I profess not to know the value of all the art held at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). Further, I do not know how much of the art is owned by the city of Detroit. I think we should find out and use it in the best way possible to save Detroit and its citizens.
I commend all the foundations and the state of Michigan who have stepped up with hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed contributions to save the DIA and the art work that it holds. Is the plan presented to the creditors concerning these donations and the leveraging of the art the best way to save Detroit and its citizens? Is saving the artwork more important than saving the city and its citizens?
Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press made a valid point with his editorial titled "Detroit's Rebirth Must Include More Than Downtown, Midtown". Detroit will not succeed if it does not cultivate a middle class and we cannot wait decades from now to complete the task. Wouldn't it be a better idea for these foundations and the state to use the funds committed to saving the DIA to saving Detroit and more importantly its people?
What is a better legacy for these foundations, saving the art or saving a city and the people who live there? Detroit was a great city and it will be in the future, but Mr. Henderson is right. It cannot happen without a middle class. A middle class will not happen without good housing and a good public education system. This is where these foundations should utilizie their resources. This is where these foundations can further expand their own legacies. Most people contribute to a foundation do so as a way of "giving back" for all the blessings they have received over the years. What better way of doing that then by being able to look in the mirror every morning and say I helped save a city and its people.
There are men and women who are wiser than I that can come up with the best way for these foundations to help Detroit and I trust they will step forward with their proposals and all ideas are welcomed. Here are mine.
First, set up a fund to give away homes to those living elsewhere to move to Detroit. One of the things Detroit has is vacant houses and many of them can turn into great homes. These giveaways will come with conditions including the house must become the primary residence of the receiver within a reasonable time period. The recipient must have a job that can support the upkeep of the home and any repairs needed to the dwelling must be completed within a reasonable time period. I call this the Detroit Home Rush.
Second, improve the city's public school's and their desirability by replicating the Kalamazoo Promise in Detroit. Kalamazoo Promise provides a scholarship to any high school graduate to in state colleges that covers the total cost of books and tuition. The only catch is the student must have good enough grades to be accepted by the university.
If both of these programs are implemented Detroit would be the only community in the state where a working/middle class family can get a new home and a college education for their kids at no cost. You can't get better than that.
Yes, I know what the reader in the suburbs is thinking; "I am still concerned about all the blight, crime and other problems in Detroit. These problems must be taken care of. Detroit needs a middle class to sustain that progress and the above programs will jump start the rebirth of a middle class.