It is a done deal! Belle Isle, the summer gathering spot for Detroiters and a must see attraction for visitors from across the country, is now a State operated park. On a recent visit, there were no Detroit Police patrolling. Instead, and shortly after crossing the bridge, there were two, not one, two State Police vehicles, with lights flashing behind a car being towed, as a sign of significant enforcement changes to come. Having heard about the climate on Belle Isle, no cars lined the water like they used to, filled with people taking in the scenery, listening to music or talking about the latest news of the day. In fact, on this 60 degree spring day, there were no early morning fishermen sitting along the banks.
This abbreviated ride around the island was shortly met by another State Police SUV barely hiding behind the smaller bridge located across from the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, hoping to catch anyone who might decide to travel beyond the posted 20 mph speed limit signs.
Actor/Director Spike Lee was recognized and often criticized earlier this year, for his speech on gentrification. “And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?” said Spike. Similarly, what is being witnessed throughout the city of Detroit is called diversity at best. Diverse businesses, diverse people, and a cultural shift in who patronizes downtown. The installation of bike lanes, armed private security guards on downtown street corners along with a growing list of buildings being purchased by real estate developer Dan Gilbert for residents and businesses alike, is causing many to be concerned. Additionally, companies like Moosejaw, StarBucks and Anytime Fitness have recently decided to take up space in the center of downtown Detroit.
So, what does all of this communicate to the hundreds of thousands of residents that have lived in the city without these developments, despite previous efforts by past Mayors of Detroit? Where are the city council members today, who opposed charging a fee to enter Belle Isle in the past?
Soon to fade, especially for those with arrest warrants, no insurance, or out-dated tags, are various cultural norms such as large Family Reunions that included “Uncle James” and “Aunt Gracie”, swimming in or walking along the beach front, and any reason for going on the island. It will soon be replaced with even more frisbee throwing, dog walking and skateboarding. “Good”, says Eric Jones, “it’s time the island gets cleaned up and if a few people need to get their life straightened out, then so be it, all for the greater good”. Point taken. However, “the current laws related to “Stop & Frisk”, especially by unsympathetic State Police officers in a bankrupt city, filled with stressed out people partly due to a 43% unemployment rate, only means more people of color headed to crowded jails, while major crimes including murder, carjacking and armed robbery continue to position Detroit near the top of the list in crimes per capita….for the greater good,” says LaSchell Echols.
A possible solution, at least in this writer’s mind, in an effort to bridge this gap while avoiding the appearance of a majority population take over, particularly for a city still under the direction of a State-appointed Emergency Financial Manager? It falls under Community Development 101: Scheduled town hall/community meetings, involving stakeholders from various city departments and businesses. These meetings would be designed to alert residents of upcoming major changes and their respective benefits.
Edward Foxworth III is the host of the T.V. Show “American Entrepreneur”, a news magazine style show focused on entrepreneurs who are making extraordinary strides. His book, The Six Routines of Self-Discovery, part of the Recapture your Passion System is available at www.edwardfoxworth.com.