Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dublin, Detroit, and taxes

In April, the Free Press pointed to Pittsburgh for lessons on how the city of Detroit could revitalize itself. This week, Ellen Creager looks farther afield to Dublin. In a nutshell, Dublin went from bust to boom by slashing corporate taxes and investing its E.U. subsidies in education. Unfortunately, as the author repeatedly acknowledges, those lessons mean little for Detroit beyond the obvious (businesses like low taxes, and a better-educated workforce is, well, better) because the parallels between the cities are so few.

If there's a real lesson to be drawn, it's that Detroit needs to overhaul its tax system, which is currently caught in an unforgiving loop. As more residents leave, revenues decline, leaving fewer people left to pay for city services. To balance the budget, the city makes further cuts to services and is forced to raise fees, sending yet more residents fleeing, and forcing another round of belt-tightening and/or tax-raising.

This is obviously unsustainable. At some point, the city must find a way to lower its taxes -- especially the much-hated city income tax -- but it can't do so without an alternative source of revenue to compensate for what will initially be a serious drop in revenue. For now the city and county seem to hope that new tax incentive programs, like Land Bank T.U.R.B.O., will be sufficient to jumpstart new development.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Detroit Promise?

According to Crain's, a business leader has begun fund raising to provide scholarships to the graduates of Detroit Public Schools. The goal is to duplicate the much-lauded Kalamazoo Promise, "a pledge by a group of anonymous donors to pay up to 100 percent of tuition at any of Michigan's state colleges or universities for graduates of Kalamazoo high schools." I sincerely hope the Detroit College Promise succeeds.

Detroit as summer getaway

An arts blog from San Francisco has a refreshing take on Detroit: the ideal city for a summer home. At once urban and rural, the city's desolate east side offers dirt-cheap historic homes amidst urban prairie. The author is proud to have purchased a three-bedroom vacation home on the Detroit River for "less than a new Cadillac Escalade."

Hat tip: Model D.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Spotlight on Detroit development

Crain's Detroit published its third annual Living and investing in the D supplement, which highlights the major developments of the past year: the growth of urban gardening, new plans for mass transit, and so on. I especially enjoyed the short essays by Detroit professionals (here and here) about why they choose to live in Detroit and what their dreams are for the city's future.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Please, please, please resign

Please, Kwame. Do it for Detroit if not your own dignity.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

If I were in Detroit ...

I would go on the urban garden tour this Wednesday. Hosted by the Detroit Agricultural Network, the tour spotlights the hundreds of gardens tranforming the city. (And for what it's worth, I'd also catch Werner Herzog's new film showing at the DFT.)

P.S. The Free Press has an article on some of the young people moving to Detroit. Not too much depth there, but it's good to be reminded that the city keeps attracting idealists even in the roughest of times.