I don’t think anyone is surprised that things are bad in Detroit, but after hearing this segment I got to thinking about a lot of the small things we take for granted in modern civilization…like street lighting. Have you ever been in an urban environment without them? It’s pretty fucking eerie. The town in Iraq I was in didn’t have them and it was very unnerving until you got used to it. People had fires sometimes outside their homes, lights from their houses or in some areas they’d string lights up on their own if it was a place of business. I remember one section of street with North American-style street lighting for about half of a block on the edge of town and it was even more unnerving to see that. I still have no idea what was special about that 100 feet or so. It made me feel like I was walking down my parent’s cul-de-sac or something.
Detroit’s municipal government has been having financial issues for quite some time and I’ve seen a lot of stories of examples of how these issues have been surfacing there over the past few years. I think the situation in Detroit is interesting because it’s a scenario of what happens when a large American city can’t kick the can down the road anymore. The City of Detroit has lost out on a ton of tax revenues due to people jumping ship and a declining local economy. Not a lot of people are falling all over themselves to pick up Detroit’s municipal bonds either, so they can’t just get a loan and figure it out later anymore….and there will probably come a day when the rest of the country can’t just get a loan and figure it out later anymore too.
Another thing that’s unfortunate for Detroit is that it’s not just that they can’t afford the light bill, it’s that a lot of the street lamps aren’t working because they’re old and in dire need of updates. Neglect of course makes these things worse. It’s easier and cheaper to maintain something than to completely replace it…but if you don’t have the money for maintenance and repairs, what can you do?