Sept 8, 2023
Los Angeles – my home “City of Angels” – has very apparently gone down the tubes, as have many others, notably including the once attractive San Francisco, and Portland, and Seattle – here on the Left Coast – and points east such as New York, Chicago, and many, many more. There seems little hope for them, as the leadership in most of them is from the Political Party that cannot dig itself out of the holes it has dug for its long-suffering inhabitants. They are caught up in what is now being called a “doom loop”. Why allow treasures like these to sink into oblivion? Why would any civilized people allow that? Why not push some dramatic change? Elections, anyone?Consider Hartford, Connecticut – not one of the “usual suspects” that was once famous as the “insurance capital of the world” It has been in decline for years. In the 1990s, Hartford’s population hemorrhage made national news. Today it is smaller still, less than 70 percent of what it was in 1950. Hartford’s poverty rate is one of the highest in the nation. The city is falling apart. It spends more than $400 million annually on education ($17,260 per student) yet nearly 30 percent of its students don’t graduate high school on time. Only 18 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 test at age-appropriate levels in math, and 25 percent do so in reading. And that was before the evidence came in from pandemic lockdowns.
How did this happen? Luke Bronin, the mayor since 2016, seemed well suited for the job: Phillips Exeter Academy, Yale University, Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School, and U.S. Treasury with the Obama administration, where he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. He should have been the one to rescue a collapsing city. But he began by de-funding the police, oversaw a vast increase in crime, refused charter schools, and provoked a city bailout. When the money dried up, he hatched a new scheme called “regionalism” which was essentially a hunt for new sources of tax revenue from neighboring communities, which resented the sales pitch and just said “No!” What we see there today is a gigantic “Black Lives Matter” sign painting in the middle of a main thoroughfare that announces to the world that this city has caved to the make-believe virtue of woke messaging..
But there isn’t anyone around to look at the sign. Everyone seems to have left the city. After hours on weekdays, it becomes a ghost town. The weekends are the same. The city still faces a disastrous pension problem owing to promises made long ago that cannot be kept except by pillaging anyone dumb enough to hang around for it. Something needs to change. Otherwise the Catch-22 will never end: higher taxes to fund the pensions but fewer and fewer residents to tax. And the same problem pertains on the other end: cut taxes to attract residents and business but then starve the city of revenue it needs to fund education and pension obligations, not to mention repair roads. Other of our failing cities follow somewhat the same problems. Poor leadership.
There is an obvious solution. Fix it. Do the hard work needed to fix the problems one has promised to do and elected to do, because it is actually better to fix something than just saying what you need to say to get re-elected by only promising again to do if re-elected. But it will be seen as verboten on ideological grounds. A person like Mayor Bronin simply will not consider the right path because everything in his education and his social circle has told him that the path to a good society comes from higher taxes, more bailouts, and endless virtue-signaling. How long can ideology last, when it leads to an endless downward spiral? Probably forever, unless the good citizens decide to elect new leaders. Ideology of this sort is a kind of terminal disease. People die with it, and kill cities along the way. The story of the death of so many once-great American cities is a story of fanaticism, illusion, Ivy-League pedigree, social snobbery, ideological entrenchment, and the complete denial of reality.
By stark contrast, the city of Detroit also was once beautiful, then died, then was revived again. Detroit is a city of stark contrasts, where beauty, decay, and renewal coexist in a dynamic and ever-evolving narrative. Once a thriving industrial hub known as the “Motor City,” Detroit’s history is deeply intertwined with the rise and fall of the American automobile industry. Amidst the urban decay that has plagued certain neighborhoods, there is an undeniable beauty in the city’s architectural remnants, like the iconic Michigan Central Station, a hauntingly grand structure that stands as a testament to a bygone era.
While the scars of economic decline and population loss are evident, Detroit has also witnessed a remarkable renewal in recent years. The city’s downtown area has experienced a renaissance, with new businesses, restaurants, and cultural attractions revitalizing its core. The arts community, in particular, has played a crucial role in breathing life back into Detroit, with vibrant street art and creative initiatives infusing color and energy into once-neglected spaces. All it took to accomplish this was to bring in competent management.
The renewal of Detroit extends beyond its downtown, as community-driven efforts aim to transform abandoned properties into urban gardens, parks, and affordable housing. These grassroots initiatives are breathing fresh life into neighborhoods, fostering a sense of hope and resilience among residents. As Detroit navigates its path toward recovery, the city’s ongoing journey from decay to renewal reminds us of the enduring beauty that can emerge from adversity and the potential for rebirth in even the most challenging circumstances.
The leaders in others of our major blighted cities will not accept the challenge, but instead look for other entities to blame. New York City Mayor Eric Adams is among those who seem more interested in looking good than fixing problems. He goes on TV to cry that the influx of illegal aliens (to use the correct term) are ruining his City. Funny, because that actually happened years ago when the Socialist policies of the former Mayor started the mass exodus of tax-paying cities for Florida and other friendly points south. Sanctuary Cities may regret being virtue signalers. Simply blaming the inert open border – but not the President, of one’s own Party – for doing the opening, is not effective. Why should the rest of our cities not take on the burden they pretended to welcome? Note that El Paso, Texas, is not a sanctuary city, but a helpless victim of the open border policies, and there are many more of these all along the Southern front.
I know we are sometimes glad we do not get all the government we pay for. But now we need those we elect to step up to the plate. Re-fund the police. Stop the ridiculous “catch and release” policies in our cities and at the border. Erase all the BLM and other blatantly political indicia of woke virtue signaling and return to us the simple freedoms guaranteed us under our Bill of Rights. How much harder can it be to fix our cities than it was to build them in the first place?