June 25th, 2001
Thoughts on the Public Forum - Highland Park's Financial Crisis
A few day ago, I received this flyer:
Public Forum - Highland Park's Financial Crisis and
the Appointment of a Financial Manager
Monday June 25, 2001 - 6:00PM
Join Sen. Scott to discuss the state of our city!
Fred Headen - State Treasury Department
Anne Wagner - Executive Director of the Municipal Employees' Retirement
System of Michigan
Representative from the Mayor's staff
Titus McClary - Highland Park City Council President
Janice Bibbs - Highland Park City Treasurer
Lt. Hubert Yopp - Vice president of Highland Parks Police Union
Highland Park Career Academy's Auditorium (formerly
the Highland Park Community College) Located on Glendale & Second.
Join Senator Martha G. Scott to discuss the state of our city.
For questions, please call 1-800-SCOTT-78
Being concerned about the bankruptcy of the city we live
in, the City of Highland Park, My wife and I went to the public forum. Being a nice day, we
decided to walk - down Glendale, past shattered and burnt out houses and
apartments to the now defunct Highland Park Community College where the
meeting was being held. Inside, the public forum was well under
way, following the proscribed formula that is so typical of
Highland Park politics: One interest group blames another - accusations
and counter-accusations, peppered with non-committal statements from the
An altogether fruitless exorcize.
The Danes have a saying, "When the trough is empty, the horses bite
one another." And this is indeed the case with the representatives
of Highland Park. I have listened for years to officials in various
capacities grumbling that their department is hanging on by a nail, that their ineffectiveness is due to a lack of resources -
and this is indeed the case. It is then natural to blame those higher up
in city government positions for not supplying the necessary funds for any given department to function properly. The top brass take the
heat; they agonize, look at the insufficient budget and shrug - what can
There is simply not enough money, and so the vicious cycle of
accusations and counter-accusations continue ad-nausium, with no
effective solution to the city's actual problems financial problems.
So the inevitable will happen; the State appointed
Financial Manager will close down the library, and severely curtail
vital municipal activity, believing that the citizens of Highland Park
will meekly accept that. That's what these state officials are they're paid to
do, that's what
they expect will happen.
But does it have to be this way? Is there no real
solution to the city's financial troubles?
To answer that, we must step back and look at the
If you get in a car and drive for twenty minutes in almost any direction
away from highland Park, you will find yourself
in a suburb. Go to the library, and compare it to your local library.
Does the roof leak?
Does the library have up to date books, periodicals and magazines?
Look outside. Are the roads in Good repair?
Are there burnt out buildings?
Why is this? Why does Highland Park - and Detroit - suffer this
blight, while the outer ring suburbs thrive?
What kind of society could allow such a perverse stark contrast to
Where is the justice, where is the compassion?
You know the reason. It is ugly, it is rarely ever
mentioned on the local news. It is not discussed much, because it is so
It is racism. Racism in all its complexity, in its many guises.
Does this mean that the inner cities have to accept the
status quo and humbly take whatever mean-spirited "hand-outs" the state
so generously offers
If we continue on the same path, yes. There can be no way but down for our
city, down into further despair and poverty. If the citizens of Highland
Park cannot become pro-active, they have no choice but to accept the
small change that is thrown at them, to accept their fate like grateful beggars.
People in power - on a state and federal level - are not
evil. They just react according to the political forces that exist,
that's just the way it is..
Highland Park is a nice quiet town that does not create a ripple on the
political waters, and so it can be ignored -
that's the political reality of the situation.
In order to change things for the better, the citizens of Highland Park
have to make the state and the federal government sit up and take
How can this be achieved?
Highland Park Citizens must become pro-active.
Citizens must organize themselves and be prepared to commit themselves to
civil disobedience, if necessary.
Become proficient at using the media, primarily
international media. Fortunately, the magnitude of disparity
in wealth between the inner city and the suburbs is so glaring that
it makes for a good storyline. If continually brought into the light
of day on an international level, it would make the status quo so
unacceptable that good and compassionate people would sit up and pay
attention - perhaps things would start to change.
Municipal extremism - Does the Highland Park Water
utility supply the outer suburbs? Then subject them to "rolling
water thirst-outs". Inform the media that "Unfortunately,
the city is impoverished and has few resources - so we have to keep
what few we have to ourselves..."
The state would be forced send in
law enforcement, arresting municipal workers and local officials - very
embarrassing, very messy - and very sensational.
Civil disobedience - when you have nothing, you have
nothing to loose.
In the suburbs there are 'gated communities', wealthy clusters of
homes where the likes of you and I are not permitted to enter.
that could work both ways, with spectacular results:
First, alert the media of your intentions. Then, driving five
junk cars, enter from six mile, going South on the I-75 (The north side
belongs to another bankrupt city, Hamtramck - if they like, they can
stop the traffic coming from the other direction).
Get each car into a separate lane. Keeping in line, gradually slowing down, so as not
to cause accidents or injury. Come to a complete stop at the
Davidson Overpass. Stop the cars, take the keys from the ignition and walk away.
At the top of the overpass, a group of citizens put up a large
banner that says, "Highland Park - gated community - no
A huge traffic jam would ensue and those 'responsible' are sure
to be apprehended by the authorities. The citizens are prepared for
this, and a large demonstration ensues outside the jail. The media -
local, national and international - would have a field day.
Make sure you have well rehearsed spokespersons to answer media
questions: "Why did you do this?" Answer: "We are
part of your larger community, yet you pass through our city as though we
were invisible. Do you not see the decay? The burnt out buildings?
The poverty? Do you not ask yourself why this is? Do you have no
sense of justice or compassion? Are you really that surprised by our
action? If you cannot appreciate that this
city that you pass through every day to work is here, and it's
citizens deserve basic dignities, well - perhaps
OUR community ought to be a gated community in order to stop
uncaring people passing through!"
The outrageous financial disparity apparent in the
larger metropolitan area of eastern Michigan, between the outer suburbs
and the inner urban areas cannot continue to stand. Responsible people
are already starting to realize that urban sprawl and the dereliction of
duty by the State of Michigan to its inner urban areas is ultimately a
Already the infrastructure of the inner ring of suburbs is starting to
decay. Minorities who have moved to these inner suburbs are facing the
same prejudice that we have observed towards the inner urban areas. They
become victims of a city stripped of income and thus have to face degraded
utilities and services - the cycle starts to repeat itself. Sooner or later, those
who are more fortunate
will realize that fleeing further and further out, placing greater and
greater pressure on utilities already strained to breaking point is a
The time is ripe for change.
Highland Park citizens have demonstrated the kind
of solidarity they are capable of. Some years ago, when a company wanted
to construct a hospital incinerator that would have spewed toxic waste
into the air over the city, the citizens got together and said
Once again, the City of Highland Park is on a cusp, and its fate
and future will be determined by metal of its citizens. Either the city
will sink further into poverty and despair, or the citizens will take
action and alert the World to this obscene injustice - and in so doing,
will win their city back.
Copyright © 2000 Highland Park Watch. All rights reserved.
Revised: March 07, 2006