Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
I believe that Detroit Future City is one of the most pernicious forces at work in the City of Detroit today. Detroit Future City, a self-proclaimed “think tank,” encourages and facilitates efforts to rebrand certain favored neighborhoods in Detroit while indirectly advocating the removal of resources and investment from Detroit’s disfavored neighborhoods. It is, quite simply, in the business of playing favorites at the expense of Detroit’s poorest citizens.
Most Detroit residents aren’t fools. As reported by the Metro Times earlier this year, people are beginning to look past Detroit Future City’s glittery exterior and see the organization for what it really is—the driving force behind the Balkanization of Detroit. (http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/welcome-to-springwells-village-a-southwest-detroit-neighborhood-most-of-its-own-residents-have-never-heard-of/Content?oid=2277537) Of course, Detroit’s former acting mayor and Detroit Future City executive director Ken Cockrel, Jr., has denied all such allegations. (http://detroitfuturecity.com/2015/01/feedback-detroit-future-city-sets-the-record-straight/) Anyone who has actually read the Detroit Future City playbook, however, is more than familiar with the organization’s motives and aims. This is particularly frightening given that Mayor Mike Duggan’s top development officer once referred to the Detroit Future City master plan as his “bible.”
Early Tuesday morning, the Knight Foundation announced that 32 urban-revitalization initiatives around the country would receive Knight Cities Challenge grants, including six recipients in Detroit. One of these recipients, known as “The Buzz,” is an idea that was submitted by Erin Kelly. “The Buzz” will receive $84,055 to “pai[r] barbers with landscape contractors to . . . teach mowing and pattern-making techniques.” Incredibly (and I mean incredibly in the classic sense of the word), Kelly has explained that the objective of “The Buzz” is to help Detroit residents identify with the unique mowing patterns that will be cut into the grass of nearby vacant lots, thereby creating greater pride in Detroit’s neighborhoods. You read that correctly. The idea behind “The Buzz” is that each Detroit neighborhood should have a distinctive hairstyle for the grass growing on its vacant parcels. When I first woke up and read this news on my iPhone, I thought it was a joke. But it’s not. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. Apparently “The Buzz” believes that even vacant lots deserve a fancy haircut from time to time. (There has been no word on why barbers are particularly qualified to cut grass.)
Imagine what $84,055 could do in the right hands. How many homeless people could Gleaners Community Food Bank or Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church feed with this money? How many community vegetable gardens could be started with these funds? How many neighborhood playgrounds could be renovated? Instead, the Knight Foundation has decided to award this money to what can only be described as an idiotic and laughable initiative. Should we be surprised? Nope. Erin Kelly works for Detroit Future City, providing all the evidence we need that cronyism and favoritism are still alive and well in Detroit. To get the money and preferential treatment in this town, you just have to run in the right circles. Don’t be surprised when Kelly announces that her enterprise will only be giving its stylish haircuts to vacant lots in Detroit’s coolest and hippest neighborhoods.