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Down Brush Street in Detroit in winter. (c) Daily Detroit.
View down Brush Street in Detroit in winter. (c) Daily Detroit.

This week came the news that the $185 million relighting program for Detroit’s streetlights is complete.

It’s not that the city being re-wired and re-lit with LED streetlights is a bad thing. It’s a very good step forward.

It seems to have been quite the effort over multiple years to make it happen, involving the hard work of many organizations like DTE Energy, the Public Lighting Authority, and countless people. More details are here, but here’s the main point:

On Thursday, December 15, the Public Lighting Authority (PLA) installed the last of 65,000 new LED streetlights in the city. That completes a massive $185 million relighting program that began in February 2014 after Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit City Council appointed a new board to lead the project.

Here’s the thing, though.

You’re supposed to have streetlights in a major city.

You’re supposed to keep home ownership records straight so people don’t lose their homes (Hint: This recent report says they don’t). The cops are supposed to show up a few minutes after you call them. Buses are supposed to show up on time.

These are basics. Things you’re supposed to do.

Yes, there has been progress. But Detroiters not only pay high property taxes, they also pay 2.4% income tax (1.2% for non-residents), a 5% utility tax, among other things.

We deserve the best for paying the most out of the pockets of people who have the least.

This isn’t meant as a slam on him, but it won’t be Dan Gilbert that “saves” Detroit.

It’s going to be the guy on Gilbert street that doesn’t move to a sunbelt state because life in the city got better for him and his family. That there were jobs and opportunities here and he could feel confident his kids are going to get a great education. And then that decision happening thousands and thousands of times over.

Now that there’s some sort of baseline, in 2017 and going forward we should be vocal about expecting the best, most efficient and effective services out of our leadership. To be nationally and globally competitive, let alone a leader, we need to get more than the basics right.

If you truly love Detroit, anything less isn’t just letting our elected officials and leaders off the hook. It’s selling ourselves and the future of our city short.