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Detroit could play a part in a metropolitan revolution

Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.
flickr user Bernt Rostad
Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.

Ever since the news broke that Detroit had filed for bankruptcy, there has been a tidal wave of stories about the Motor City sent to all corners of the world. A city in ruin. Street lights that don’t work. Police response times of nearly an hour. Broken fire rigs and no money for repairs. Abandoned buildings.

But the next guest believes that this historic bankruptcy provides not only new challenges, but new opportunities to hit the “reset” button and build a city core that can be vibrant and strong, hopefully strong enough to lift up other regions of the city.

Bruce Katz is a vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Along with Jennifer Bradley, he is co-author of the new book “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.”

“I don’t think it’s efficient . . . just to focus on getting the fiscal house in order,” said Katz. “We need a growth strategy in the United States post-recession. We still have to create more jobs. We still have to create better jobs.”

Katz feels that in Detroit we have allowed the negative to crowd out the positives. Businesses are already building on the advantages and assets available there, despite the challenges of population growth and dispersion of jobs.

“Let’s not forget why this was a great city, and let’s now being to reimagine—not just reimagine, actually work towards its revival and comeback.”

There is a risk of developing two Detroits, one that is thriving with tech start-ups, medical, and education, and one that is a largely decaying residential area. But Katz believes that this can be prevented by better-preparing students for the work force.

“We can reorient a portion of our high schools in cities like Detroit to have this constant feeder system of trained qualified workers getting into good jobs, better jobs,” he said. “But it means we have to rethink education  . . . at the curriculum level.”

And, he feels that the Detroit bankruptcy will only impact the momentum of this metropolitan revolution as much we allow it to.

“We should not confuse the fiscal health of cities with their economic potential," Katz said. "And we should not confuse cities with just the health of their government.”

Listen to the full interview above.

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