The longer the economy remains a disaster, the more people may start wondering whether some of America's cities are anything but a lost cause and, if so, what does that mean?
In Highland Park, Michigan -- Detroit -- the city can't even pay its electric bill, anymore, so the city is turning off street lights.
"How can you darken any city?" the Associated Press quotes Victoria Dowdell asking as she stood in the halo of a light in her front yard. "I think that was a disgrace. She said the decision endangers everyone, especially people who have to walk around at night or catch the bus.
In 1980, the census counted 27,000 people living in Highland Park. By 2010, that number had fallen to 11,776.
The median household income is $18,700, compared with $48,700 statewide. And 42 percent of the city's residents live in poverty.
"It's pretty ghetto," Cassandra Cabil said from her front yard. Voices drift in the darkness from down the street, but the speakers can't be seen.
It was an auto city, of course, and nobody thinks the jobs are ever coming back.
Yesterday on Twitter, actor Denis Leary called attention to this documentary being made about Detroit.
In Washington state, the governor is thinking about getting rid of school buses.
For the most part, it's not that dire -- yet -- in Minnesota, where MPR's Ground Level project has been documenting the cuts that cities are making: Foley, for example, is cutting police protection, Nowthen is about to decide whether to also give up all but emergency services, libraries are being closed, and businesses are closing and cutting back.
Street lights, cops, libraries, school buses. These were once the "core services" of government and their demise signals a new phase of deterioration.
The unanswered question is: Can it ever change or is this the new America in which we try to "save" only those whom we believe can be saved?
Time for that 1% that's been vacuuming up money for the last 30 years to put it back into our country.
Colorado Springs turned off a good portion of their streetlights because of funding. Then you could "Adopt-a-streetlight" to turn it back on. Which, of course, resulted in poorer neighborhoods being dark and wealthier neighborhoods paying to turn the lights back on.
(A quick google reveals that they have since turned all the lights back on and refunded the adoption fees)
Michael Lewis's latest book, Boomerang spends some time talking about state and local finances. The short version is that the feds are pushing more responsibility to the states, and the states turn around and push it down to the cities, but the cities can't push more responsibility on anyone else. The cities then either cut a lot of services or go bankrupt. We can see an example of that here at MPR, talking about the city of Nowthen.
My hometown -- which I've written about here -- turned all the streetlights off. My mother's home was broken into twice since then -- once while she was sleeping. When I was home to paint her house this summer, they were still off.
//These were once the "core services" of government and their demise signals a new phase of deterioration.
It's not "deterioration." This is the version of America that Tea Party folks are pushing for; what you call deterioration, others call small government.
It's dire... and it's only going to get worse. People can cling to the hope that the federal and state government will come to their rescue, but what they should do is look to their neighbors, and find ways to support each other. Communities that can adapt and support themselves will survive.
Check out www.strongtowns.org for a great discussion about these issues.