Readers Sound Off On The Most Important Issues Facing Detroit In 2017: Education, Crime & Job Creation

Play episode
The view of Detroit's east side from Belle Isle. (c) Daily Detroit file photo

In today’s digital world it’s relatively easy to see what’s popular. Every website has software that tells us how many page views a story received, how long in aggregate people spent on a video, all of that.

But anyone living here knows that what is popular is not the whole story.

Often the most impactful topics are not the most popular. We do enjoy writing stories of interest about the next noodle place or reminding you of an old favorite burger. But there is, obviously, so much more.

We’re not going to pretend we know better and assume what is important to you. So we asked our readers last month via a poll through our email newsletter and our website that received about 1,900 responses and many interesting comments.

What is the most important issue facing Detroit in 2017?

Most important issues facing Detroit 2017
Unscientific 2017 reader survey results, rounded to nearest percentage.

This is not meant as a scientific study. It’s more of a dipstick to check temperature and give some space to start a conversation with our readership and what they’re concerned about. The comments were, by and large, very thoughtful and the response was far larger than we expected.

Below is a sampling of comments among the top six issues, edited only for spelling or lightly for clarity. And later, we’re going to record and share a podcast discussing the survey.

33%: Education

“A lot of focus has been on economic development in Detroit, but what many have failed to realize is that a strong, educated workforce is crucial for meaningful and long-lasting economic development.”

“Without an overhaul of the education system in our city, the neighborhoods will never rebound.”

“The students in Detroit are grade level behind in many areas. Many high school students have a math ability of a 6th grade students. Most cannot read or comprehend what they are reading. Programs, schools and staff are aware and have programs in place. Sometimes students do not go to free programs for added support. Parents are not involved as they should be. Standardized test scores are low because of the previous knowledge explained is not cemented or remembered by students. Must stop social promotion! Make parents responsible for extended learning outside of the school day.”

“I could go on and on, but I won’t. In short, education is the most important issue in 2017 in Detroit for a few reasons. One is that without education an individual will have a very hard time bettering themselves. The people of Detroit need an education so that we can continue to produce positive influences on society as a whole. Second, without a good public school system I don’t care how sexy you make a building and the apartments, townhouses, etc. inside said building. I am not moving my family of five to Detroit. Where the hell would my kids go to school? Third is directly related to above. With a good public school system you can draw good citizens. Good citizens pay their taxes. That tax money is what we are missing. That tax money pays for police, fire, rescue, water, lighting, garbage and a myriad of services that people in smaller cities take for granted.”

“Once the education system is fixed, families will move to Detroit and stay in Detroit- stimulating the economy and raising well educated future leaders.”

“Detroit needs jobs, needs to get rid of abandoned homes and buildings. The root cause is lack of education and do educational opportunities. So people are qualified for jobs. So with some money in their pockets they can take pride in their homes and neighborhoods. Not worrying about the next paycheck, meal, and stop living week to week. Their attention can thus move beyond that.”

“I would like to see substantial attention and investment in the public schools so that the children being raised in Detroit receive an equitable education. Neighborhood public schools need to be supported and energized.”

“We have the worst public education system in the country. Solving this problem would solve virtually every other issue on the list.”

“Development and increasing population are on their own course. The fate of the city rests on the ability of the school system to education the majority of residents, and to begin to address the need of all students for 21st century education that can prepare all levels of students to participate in the redevelopment of Detroit with good paying jobs and preparation for higher education.”

“Children in Detroit are being cheated and need a far chance. They’re set up for failure and these are the people of tomorrow. Not cool!”

22%: Crime & Public Safety

“It is THE daily topic of conversation.”

“There are improvements but I’m still scared to live here.”

“There’s too much crime and murder in Detroit.”

“Why is Midtown nice? Because their police are good. Once you have safety, money rolls in, man. Safety first. Why can’t Chief Craig duplicate what’s happening in Midtown block by block in my Ravendale neighborhood?”

“If President Trump was serious about cities he’d make it so Detroit city cops got paid what Wayne State cops do. Can’t ask someone to sacrifice their life or care very much when they’re making what a Walmart cashier makes.”

“Can’t go out at night, too many drug dealers and crackheads.”

“We need to build a strong, safe city as an attraction for new residents (who pay taxes!) Along with this is new business to bring jobs and make the central city a nice, safe place to live.”

“If you reduce crime, then more people are going to stay and more people are going to move in. We have enough room for everyone.”

“As an RN (Registered Nurse) at a Trauma Center, I see too much violence that seems from burglaries, car jacking, drug warfare.”

“We need more stories not just on the arrests but what the police are actually doing, if anything, to change the crime culture.”

13%: Job Creation

“It’s basic economics — with more jobs, more Detroiters have more opportunity, the city has a higher tax base to pay for services, the schools have more resources, more Detroiters will be lifted from poverty.”

“More jobs are coming from the suburban area not inner city.”

“People need money to live and support the housing and infrastructure of the city.”

“We need all the people buying $50 dishes downtown so I can keep getting on the bus and keep my damn job.”

“People need good jobs in the city to create a sustainable tax base in order to support other things such as schools and public safety. Plus, to me the key to reviving the neighborhoods are jobs in the city. Very few will move to Detroit neighborhoods just because. They will want to move once they are tired of their hour+ commutes into the city. To me, jobs are key to the continued success of Detroit.”

“Although we have seen a huge jump in new jobs. The jobs have been in the service industry which are not long term careers. We need more career based jobs for the population of Detroit to provide for their families.”

“What Dan Gilbert said at the auto show was BS. Not everyone in Detroit who wants a job has one. He needs a reality check.”

8%: Development

“Detroit’s recovery is still very fragile. We were down for a very long time. Either things keep moving forward or we’ll fall back, possibly way back.”

“Development of our infrastructure, riverfront, downtown and buildings will continue to keep the momentum that detroit has experienced going. having this momentum and vibrant spaces will attract more companies and potential employees/residents to our city.”

“If you destroy all of the old history the city will lose its character, buy using the old we can make Detroit a green city”

“The way I see it, and the concerns I’ve seen from friends, is that money is still ruling the revitalization of Detroit. Huge buildings are going in for retail & residence, both of which will be expensive and will discourage people from moving to Detroit or shopping local. For example, we are seeing lots of fancy small plates or luxury restaurants going in with $40+ entrees- however these are not affordable to most residents and do not always take into account the history and culture of the city.”

“Get rid of ALL of the blighted areas within the entire City. Still too much emphasis on Mid-town and Downtown Detroit.”

“Clean up and development in areas of The 48212 (the Detroit part, not Hamtramck 48212, from Conant on Ryan Road and other streets east to Mound, south of E.McNichols (6 Mile), also along E. Davison.”

“The integrity of the history of Detroit needs to be preserved during development.”

“Detroit needs to clean up its neighborhoods. Redevelop them though, the glory days of Detroit are over so move on from the past and quit trying to refurbish old, crumbling buildings that nobody but people from the suburbs who are too scared to even come to Detroit care about.”

“It leads to the success of all others!”

7%: Income Inequality

“A lot of young people with jobs/money are moving downtown, causing rent and real estate to increase, it may be a disadvantage to the already existing individuals residing in downtown Detroit, who cannot afford the rising rent.”

“Income inequality is dramatic in Detroit’s population and it reflects bad race relations, disinvestment in neighborhood economies, ineffective public education programs/facilities and poor opportunities for low-income people to advance their lot in life (and, thus, not be motivated to try).”

“Even with advancement in places for suburbanites to go for entertainment or dinner you still have a stigma about less than fortunate people hanging out and making a mess of the rest of the city.”

“White suburbanites are given more of an opportunity to purchase city-owned property than people who actually live in the city.”

5%: Transportation

“In order to tackle all the other issues we have to address Metropolitian transportation. No one issue isn’t worthy of attention, but right now our system(s) of transit is the very heart of our divisiveness. We must repair it and work together.”

“We can’t become a great(er) city without transportation. We can’t achieve the density needed without transportation.”

“We need a more connected Detroit, and that starts with transportation. We cannot become a successful region while leaving those who rely on public transit as a daily commodity in the dust. It also benefits those who don’t use it daily for entertainment and leisure coming in and out of the city. In my personal opinion, all the progress being made, will be for nothing without a mass transit system which has been failing for 100 years here in Detroit. -Danny Matthews”

“A city can’t grow and compete with other modern cities without updating transit and infrastructure. It’s been proven.”

“Insurance too high.”

“All great cities NYC, CHICAGO, SEATTLE, have a transit system. We are lacking this!!”

Additional Feedback:

On Equal Opportunity:

“A diverse population of different races and ages will not come here to live in our city unless there is equal opportunity.”

On Government Accountability:

“Transparency is vital to ending unfounded accusations of corruption that still hound the city. By being accountable and open if there is something wrong it can be rooted out in a timely manner.”

On Taxes (probably the highest number of comments per votes):

“Instead of giving tax breaks for stadiums, why don’t we lower property taxes for residents?”

“Cost of living is becoming the biggest deterrent of living in Detroit. Along with the old standbys of crime and poor schools, as crime continues to improve (and maybe education too) taxes and insurance costs will increasing be the loudest reason to ditch to the suburbs.”

“We have one of the highest property tax rates in the country and that is going to deter the development of single family homes. The city also reassess property values at a higher rate than most suburban communities so if your house does appreciate, your investment becomes a more debt, not an asset each year. And while your payment goes up it’s not going towards your home, it only goes towards pain for the location of your home. It’s not worth it to buy in most cases. So with that, Detroit apartments will always be in high demand and the prairie neighborhoods will remain that way for the foreseeable future … If we want population growth then there needs to be incentive to want to be here and money is a great motivator. People love Detroit but the one thing I hear about most as a resident … is how much it costs to just live here.”

“Why don’t we lower the overall property taxes on us? Nobody seems to talk about that.”

More from this show