Friday, December 27, 2013

Amid Detroit’s Bankruptcy, A New Vibrancy Emerges

Here's my article that was just published by the Heartland Institute, a conservative-libertarianish think tank in Chicago.

In spite of the same-old, same-old media garbage about Detroit grabbing the usual headlines, it's interesting to note that so many free-market organizations, online papers, magazines, websites, etc. are interested in all of the good things going on here that are fueled by private interests.

I also did a podcast with Steve Stanek of the Heartland Institute that will be up on the website sometime around January 1st.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

C.A.N. Art Handworks, Inc.

A great Detroit business that most folks do not know exists.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Anthony Bourdain Does Detroit

The American Daily Herald is running my piece on Anthony Bourdain's visit to Detroit.

Say 30 Nice Things About Detroit

Ian Douglass sent me his article he published on the Movoto blog: "30 Things You Need to Know About Detroit Before You Move There."

I think Ian's rundown is a refreshingly positive and artfully humorous view of the Detroit brand. I especially like his reference to Vernors, the "oldest surviving ginger ale brand in the United States." Typically these Detroit narratives include mention of our coney island dogs, but not Vernors. And more importantly, #19 on the list refers to the fact that we say "pop" here, not soda. The use of soda in this part of the world will identify you as an outsider and you will forever be branded with a label of blasphemy. Literally, locals despise the term soda. I know I do.

A minor slip does occur, however, when Detroit is noted as the consumption capital of potato chips, but our Better Made potato chip factory did not make the cut. Other mentions that are notable:

(1) Motown Museum, where all the groove started.
(2) The repurposing of land via urban agriculture. My friends over at Brother Nature farm get a mention.
(3) #16: the photo of the "welcome to Detroit" sign with a bumper sticker slapped on it that reads "Kwame Killed My City." He may have killed it, but a citizen-entrepreneur army is taking it back.

One super-epic failure that needs to be mentioned here: #30 points out that "Mexicantown restaurant edges Xochimilco as the best" Mexican restaurant. Horrors, horrors, horrors! These restaurants all serve up the usual "Mexican fare": Americanized junk food dressed up in flour tortillas with mounds of processed cheese piled on everything. These restaurants attract what I refer to as the "suburban tourists." They do not serve Mexican food. If I needed any confirmation on this, I have that in three of my Mexican-bred co-workers who all live and function in Mexicantown and can attest to my skills for identifying Mexican food as opposed to Americanized nonsense. Remember Chi-Chi's, those awful chains? These restaurants serve up the same constitution. Blah!

You must get out of the "tourist section" of Mexicantown to visit the truly Mexican restaurants that actually serve Mexican food. Taqueria Mi Pueblo on Dix is one of the more authentic places, but even better are the Mexican taco trucks that are conveniently placed at neighborhood hot spots (legal) or conveniently hidden from street view (illegal). These places are beyond magnificent with their freshly-made (locally) double-wrapped corn tortillas, fresh herbs and spices, everything bathed in cilantro, and no processed cheese piled on American-style.

Source: RealTimeFarms.com



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Another Dan Gilbert Acquisition

His Bedrock Real Estate Services LLC has purchased the "Eastern Hair & Wig Co." building at the corner of Woodward and Grand River.
A Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board report posted on the city's website says that 1400 Woodward was constructed as the T. B. Rayl & Co. store, which sold sleds, ice skates, mantle pieces, tool chests and cutlery.
Can't wait to hear about the future for this great location.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Detroit's Mexicantown Taco Trucks

Some of the more visible ones are situated on main intersections in Detroit's Mexicantown and are therefore above-ground legal. The others that are hidden behind tire shops and in the parking lots of factories are not so legal. My Mexicano friends at the office are well aware of two things: (1) I despise Americanized "Mexican" restaurant tourist traps that attract local suburbanites and city folk who think that flour tortillas piled with 12 pounds of processed cheese is "Mexican food", and (2) I love, and covet, any illegal Mexican establishment owned by illegal aliens that attempts to, and succeeds, at serving customers who desire real Mexican food. This includes the use of real (double) corn (not flour) tortillas; fresh herbs; multiple meats (including marinated pork, and of course, chorizo); and bathing food items in fresh cilantro ... all at bargain prices. This is the kind of food I have only found in the most remote (non-tourist) places in Mexico. For that reason, and since that time in Mexico, I reject all Americanized (non-Mexican) "Mexican" food.

Thank goodness my company has had a batch of very talented and amazing Mexican and Mexican-American interns-turned permanent employees working for us (and me) this year - they have taken me into the bowels of the most amazing places in Mexicantown that only the most astute locals would know about and frequent as customers. The only issue is language - but at least I have translators.

Detroit Sucks and Don't You Forget It (and Other Really Negative Vibes)

It's funny how a small group of libertarians are rallying 'round the flag of something called "feel-good" libertarianism as the new jingle in the land of the free and the home of self-imposed anarchy.

The new convictions of the happiness collective include never, ever writing anything that can be construed as negative, pessimistic, or a "polemic rant." That leaves out just about any topic of interest to libertarians, such as the crimes of the industrial food machine; the shenanigans of the Federal Reserve and the manipulation of the entire monetary system; the abominations of the militarized police state; the state's numerous wars and killing fields; the longevity (or lack thereof) of the stock market bubble; how ObamaCare will destroy your freedom of choice regarding your own health; and ... [fill in almost any topic here]. Unless, of course, you only write about or discuss the positive aspects of escaping the negative aspects of statism and totalitarian rule that we libertarians, apparently, write about far too often.

So when I expose truths, connect dots, and present facts for others to ponder on their own, I am a pessimist and a polemicist - and this goes for all others who write the same, not just me. I get the nasty emails, and also, some friendly folks are kind enough to send along some of the more funny criticisms of me that are, indeed, polemic rants as they stand on their own. This kind of denunciation is nothing more than a colorless blip on my radar map which is usually followed by a ... forgetaboutit.

Yet each time I write something positive - especially about what is bubbling up in Detroit - I bring out the Detroit-hating trolls who claim I am ignorant, blinded by the obvious, and sometimes I am just plain stupid. And this criticism comes from people who have never stepped a foot onto Detroit soil, or even folks who have popped in and out of town a few times over the years, which, in their mind, is equated with "I know Detroit." <<eye roll please>>

Today I had one person - who claims the libertarian mantle - posting on my Facebook page that Detroit is a city of "crime, poverty, leftist politicians..." I do not make that up. Exact quote. If that doesn't describe every city in America, as well as just about any plot of land in America, then rub the inside of my ears with jelly and roll me in an anthill. Then I received a follow-up post of the proof that Detroit sucks: yet another tediously conventional, mainstream-garbage article that describe Detroit as "one of the ten worst...." Of course, the positive "10 best" articles, such as this one on FOX, that include Detroit as a "best" are never seen as relevant to the boorish naysayer nabobs of negativism. So yes, I continue to be flabbergasted by the ignorance of people who just want to hate some place they have never been because it makes them feel better about the statist plot of land that they occupy.

Why do they bother? If some topic does not interest you, I would think you would move on to that which does interest you.

So you see folks, it's not always easy to be positive - we get hated for that too. But as far as the Detroit Haters who know absolutely nothing about Detroit other than what they pull off the conventional media behind their laptops: they do nothing to affect me or the fact that I will continue to write about how Detroiters and entrepreneurs who are flocking to Detroit have the grit to keep moving forward with underground and above-ground economies that function and thrive in spite of the fact that we have the same crime, leftist politicians, and poverty that are experienced everywhere else in the U.S., especially the centrally-planned, Marxist-dominated urban areas. Indeed, folks like Jane Jacobs and Edward C. Banfield were on top of this, oh ... a mere 40 and 50+ years ago?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Warehouse District: Blighted Color

Photo from the Detroit warehouse district.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Detroit Wall Art

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Friday, November 29, 2013

Heidelberg Fires

Another arson fire at the Heidelberg Art Project. The House of Soul, the War Room, the Penny House, and now the Obstruction of Justice House. I think Tyree Guyton (the artist being interviewed) has got to step out of the zen zone and stop referring to these acts of arson as "opportunities."


 

Jimmy Fallon in Detroit

And our visitors are always looking for a coney island. Jimmy is no exception. In fact, back-to-back coney island choices for Jimmy.


Did Anthony Bourdain Diss Detroit?

Anthony Bourdain came, saw, spoke brashly, and went on his way. He came to Detroit to film an episode of his popular CNN series "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown." After the segment aired, he had plenty to say concerning his experiences and personal judgment of Detroit and Detroiters. Detroit Free Press writer Sylvia Rector wrote the following describing Bourdain's assessment of our rust-to-riches city:
Anthony Bourdain proves himself to be a romantic, unabashed admirer of Detroit’s history, spirit and resiliency — even as he declares it “utterly screwed” and compares it to Chernobyl...
Bourdain later wrote the following in a Tumblr post:
I love Detroit. I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in America—still.
...Detroit looks like nowhere else. Detroit looks like motherfuckin' Detroit. As it should. 
...I love Detroit. I love Detroiters. You’ve got to have a sense of humor to live in a city so relentlessly fucked. You’ve got to be tough—and occasionally even devious. And Detroiters are funny, tough—and supreme improvisers.
Though some Detroiters were slighted by his mishmash of post-visit messages, I think that overall Bourdain left a very positive spin on the city of Detroit. Sure, the first half of Bourdain's show highlighted the usual empty fields and ruin porn, and he even compared Detroit to Chernobyl. He had this to say about his dabble in the porn fields:
I, too, I'm afraid, am guilty of wallowing in ruin porn, of making sure we pointed our cameras, lingered even, in the waist-high grass, overgrown gardens, abandoned mansions, crumbling towers, denuded neighborhoods of what was once an all-powerful metropolis, the engine of capitalism.
In fact, he took things a step further and did some urban exploring inside the notorious abandoned Packard Plant, a place that has become a playground and photography backdrop for locals and curious outsiders. The result is a stunning video for those who are not familiar with the landmark.


 


Nevertheless, Bourdain's emphasis on ruin porn wasn't all misplaced - in fact, the Phoenix rising from the ashes happens to be our extraordinary story that makes this city such an exceptional place to be right now. Everyone wants to know about, talk about, and understand the Detroit story, from its long history of raging capitalistic successes to its decades of plunder, and ultimately, the city's nosedive into the depths of blight and neglect. The story of discovery and rebirth of this part unknown starts with, yes, images of ruin porn and the lobotomized mass of bedraggled real estate. After all, unlike most anti-Detroit, media naysayers who google and write about the city's woes from behind a computer bearing distorted information, Bourdain came to Detroit and gave the city a shot at redemption.


  


After the highlight reel of ruin porn and Detroit on the fritz, the episode’s narrative focused on some do-it-yourself and unregulated dining experiences in the D. In fact, I was pleased to see that Bourdain took to attending local dining spots that are not on the government's radar. He visited one of Detroit's many unadvertised, unlicensed, non-restaurant, back-alley pop-ups wherein the locals take to opening up 'illegal' cooking services for willing diners. He also visited a pupusa house in an unlicensed, unregulated home environment. All to the good, and yes, this culture is one of the many components of the ground-up revolt for which Detroit is becoming known.

Bourdain then travelled over to the legit side of dining and visited a firehouse, where cooking great meals is a long-standing tradition. Here, much of his attention focused on the same yawn material: little fire engines that couldn't and all the other dysfunction around the Detroit Fire Department. Mr. Bourdain, 60 Minutes has been there, done that, and only a few weeks ago. [See my article, "60 Minutes is Intellectually Insolvent on its Detroit Doctrine."]

Next up was a visit to Detroit's celebrated, regulated pop-up scene, and one famous pop-up restaurant in particular: Guns + Butter. This is where he couldn’t comprehend how it is that a very talented, young chef, Craig Lieckfelt, has chosen to make himself a hangout here in Detroit, where his pop-up quickly became the hardest spot in town to get a reservation. Said Bourdain:
This guy could be running a 300-seat restaurant in Vegas, but here he is, in Detroit. 
He calls that both heroic and a foolhardy adventure. He can’t seem to fully appreciate why a first-rate chef would give up the conventional career path to come to Detroit. Chef Lieckfelt is a Detroit native, and he returned to his hometown after a stint in New York City. He plans on establishing a permanent restaurant in Detroit.

Along those lines, Bourdain can’t seem to understand how Lieckfelt’s restaurant “benefits Detroit.” Does a restaurant - or any other service-oriented business - need a special purpose for benefitting its customers because it is located in Detroit? All market services exist because they benefit customers and fetch a profit for the entrepreneur. But Las Vegas versus Detroit? Could there be a more flawed comparison?

While I certainly understand the conventional path of making dough and obtaining mainstream prominence, Las Vegas is a one-pony town that possesses no remarkable culture or historical appeal whatsoever. It's a gaming and entertainment climate where people go to blow off steam and blow out of town. Good for Lieckfelt for bypassing the nauseating ethos of Vegas and the orthodox path of New York to sink his roots in the rebirth of his hometown as a prominent chef. That’s a risk that this entrepreneur is willing to take to reap future benefits. In fact, Lieckfelt's non-conventional success has recently led him to import his talent to Los Angeles, where Guns + Butter popped up in the Roosevelt Hotel's Spare Room.

Bourdain also harped a bit too much on “political leadership,” not quite understanding how Detroit can be thriving in spite of not having a sound, local government in place to plan and coordinate all of the great happenings. Finally, Bourdain paid a visit to the Detroit Mower Gang, a group that voluntarily mows vacant areas and parks to increase the usefulness of public space that the city government abandoned long ago. So again, he touched on multiple elements of Detroit's community participation that undergirds the more visible features of the renewal.

After the show aired, the Detroit Free Press published an article that displayed Detroiter reactions to Bourdain's take on our city, and mostly, they all reflect the same thesis I use consistently in my Detroit: From Rust to Riches blog: Bourdain and crew did not do an appreciable job of showing the larger scope positives of the city and what is actually attracting people here in the first place. People are coming here to be a part of the resurgence of entrepreneurial and community ventures that are at the core of this city's return to prominence.

A friend of mine who returned to Michigan - and specifically downtown Detroit - after nineteen years in Manhattan noted that what she sees now in Detroit "is what Tribeca looked like 25 years ago." In the end, Bourdain understands this reality. He gets it. He has acknowledged this city’s urban renaissance and understands the influx of innovators and the creative set, and how that gradually leads to investment and density at the urban core.

The media is getting closer to the facts with each story they pull out of the Detroit hat, and that is encouraging enough that we Detroiters should welcome those who spend enough time here to try to deliver an authentic story from the trenches.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Morning Joe: Private Investment in Detroit

Governor Rick Snyder recently appeared on Morning Joe, and even Joe Scarborough seemed receptive to the notion that private investors are putting their investment dollars in anarcho-Detroit with the expectation of returns.


  

People Can't Stop Talkin' 'Bout Detroit

CNN on "getting to know Detroit."
The so-called "grit," "never-say-die spirit" and "determination" is not unique to Detroiters, either. It's in all of us, everywhere. Say hello. Smile. Shake hands. Be courteous. Be polite. Be normal. Welcome to Detroit.  

calm detroit

Happy Thanksgiving From Detroit

Couldn't resist this one.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pssst, Those White People Are Moving Back to Detroit

Yes, white folks are moving into the city in droves, and they are only part of a wider group of people bringing density and the customer base to Detroit's booming core. And some folks are not hip to it. Shame on Nolan Finley of the Detroit News for giving this loon, and others like her, serious air time and consideration. Folks like Shirley Stancato are now referred to as Detroit's "race warriors."

As this Detroit: From Rust to Riches blog has been documenting for some time now, Detroit has become the place to be, and has thus moved from being a city known for white flight to a city where all kinds of people - including white people -  can't get here fast enough. Occupancy rates in popular Midtown have pushed over 95%. I've lived here my whole life and I have never before seen such a fun and amazing hodgepodge of people that are living in the dense downtown areas. And there are still some naysayers kicking up a fuss over gentrification, housing prices, and ... white people moving back to the city. To quote Nolan Finley:
Downtown, meanwhile, is a magnet for creative and upwardly mobile young people of both races, but the tilt is heavily toward whites.
What he didn't add was that during Detroit's pre-2007, pre-renaissance period, young whites who would graduate from local colleges would leave here as fast as they could pick up their paper diploma and pack their vehicle. Human capital came, graduated, and went. These same young folks are flooding into the city to live the creative and exciting urban life that was never before available to them. Empty nesters who left during the reign of the city's worst regimes have also come back to their roots. Here's a simple quote from Finley that explains a bit more about why Detroit is thriving while the world expects it to be dying.
Downtown seems immune to Detroit’s broken finances. It’s booming thanks to private investments and its sudden emergence as a cool city for young people to live and work in. Private dollars take care of everything from street clean-up to security within the downtown and Midtown zones.
Aha, he gets it! However, while private investment ramps up and takes over basic services; commences restorations; builds new housing; and provides creative entertainment, dining, and nightlife, "race warrior" Shirley Stancato says white people coming downtown "is an issue" and "are we willing to have a conversation about it?"

This story drew 500+ reader comments almost overnight, and the reason is that people here are sick and tired those who cannot let go of the past, and instead, they hash over the same old rusty ground, pulling out the race card along with class warfare. I'll quote from a friend of mine, Thomas E. Page, whose comments appear in the comment thread:
Finley, Stancato and the media should be celebrating increased diversity downtown and midtown. What's happening in Detroit has already happened in cities such as Atlanta and Washington, D.C. More white folks have moved into the City and more black folks have moved into the suburbs. Look at the region as a whole and these demographic changes indicate that the region is being less segregated. And that's good. 
The way to put race behind this community is to put it behind us. I don't know of any other community that wallows in the past, and then puts a racial spin on just about everything. I refuse to get sucked into that vortex that goes nowhere. Most Detroiters want the same things: City services that serve; a fair tax system; police who respond when called; trash that gets picked up when scheduled; street lights that work; places to shop; places to work; cultural opportunity; etc. And the color of someone's skin is totally irrelevant to this. My neighbors, most who are black, complain about the exact same things I do. The establishment of Council by Districts and the recent mayoral election are proof that people - black, white, brown, yellow - welcome, in fact demand, change.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

View From Above

View from the top floor of Urban Bean @8am. This will be a hopping corner in a year or two.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Detroit Bus Company on Today Show

I've written about Detroit's private bus company a time or two, and now it has caught enough national interest to make the Today Show. This segment begins with the same old, boring media tale about the streetlights not working, burned out houses of rubble and ash, and a bankrupt city (yawn), but it highlights what Bob Dotson calls "the little business that could." Note the spot at the end where the young entrepreneur, Andy Didorosi, mentions that he opened the business as a "party bus" business in order to fly in under the insurance radar and make coverage affordable.

detroit bus

It was also just announced that Detroit Bus Company will begin transportation routes to and from the airport - where monopolists have had those routes locked up for a long time. From a CBS article:
“It’s been years since there have been any reliable way, other than Metro Taxi and Metro Cars, to get to the airport. And those things work really well for the business class, but there’s a huge population of people that are going in and out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport every day that just don’t have an affordable way to get there. So they either need to call their friends and get rides or take the city bus, which takes a long, long time,” says Notorianni.
These rides on beautiful buses include free wifi and free coffee.

 
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Detroit: Soup, Salad & Startup?

Here's another heroic anarcho-Detroit platform: Detroit Soup is an anarcho-launching platform for citizen startups: funded by normal folks for hopeful visionaries who dream of pursuing some entrepreneurial, charity, or artistic vision within the Detroit community. Here is a description of the group from the Detroit Soup website:
- a collaborative situation 
- a public dinner 
- a platform for connection 
- a theatrical environment 
- a democratic experiment in micro-funding 
- a relational hub bringing together various creative communities 
- a forum for critical but accessible discussion 
- an opportunity to support creative people in Detroit    
Detroit SOUP is a microgranting dinner celebrating creative projects in Detroit. For $5 you receive soup, salad, bread, and a vote.  You will hear from four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology, etc., who have four minutes to share their idea and then field four questions from the diners. We eat, connect, share resources, and vote on what project you think should win the money gathered from the night. When the night nears to a close we count the ballots and whoever has the most votes takes home the money from the door.
Detroit Soup is about bringing people in the community together to support others in taking risk and bringing value to the city. Detroit Soup holds public dinners with a $5 charge for a "soup, salad, and a vote." Visionaries present their projects and attendees vote on which project should receive the cash raised from the dinner. This month's winner of the take was 'Sit on It Detroit,' an organization I have written about in the past on my Detroit: From Rust to Riches blog. This group builds bus stop benches (from repurposed wood with bookshelves) for placement at Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus stops because the government is too inept to get it done. You can read more stories like this on my Detroit: Rust to Riches blog, or follow me on Twitter @karendecoster, and follow my public Twitter list "Detroit!" that pulls all unique Detroit sources into one list.


 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kid Rock: "Detroit is a Blank Canvas"

Kid Rock was on CNBC to talk about Detroit's business and community successes with Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans. Kid is right on this count: It's not the government that is making things happen, it's the people.

.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Detroit's Whole Elephant

The outside media doesn't see the whole picture here, and that's because they don't want to see it. Most never come here: they just google the web for anything and everything about Detroit, and then they blindly scarf up the information return. The ones who do come here - big budget media bobbleheads - get dropped off from the airport, they do their quick hit story, then they climb back in the cab or limo and head back out to the (suburban) airport.

Detroit Unspun has published a very enlightening piece about the parachute crowd - those who do the drive-by hit pieces on Detroit without knowing what the heck is even going on here.

This article gives a short rundown on all that is positive in Detroit, as opposed to the same plethora of media gloom and bankruptcy doom. The Detroit Downtown Partnership (DDP) is a positive force that is mostly made up of private companies and members of the religious community who are interested in transforming Detroit by way of private investment, corporate social mission generosity, community service acts, and foundation philanthropy. Transformations that go unnoticed by the parachute media hacks include the Detroit River (Riverwalk); the modernization of various downtown corporate headquarters; Capitol Park neighborhood renovation; the David Whitney building conversion; the Broderick building restoration; and turning multiple abandoned lots into alluring green spaces and/or community gardens.

Just recently, one of Dan Gilbert's companies, Bedrock Real Estate Services, announced its provision of free wifi in my favorite spaces to hang out downtown: Campus Martius Park and Cadillac Square. 

Another story that appeared just recently is about the farms popping up among the ruins of the city. The Huffington Post noted that even Bankster of America is contributing to private efforts by paying for the demolition of homes and donating the vacant land for urban farming and green development.

Another bit of great news is that the 'Detroit Jail Fail' that I have been writing about has become a reality: the bungled, overspending, underperforming government project that stole prime downtown property for building a monument to its lockup bureaucracy is now dead and done. The millions already spent will ooze down the tubes and the partly-built jail will be torn down in favor of selling off the property to a private entrepreneur. Government acquiesced on this one, admitting its incompetence while laying low about the corruption that funded and initiated the disastrous undertaking.

Detroit Churches

Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster

L.A. Times on "Detroit Heroes"

The LA Times sure likes writing about Detroit, and most recently, writer Alexandra Le Tellier hails this city as "America's great comeback city." The author quotes a PBS Fresh Air interview with Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute. Katz is a guy who once worked for HUD under Henry Cisneros in the Clinton Administration. Katz is a statist, but while talking about Detroit, Katz actually gives credit to Detroit's pooled philanthropic endeavors; entrepreneurs and business networks; projects financed by local (private) resources; Detroit's small-batch manufacturing upsurge; private investment; rising technology sector; and the attraction of human capital.

I'm impressed with some of the Detroit coverage by the LA Times. Le Tellier's article even takes to passing on the same old ruin porn while instead posting a photograph of Detroit in a flattering light - one that most of us here view each day. The LA Times has also been fond of promoting a video from Lowe Campbell Ewald executive Iain Lanivich titled, "We're Moving to Detroit, and So Should You." The thesis is pretty good, as well as accurate:
Despite what you might read in the media, Detroit is quickly becoming rich in creativity, innovation and inspiration. With tech investors like Detroit Venture Partners, it's becoming easy for startups to create an opportunity. And in Detroit, everything needs help, so there are endless opportunities. With a "we're all in this together" mentality, everyone is becoming friends and utilizing their skills to not only help one another, but define Detroit's future. Whether you're a designer, an innovator, an entrepreneur or an investor. The talent is moving to Detroit. And so should you.
Most notable is the comment from a young startup entrepreneur (2:35 mark) who makes the comment that the Detroit bankruptcy is not a negative because it is, in reality, a restructuring of the old model. This means we are moving from a government-based planning model to a market-based entrepreneurial-philanthropic model. The success of Detroit will invariably be inversely related to government intervention efforts on the part of the buttinskis in federal government who see it as their mission to rebuild Detroit with funny money embezzled from the looted masses.

 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

60 Minutes is Intellectually Insolvent on its Detroit Doctrine

Following is a re-post of my article I published on LewRockwell.com.
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60 Minutes may have done its worst hack job of the year last week with its story about the gloom and doom of Detroit. CBS correspondent, Bob Simon, who has the appearance of a cadaver propped up for one last broadcast, notes in his most dramatic tone that his story represents "what an American city looks like when it goes bankrupt."

One upon a time, this show was one of the few reasons for me to turn on the television. In spite of the left-wing propaganda spewed by its orthodox producers and correspondents, Ed Bradley (RIP) was a beacon of journalism in his early days, and even Mike Wallace (RIP) was a fascinating individual who often put forth some thought-provoking editorial attempts. Now, 60 Minutes is left with its old guard of cadaveric gatekeepers who can barely make an utterance without bringing forth images of the propped-up corpse in Weekend at Bernie’s.

In this latest journalistic attempt at shedding light on the media spectacle that Detroit has become, Bob Simon takes the injudicious view of the city as a collective whole. There is no distinction between public and private entities, and the role of each sector in the city's sordid history. The “city” is implicitly defined as some vague organism having shot its wad after fifty years of "race riots, spending sprees, borrowing binges, and corruption." And then, the government’s financial position of insolvency is somehow held up as the standard by which all things Detroit should be measured. And when Simon comes upon something other than a dilapidated building, a dead body in the weeds, or another rundown emergency vehicle - surprise, surprise, what's going on here? Could it be progress on the part of private interests, of both the citizen and business variety? That stuff hardly sells to the booboisie on American television.

Early on, the 60 Minutes hit piece conveys the impression that there are no thriving businesses, no risk-taking entrepreneurs, and no grassroots movements of residents reclaiming the city on their own dime and own time. Detroit is a city that, Simon says, looks like Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. The core of Simon's commentary is that the buses don't run on time (Mussolini could surely fix that); the city looks like Dresden after the allied bombing (same old ruin porn); the streetlights don't work; and there are the 80,000 abandoned buildings (a considerable stretch). I am surprised that Simon didn't bring up the fantasy reports of 50,000 wild dogs that are said to be roaming the city in packs. Yawn. So where is the story?

The gist of Simon's tale is that the city is helplessly downtrodden except for a small pocket of downtown that appears to thrive, thanks to one insatiable capitalist. On that note, Simon interviews Dan Gilbert, the Detroit billionaire and entrepreneur, from his office with a downtown panorama as the setting. The backdrop deliberately suggests a wealthy man in a pricey suit looking down at his development empire from his downtown tower, scanning the plebeian and bankrupt masses of the city. This is reminiscent of the scene from the 1956 movie, the The Ten Commandments, where Rameses II, pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire, looks down upon his slaves as they build the city by hand, brick by brick. This is shoddy, melodramatic journalism on the part of a gaggle of fourth-estate dilettantes.

Simon's burning question to Gilbert is, "Are you doing what is good for Detroit or what is good for you?" That sets Simon's tone for the entire commentary on Dan Gilbert and his role in revamping the city via the pursuit of private interests. Simon picked on Gilbert because he is the city's second largest landowner after Government Motors. The reason for spotlighting Dan Gilbert was to be able to point out that a 'destitute city' is at the mercy of a wealthy, money-grubbing entrepreneur who is greedily buying up city land at bargain-basement prices.

There were only a few nebulous comments about Gilbert's role in funding startups with seed money and walking his talk through action that brought many of his employees downtown. While Gilbert may not be the perfect free-market guy in all respects, he was taking risk and investing in Detroit when few other tycoons were willing to do the same.

Laughably, Bob Simon shows the prosperous downtown area and makes the comment that the visual he sees is something that "hardly what comes to mind when you think of bankruptcy." Apparently, Bob doesn't understand that it is the government that is bankrupt: not the businesses, not the entrepreneurs, not the spirit, not the future, and not the people. In fact, 300-plus years of splendid history doesn’t promptly dissolve because bureaucrats file court papers begging for financial mercy due to decades of unchecked government criminality.

The real story is that Detroit continues to move forward and thrive in spite of decades of government corruption, largesse, and barriers to success. Bob Simon, oddly enough, spent in inordinate amount of time focusing on a conversation with a firefighter about a fire truck with a perpetually leaking water tank, as if this problem is an ideal linchpin, or is somehow unique to Detroit.

Finally, the CBS crew did show selected shots of great, historic neighborhoods; the motor city blight busters, a community action group; and a few other positive angles. But the thesis had already been evoked with purposeful intent. The night the show aired, Dan Gilbert tweeted a comment about the fact that 60 Minutes had entirely missed the real story of what is transpiring in Detroit. So Dan Gilbert gets it, too.

gilbert


   

Back in Detroit’s darker days, Mike Wallace came to Detroit to cover the “wave of corruption and mismanagement” that was Detroit in the 1970s. His story, “Hell Upon Detroit,” focused on how government and its criminal allies in the private sector served as a tool of destruction and corruption upon the city. The Wallace story is far from flawless, but at least government – and not savvy entrepreneurs – was the proper culprit.

 

At some point, just maybe, the national media will come to grasp the idea that the story of Detroit as a blighted canvas that consists only of ruin porn and government services that don't serve is no longer remarkable news, nor is it demonstrating competence on the part of the jaded, old media organs.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Detroit's Phallic Vista

It's about time that Detroit gets some positive attention for its appreciable views from downtown. Forget the ruin porn - looking across the river this week (my office is visible in the background) we get to see our Canadians friends in Windsor and their wonderful sense of humor as well as sense of aesthetics. From Gawker media:
CBC News reports that Mayor Eddie Francis was "not happy" when told that one of the city's shrubs had undergone a phallic makeover. 
"The bush was in the sculpture garden, and somebody took it upon themselves to reshape the bush into something that they wanted to see," the city's parks boss John Miceli told the Windsor Star. "Whoever did the shaping was pretty proficient at shaping bushes."  

American Piano Sensation Conrad Tao Plays with the DSO

Since a Sunday deserves a non-ideological post or two, here's my musical contribution for today: the young and brilliant and uber-talented Conrad Tao playing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Detroit's Orchestra Hall last weekend. While Tao's performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 is amazing, I want to point the reader to his short (3-4 minute) performance that was a special surprise for the audience. Turn the video exactly to the 39:00 mark to see this amazing musical presentation.

The standing ovation for this young man, at the Saturday night performance that I attended, lasted about, oh, one year. And he deserves this mile-long entry in Wikipedia, too. Conrad is also a composer as well as a stud performer.

 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Top Ten Downtowns - Three Jeers for the Toilet!

No, the big surprise is not that Detroit made it into the top ten. In spite of what one's perceptions may be due to multiple personality media spin, this is a uniquely American city with some of the greatest architecture and general history within US borders. However, what is surprising is that the Eastern Bloc of the United States, the Beltway, came in at number two in spite of the fact that D.C. has no relevant history (that isn't steeped in idolization of government), no inspiring architecture, and no anything. The description supporting the choice is a hoot.
Due to its lack of skyscrapers, few people consider central Washington when they envision America’s best downtowns. But height isn’t everything, and D.C. more than makes up for it by having a downtown that is both vibrant and clean.  Many of the United States’ most important buildings are contained within its limits, including the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. Downtown Washington has office space that rivals New York and Chicago, along with a spill-over residential vibrancy that is perhaps only equaled by Philadelphia.  In addition, it has the National Mall and the Potomac in its front yard, and it is largely bereft of the highways that slice apart all too many downtowns.
Yes, The Toilet - the deification of the state - is #2, and it beats out such amazing downtowns as Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston. The most depressing place ever. You couldn't attract me to this dungeon by tripling my salary. Personally, my two favorites are my hometown, Detroit, and glorious Chicago. Cities that lack vintage history, such as Miami and Seattle, don't appeal to me beyond a visitation.

griswold
Corner of Griswold and Grand River in Detroit.
Photo by Karen DeCoster



Friday, October 11, 2013

Detroit Destination: Anarcho-Z in The D

Earlier this year I posted about entrepreneur Dan Gilbert's parking structure project in Detroit - a privately-funded structure that has been designed to reflect Detroit's renaissance personality. Crain's Detroit has posted an updated story on "The Z" parking structure, so called because it zigzags between four streets - Broadway and Grand River, and Library and Gratiot. This is a great quote from MLive:
Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert has maintained that if he is going to build a parking garage in downtown Detroit, it is not going to be another drab, concrete structure. On Friday, Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services will unveil a project in collaboration with the Library Street Collective that the company said will make its “Z” development parking garage not just a place to stash cars, but a downtown Detroit a destination.
This 535,000 square foot structure includes 10 floors, 1,300 parking spaces, 34,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and the work of 27 different mural artists from around the world. The painted murals are 130 feet wide. The Crain's article includes an amazing photo display of the murals. First time ever that I've thought: I can't wait to park here.


Friday, September 27, 2013

WHDT Interview on Detroit Bankruptcy

Here's my interview with Gary Franchi for WHDT. The topic is Detroit and the city's bankruptcy.

UPDATE: WHDT had to change the link, so here is the working version.

 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Podcast: Market Anarchism With Lew Rockwell

My podcast with Lew Rockwell on what's really happening in Detroit.


Miley Cyrus, Detroit Hipster

Poor Miley is dragging the D down with her tale of her "Detroit Days." As one Detroiter said, Miley "said she grew up in Detroit for no logical reason."
Pretty much everyone else has jumped on this let's be really into Detroit right now bandwagon, one more can't hurt anything. Climb aboard, Miley.
The Tongued Twerker even got a tattoo on - gasp - 8 Mile Road! Only in Detroit can the hipsters be outhipstered by Miley Cyrus.


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Detroit: Anarcho-Goats to Replace Government Workers?

I love any story about government being so incompetent that unionized, pensionized, lifetime-employed city workers need to be replaced by ... goats. Since Detroit can't afford to maintain thousands of acres of vacant land in spite of its bloated payroll, one City Councilman wants to explore using goats and sheep to mow the city's overgrowth. What a glorious idea. In fact, let's move the urban agriculture into Phase II by luring eco-agricultural farmers to raise grass-fed cows, pastured pigs, and free-range chickens among Detroit's thousands of acres of unoccupied salad bars.

 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Detroit Among the Ruins

More of Detroit on the experimental side, with a Samsung S3 cell phone.


Cadillac Square
Photo by Karen DeCoster



A burnt out house sees the light of art
Photo by Karen DeCoster



Marla Donovan at Urban Bean
Photo by Karen DeCoster

Detroit Angles


All photos were taken with a Samsung S3 cell phone in the city of Detroit.



Photo by Karen DeCoster


Heidelberg Art Project
Photo by Karen DeCoster


Urban agriculture in the heart of downtown
Photo by Karen DeCoster



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anarcho-Perspective on Detroit is Catching On

Travis Holte sent me this video along with the message, "What? Reason didn't interview you for this piece???" Travis has an amazing eagle eye for these things, and I shouldn't promote Reason's take-offs on my anarcho-Detroit culture since they have never cited me while conducting their imitation of my take on the ground-up, voluntaryist Detroit resurgence that rejects government, but this one is worth mentioning. That is because Michael LaFaive, a Director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is quoted as saying that, "Accidentally, the city has created an anarchistic culture...."

I know that Mr. LaFaive reads LewRockwell.com because I have corresponded with him. Actually, while I very much like the Mackinac Center and I appreciate LaFaive's take on mentioning "Detroit" and "anarchistic"in the same sentence, Detroit's anarchy is not accidental, and it has not been "created" by the city. So I will offer up my version of a correction since I have been covering the positive side of Detroit's resurgence for about the last four years.

Detroit's ground-up resurrection has not been created by the city, but rather, it has been enabled by the city because in spite of its seemingly unyielding regulatory environment, as presented by the media and some local businessmen, the government-regulatory complex has been too corrupt, too inept, and too inconsequential to enforce its own ridiculous dictates, for the most part. Hence the 'end around' on the part of savvy entrepreneurs to establish a service-for-profit base in the city.

The term "create" denotes intelligent, purposeful design while a more appropriate term, "enabling,"can be defined as allowing or permitting via a serendipitous practice. Also, nothing is "accidental," as entrepreneurs have been very canny in learning to navigate the regulatory waters while taking advantage of the lack of rigorous enforcement of the existing regulatory structure. Detroit's entrepreneurial storm that is rooted in rejection of the conventional political system is purposeful in that creative human capital actually seeks Detroit out as a place where they can potentially launch and operate innovative entrepreneurial efforts with minimal bureaucratic meddling.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

HELP: Detroit is Waiting to be Rescued!

The abundance of media  stories of Detroit and its plight are becoming larger than life by the day. If I believe the sensationalist media, the city where I have spent my half-century on earth is barely recognizable to me anymore, thanks to the fourth estate bobbleheads who have either never step foot here, or, they take a moment to zip through the city via their hired limousines just long enough to have their camera crew photograph some background ruin porn while they spin their melodramatic tales of Detroit's long, slow, harrowing demise due to bankruptcy woes, oodles of $100 houses falling into disrepair, dead bodies percolating from the ground, and lastly, angry packs of feral dogs (in gangs of 20) roaming the streets and eating humans as appetizers.

Indeed, CNN satirist Poppy Harlow starts off her anecdotal interpretation of Detroit for CNN Primetime by stating, "In America's biggest bankrupt city, where people are fleeing in droves..." Pause for a moment here.

I'd sure like to know the definition of "people fleeing in droves." Surely, this wild-eyed statement was not supported by facts, though it sure sounds compelling. Detroit's population decline has been occurring for 50 years, and recent years have evidenced a reverse flight of people fleeing the boring, highway-saturated suburbs for the most dense areas - downtown and historic neighborhoods - of Detroit.

Unfortunately, Poppy has allowed fiction to get in the way of facts throughout her piece. The main gist of the latest fable presented by CNN is that there are "thousands upon thousands of dogs roaming Detroit's streets." Really? As one who is navigating the city just about every day, by car, by bicycle, and by foot, I have never seen a shred of evidence of any wild packs of canines roaming the streets of Detroit. In fact, it gets even more amusing when you read Yahoo's latest joviality: "50,000 abandoned dogs roaming streets of Detroit in packs." It hardly gets better than that. 50...thousand...dogs. On my numerous bike rides throughout the city, including both the dense areas and the outskirts of the killing fields, I have never been privy to roaming packs of anything, let alone groups of 2 or 5 or 20 dogs, as reported by the media that is desperate for woe-is-Detroit headlines. Even Bloomberg jumped on the "packs of dogs" fable, noting that as Detroit's "latest crisis." Business Insider reported that these feral creatures are "taking over the streets of Detroit." A Washington Times headline reads, "Bankrupt Detroit: As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam city streets in packs." Surely, the inclusion of "bankrupt" makes the Detroit plight seem even more fatalistic. One person from the Humane Society even called Detroit "post-apocalyptic" due to these invisible roaming packs. Gawker media gets even better. To quote:
But one thing Detroit can still be proud of: its roaming packs of wild dogs. 
Though other cities may jeer at Detroit's troubles while pompously displaying their "functional city governments" and "plumbing that has not been torn out," none of those cities can match Detroit when it comes to the viciousness and ubiquity of the canine mobs controlling their streets.
Each media story copies heavily from the others, with a few original lines thrown in to make sure it is understood that Detroit is a rotted, unoccupied, apocalyptic war zone. What a shame that major media outlets keep composing this tinpot trash.

Sure, there are stray dog problems in Detroit, like anywhere else, especially in the cities where the pit bull stereotype - a philistine status symbol - is alive and well. Just look on Petfinder.com, and especially, filter on "pit bull." At the suburban animal shelter in my neighborhood, 95% of the dogs are pit bulls.

No one  know who lives and breathes Detroit has any knowledge of this apparent affliction of roaming packs of feral canines that give rise to the latest media buzz. While this falsehood is laughable, it is also disturbing to see that the story is being scattered throughout the media for lack of any more amusing headlines. Our Poppy Harlow ends up with this poignant statement: "and like so much else in Detroit, man's best friend is waiting to be rescued."Oh please, Poppy, come and rescue us, just like those who sat on their rooftops during Hurricane Katrina, waiting for the U.S Government of Incompetence to come and rescue them.
We folks here in Detroit actually prefer to not have people like Poppy Harlow call for our rescue. In fact, some of us here are even perfectly fine with purging the city's years of corruption and largesse via a bankruptcy. We are not sitting on our rooftops waiting for the government helicopters to rain down fiat dollars or rescue ladders. I document Detroit's ground-up resurgence from a non-sensationalist, in-the-trenches perspective at my blog, "Detroit: From Rust to Riches."

 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Topic Detroit: Robert Wenzel and Virginia Postrel

My interview with Robert Wenzel from last week is up at the Economic Policy Journal. The topic is, What's Really Going on in Detroit? While contradicting the naysayers who have never step foot here, I discuss what's really going on from my view in the trenches - both the good and the crummy.

Amazingly, I have received eight media requests, in the last week or so, to be interviewed for TV, radio, and podcasts about Detroit's rust to riches story, as chronicled in my Detroit blog. Because I'm not a trust fund baby, I can't even respond to half the requests I get. But I appreciate that so many good folks - like Robert Wenzel -  are interested in my idiosyncratic viewpoints.

On a related topic, Robert and I did not discuss Virginia Postrel's recent flatulence regarding Detroit, but this will be discussed during some future interviews. In fact, next up on the topic of Detroit is Lew Rockwell's podcast. You can find examples of Postrel's anti-Detroit sentiments in her Bloomberg column as well as her Facebook page. In fact, here is a post from Postrel's Facebook page from June 12th:
As you can tell from the comments in the book tour post, all of Detroit now hates me because of these recent Bloomberg posts: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-06/detroit-s-van-gogh-would-be-better-off-in-l-a-.html and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-07/hey-picasso-how-about-a-time-share-in-arkansas-.html
Postrel has taken some strange shots at Detroit via her articles on the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) that were published on Bloomberg. I dropped a comment letting Postrel know that I don't hate her, but I can certainly help to educate her. In fact, I invited her to come here (and not just passing through on a freeway via the airport) and I will personally take my time to show her the good, the bad, the ugly, the fantastic, and the grass-roots, voluntaryist, hyper-entrepreneurial anarcho-economy that she won't find on Google, except my website. I'll also introduce her to some DIA people I know so that she can get the straight facts instead of the varnished media version. She never responded to my invitation. Additionally, Postrel has posted some really quirky anti-Detroit comments on her Facebook page. She lives in Los Angeles, hardly a bastion of architectural genius, fine culture, and interesting aura.

Two glances at Postrel's Detroit writings tell me this: she's a Googler, googling "all about Detroit" from her Los Angeles-Hollywood pad so that Bloomberg can pay her for her uninformed opinions disguised as educated perspectives. In an interview with Deadline Detroit, Postrel noted that she has "been in Detroit," meaning she hasn't been to Detroit at all in terms of actually visiting Detroit. She's apparently passed through Detroit, just as I have passed through New York. But I don't write about the local issues related to New York because Google does not tell me anything about the political history or the socioeconomic factors that are at the foundation of New York's current political affairs.

Again, I don't hate Postrel. And if she doesn't hate me, perhaps she will come here and allow me to take my (limited) time to show her how this city is being transformed via entrepreneurs and grassroots efforts that are without equal anywhere else in the world.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I See Stuff That Other People Don't See

Especially in the city of Detroit. These are all taken with a Samsung S3 cell phone. I continue to experiment with cell phone photography.


Me in front of the Lincoln Park Art Center, an outdoor anarcho-art exhibit.

A shot of the Renaissance Center, from the warehouse district.
Photo by Karen DeCoster.

Another dilapidated building coming down near the riverfront.
Peeking through the construction hole, you see the Renaissance Center.
Photo by Karen DeCoster.

The Renaissance Center, as seen from another angle in the warehouse district.
Photo by Karen DeCoster.

Someone else's dismal night and my morning canvas.
Photo by Karen DeCoster.

Lofts near Chene Street. Photo by Karen DeCoster.

Woodward corridor. Photo by Karen DeCoster.

This old sign says "Be a part of Detroit's revitalization." Then the housing bubble hit. No revitalization here.
Photo by Karen DeCoster.

Roberts Riverwalk Hotel from the riverwalk.
Photo by Karen DeCoster.

A friend, Marla Donovan, a native Michigander who moved to downtown Detroit
from Manhattan five years ago to experience the return to riches.