Detroit Continues to Suffer From Historic Divisions

Traditions must die hard in Detroit, where the region can't seem to shake its enduring geographic and racial divisions, reports Sarah Hulett.
September 17, 2012, 12pm PDT | Andrew Gorden
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The divisions that divide Detroit go back generations. Segregating events, like the Federal Housing Administration's discriminatory housing policies and the city's 1967 riots, continue to shape the economics and politics of Detroit into the present. Tensions between the city and its suburbs, and blacks and whites endure.

Although the region's demographics are changing, Hulett notes that, "the acrimony remains, and it's tangible any time there's a debate over regional cooperation between Detroit and its suburbs. Inside the city, residents fear a loss of political power. In the suburbs, the fear is that hard-earned tax dollars will be siphoned off by a poorly run city."

"It's a debate that's played out repeatedly through the years: over the city-owned water system that serves the suburbs, for example, and over the zoo and the convention center that serve the region but needed help staying afloat," says Hulett. Even the city's "gem," Belle Isle park, is close to slipping into the State's hands. "The proposal is part of a consent agreement between the state and the city intended to keep Detroit from sliding into bankruptcy," states Hulett. "But it's been derided by yet another attempt by people outside Detroit to erode the city's self-determination."

Still, there is some hope for greater regional cooperation. "Last month, the majority of people in Detroit's suburbs voted to raise their taxes to keep the [Detroit Institute of the Arts] afloat."

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Published on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 in NPR
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