Saturday, March 28, 2009

Detroit's Future

Next stop on the U.S. city tour is TIME's look at Detroit's future:

"Detroit's motto, coined in 1827 to memorialize a devastating fire, translates from Latin as "We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes." But hope is in short supply. At 13%, Detroit's unemployment rate is the worst in the country among major metropolitan areas. City hall, long racked by corruption and cronyism, became a punch line last fall amid former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's imprisonment. To make matters worse, the city is struggling to bankroll potential remedies. Its projected $300 million budget deficit recently spurred ratings agencies to downgrade its municipal bonds to junk status. (See pictures of Detroit's decline.)

Yet all is not lost, as the city looks to reinvent itself as a greener community and haven for up- and-coming artists.

"In other ways, Detroit is moving on. In place of assembly lines, hundreds of urban farms and gardens have taken root. Nonprofit organizations are helping residents transform barren neighborhoods into fertile plots that feed impoverished families, beautify blighted blocks and raise home values. Others are taking the initiative on their own. Last April, after losing his job, Mark Covington hauled away the garbage piled on his street and began planting squash, tomatoes, collard greens and kale to give away.

His Georgia Street Community Collective devised a mentoring program for kids, held a holiday fundraiser for an evicted family and purchased a vacant building for $1 to convert into a community center and store--a useful commodity in a city vexed by food deserts. "We have to step up and do things for ourselves," Covington explains. "My idea is to have some type of garden on every block."

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