05 January 2015


Original Story: freep.com

Resolutions are like flowers — pretty when they bloom on New Year's Eve, but often rather stale by the time any real reckoning for them comes around.

But they can also be useful divergences from the norm. A chance to dream, just for a bit, about things we might do better.

In Michigan, and southeast Michigan in particular, the list could be auspicious.

What if statewide, for instance, we committed to actually solving problems based on facts and merit, rather than indulging in hyperbolic ideology?

We're thinking specifically here about last year's legislative meltdown over roads, where the practical solution was obvious (more money for better maintenance along with tighter restrictions for the vehicles that do the most damage) but the agreed-upon abdication pushed all the decision-making to voters in a half-baked proposal. The anti-tax crowd cowed enough legislators to prevent the best, but politically difficult, ideas from winning the day.

It's instructive to compare the Legislature's handling of roads to the state's management of Detroit's financial crisis. After years of disinvestment and avoidance, the state actually stepped up to force tough decisions in its largest city. Billions in debt and liabilities were reorganized or chopped down, and a 60-year slide now seems poised to reverse.

Be it resolved that the Legislature take some cues from the handling of Detroit's financial woes in the way it addresses roads and a host of other issues like education and local government funding. Let's see how long the glow from that resolution lasts.

Locally, the best resolution can be summed up in two words: Don't blink.

Detroit's new financial lease on life is the opportunity of a generation, but there's much that needs doing to take full advantage — and that's not just for Detroiters. We can't afford to have key parties cower from the challenges that are now much more manageable, but still unfinished.

True, city government must deliver services better, primarily focused on blight removal and public safety. But it will still be somewhat cash-strapped, and the need for help from the outside — from quarters that have long sat on the sidelines as the city declined — could not be more acute.

Private interests who have held back investment in the city need to join companies like Quicken Loans, Blue Cross and General Motors, and jump into the revitalization of the city's Central Business District. State government, having helped the bankruptcy along with $200 million for the grand bargain, must commit to build on that investment with money for neighborhood revitalization and the building of real economic opportunity.

And Detroiters themselves must continue to insist that things can, and will, be better — by holding elected officials accountable and making strong choices at the ballot box.

Be it resolved that Detroit's potential turnaround becomes more real in 2015, by building on last year's historic momentum.

New year, new hope. Let's toast to it with fervor, but then get right back to work.

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