The Times podcast: Coyotes go urban; humans freak out in New York
By Peter B. de Selding,
February 26, 2018
In the first episode of this podcast series, a guest on the July 27 Times podcast takes on the most important public issue that can be brought before a U.S. voting electorate: the fate of the City of Detroit. Here, the host, Peter B. de Selding, discusses his take on the state of urban life, the Detroit crisis, and the ongoing debate over the role of private money in our economy.
Today’s topic: “Where does money come from in the city of Detroit?”
Peter B. de Selding: There were two major challenges in the Detroit story — and in American urban governance and urban life. One is what I like to refer to as a crisis of legitimacy — a decline in trust, public respect, and confidence in public life among ordinary people. The other is a crisis of accountability — a decline in people’s faith in their leaders and their ability to hold them accountable in the face of scandal, corruption or mismanagement. And I think the fact that the federal government is not going to step up and do anything very quickly with Detroit is a reflection of the failure of government to give people faith and respect in public life.
But what we also can’t do is ignore the challenge of Detroit’s economic dependence on the automobile industry. I don’t think you can ignore that. It’s a very real and pressing challenge for the city. Detroit could have a thriving economy if we were not so reliant on cars, but we are. And the fact that that is a crisis of legitimacy for the city of Detroit is not a minor challenge.
The other challenge is a crisis of accountability. The U.S. government and its institutions are far more accountable to the people than are the mayors of municipalities. And I think the mayor of Detroit can’t blame the government to a large extent but the same way the head of the Detroit emergency services can’t blame the government for the lack of funds. It’s his duty to make things happen.
We need to recognize that the current crisis of legitimacy that we’re