The editorial page editor at the Detroit News wrote about the “upside” to President Donald Trump’s recent tweets about rat infestation and violent crime in Baltimore as giving Democrats an on-ramp to talk about urban decay, including at the debates taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit where 70,000 abandon buildings are still standing and black homeownership being reduced to 40 percent today from 51 percent since 2000.
Nolan Finley wrote:
Detroit and Baltimore are not twin cities by any stretch, but they share similar characteristics and the same challenges that face most big cities in America.
There’s no better place to discuss those struggles than in Detroit, where 57% of children live below the poverty line and a rate of 2,057 violent crimes per 100,000 residents rank it as the second most violent city in America.
“There needs to be an urban agenda as part of this campaign,” Sheila Cockrel, former Detroit City Council member and CEO of Citizen Detroit, a civic engagement group, said in Finley’s column.
“When’s the last time you heard anything about an urban agenda?” Cockrel asked. “That’s become a swear word in Washington.”
Cockrel has a plan for “restoring central cities,” as Finely put it:
We need to address access to capital for residents who have been structurally discriminated against. We need a criminal justice policy. Address low-income housing, focus on education and rectifying the structural imbalance that has existed from the point of time that busing was struck down to deal with patterns of structural residential segregation.
We need policies that are rooted in equity and access — those would be the hallmarks of an urban agenda.
Cockrel said the main target should be addressing poverty.
“We have to have a strategy on the part of all the main actors to address poverty and its multigenerational consequences,” Cockrel said.
Finley also included remarks from Lyke Thompson, director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, who said child poverty should be a priority.
“One of the big issues that affect both Detroit and Baltimore is childhood poverty,” Thompson said. ”We have among the highest rates of childhood poverty in the country in the city of Detroit. What do the candidates want to do to impact that? It’s an absolutely critical thing for them to be talking about in relation to Detroit and other central cities.”
“Thompson says both Detroit and Baltimore face lead poisoning crises, stemming from the use of lead-based paint in homes from the 1920s to its ban in 1978,” Finley wrote. “Detroit hospitals treat 1,600 children a year for lead poisoning; 4,500 cases are recorded statewide.”
“We have a huge number of kids who are entering school set back already by challenges that are introduced in the first few years of their lives,” Thompson said. “Kids who are crawling and getting lead dust on their hands. At most, we are abating 100-200 homes a year through public funding.”
Thompson said Democrats at the debates should also address domestic violence, premature birth rates— “they rival third world numbers in Detroit” — and jobs for inmates reentering society.
“A huge number of kids are dying before they get out of the womb,” Thompson said.
Thompson praised Trump’s tax breaks for those who invest in high-poverty areas but said it plan needs oversight to ensure success.
“The debaters will be speaking to a national audience, but they’ll be standing on a stage in Detroit,” Finley wrote. “That’s a unique platform for addressing issues that are tormenting urban communities nationwide, but particularly in the industrial Midwestern states like Michigan that will be so critical to their hopes in 2020.”
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