maybe the grand vision of Detroit's renaissance as imagined by the "corporate class" isn't the only way or even the best way to bring back Detroit. Maybe, the more direct, hands on, activist approach by the "creative class" is what can bring more lasting results.

The most key passage from his editorial:

"Where the smug urban pioneers of my generation settled in the best neighborhoods, this new breed thrives on Detroit's gritty side.

They're scraping and painting old houses and moving in. They're tearing boards off empty storefronts and opening micro businesses. They're mowing parks, planting gardens and painting murals without asking permission or waiting for master plans.

They have none of their parents' fear of the city, venturing well wide of downtown.

They've discovered Detroit is just the place for those with more ideas than money.

Their faces are often covered with beards and tattoos, but they get the same resistance as the suits do because those faces are mostly white. They break through by embracing Detroit for what it is, and staying in it day and night."

On a side note, the News is sponsoring a local premiere of the film this upcoming Wednesday. The showings will be at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Burton Theater, 3420 Cass. You can e-mail RSVP@notedcomm.com with "Detroit News" in the subject line, specifying which screening you want to attend, to RSVP.