What a WHITE OUT looks like; a Letter to the Senator vs. Detroit City Council’s veto of the Belle Isle State Park Proposal the results of that action

Belle Isle Nature Center Interior. Detroit, MI.

Belle Isle Nature Center Interior. Detroit, MI. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for the lengthy title.  Lots of notables over the last 36 hours.  Yesterday I emailed Senator Levin a general letter encouraging state and national support of Detroit’s revitalization efforts, which can be read at the bottom of this post.  Let me know your thoughts on it, OK?

Also, it’s the day after a couple of disturbing headlines from around Detroit.

On the Friday morning of February 1st, Detroit’s commute from Downriver produced a 30 car pile up on I-75, caused by a characteristically Michigan weather condition called a “white out.”    Incidentally, white outs also are characteristic of eastern seaboard Connecticut in winter.  Both areas are located practically on the same longitude and are adjacent to a large body of water.  The natural catastrophe yesterday resulted in 3 fatalities and 20 injured.


For those readers residing south of the Mason-Dixon line and unsure what exactly a ‘white out’ is, it is likened to a FLASH FROZEN FOG whereby in fewer than three seconds drivers cannot see one foot in front of their windshield, and the road usually turns to black ice.   Result?  instant spin-out at whatever speed you are traveling, catapulted into other automobiles driven by folks who cannot see you and whom you cannot see.  This experience can be likened to bumper cars at 40 mph in 1700 lb. vehicles with a blindfold on.  If you have experienced a white out resulting in a crash, it is traumatic enough to keep one from behind a steering wheel for more than six months, easy.


There also was a fatality in Detroit yesterday: Detroit City Council vetoes a state proposal to lease the Belle Isle park in Detroit which will convert the local city park into a state park, funded and maintained by the state for 30 years.  The cut off date for approval was Thursday January, 31 because Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources had until that day to allocate funds for the 2013 budget.  A deadline is a deadline.


I’m all in favor of autonomous government of a city (or any local municipality) as long as the citizens of the city are served.  In this case city council members like the power for its own sake, would rather default by missing a deadline than actually dealing with a legitimate decision-making process, cannot seem to comprehend economies of scale, project racism and classicism wherever they look, would rather ‘cut their own nose to spite their face’, and foster the credo of ‘if I can’t have two eggs I won’t have any!’   This is entirely self-defeating on a corporate level at best, and the polar opposite of common sense.  Anyone who hopes to see a general lifestyle  improvement in Detroit for the sole purpose of providing this opportunity to each one of its citizens is basically SOL.  And they say ya’ just can’t fix stupid.

The whole thing creeps me out:  Especially so in light of the letter I wrote Senator Levin just yesterday.  What a difference a day makes!!!  Today I believe my last sentence in paragraph five is wrong.  Nothing wrong with Mayor Bing, Gov. Snyder, the Senator…its the Detroit City Council and mislead constituency that haven’t a clue.  Well, for what it’s worth, here it is:

Senator Levin,

It was good to read in this morning’s newsletter that you are working closely with Sen. John McCain on relevant action to break gridlock in the legislative body through which you both serve. Senator McCain is genuine in his service to his constituents in Arizona and desires only the best for America. 

Stick with the winners, especially if you want to set a better example and correct those who hinder. Majority Leader Reid has not impressed me in the least, and clearly, what has been happening at the Senate in recent past is unacceptable.

In a current article in GovTech, an innovative IT pilot program Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is implementing in his city’s public schools would be something to consider for Detroit. Here is the link:


As a Downriver Detroit resident I believe any adjustment bringing good to Detroit to ensure that it flourishes, will ultimately will make Wayne county stronger. This in turn will elevate the state of Michigan as a whole. Similarly, what strengthens Michigan, that is, boosts its morale, attracts industry and academic excellence, etc. will indeed set the tone and restore the vision of a healthy, powerful and sustainable America. Managing the weak part improves the aggregate.

For many decades the name “Detroit” has shamefully been synonymous with “blight”, “a pity”, “failure” and a “racial war zone.”  Since the 1968 riots, to be exact. What is up with that?  Forty-six years is long enough.  It is time now to change Detroit’s PR, its overall image before the nation. Its people are willing but leaders must lead.  Example, Giuliani.

Detroit is not just a city. It is THE metaphor for industrial manufacturing in America. Automotive, engineering, mechanical design, robotics, medical research & technology, higher education, tourism & wildlife, fresh water retrieval, fishing, logging, national security, border protection, all stand to serve as examples of world-class ingenuity.  These and more make up the very backbone of middle class stability and society.  If we re-frame our thinking, it will happen.

Detroiters are a resilient, brave, kind population that takes pride in the city’s history, heritage, jazz blues & Motown sounds, museums, universities, ball clubs and nightlife. Detroit will always be relevant as long as it is alive, healthy, and more importantly, safe and sound.

But it limps along fragmented, fractured by class, race, and cultural divides. Underfunded and mediocre local law enforcement is overwhelmed at best and apathetic at worst.

With more than 10,000 abandoned building structures in inner city ghettos, homeless communities under I-75 & I-94 overpasses, drugs and illegal weapons circulating better than newspapers, it is no wonder that attention toward white and blue-collar crime, corruption, international and organized crime takes a back seat, if not ignored altogether.

Now is the time to facilitate Detroit’s recovery. Take every step necessary to stabilize and nurture Southeast Michigan so that it may take its proper place at the head of the line, and not continue to be relegated to the rear. Detroit still breathes.

Ford Motor Company declined the federal government’s offer of bailout. In direct contrast with its competitors, Ford’s leaders radically downsized the organization 18 to 24 months prior to the auto industry crash. It regrouped, researched, changed, planned and implemented something different because it wanted to succeed on its own terms. Ford Motor now enjoys profits, market leader status, and sits at the pinnacle of global success and exposure to that fact.

You, Senator, your colleagues, Mayor Bing, Governor Snyder all have the responsibility to your collective constituencies to create and foster a NEW vision for Detroit.

You must collaborate with think tanks like Detroit Renaissance and heed recommendations to develop sound policy, ethical processes and programming designed to transform the metropolis into its true identity. 

An effective urban revitalization program can be likened to the new growth which appears a few seasons after devastating fires wipe out an old forest. The short stubs of dark green flora skirt acres and acres of arboretum, of blackened trunks and exposed roots. Its barren, burnt, charred endogenous trees, however, are fundamentally stronger, and the underbrush more lush than the original foliage which grew.

As in nature, so it is in cities of humans.  Roots reach deeper into the earth, and the residual ash carbonizes the soil. Each subsequent rainfall enriches the land like never before. Surviving plant life thrives and eventually becomes the food source for future generations.


It is incumbent upon our leadership at this time to act wisely. I am grateful for Gov. Snyder who has proven to be one tough nerd.  Your office should work closely with his and Mayor Bing’s to institute mean n lean, streamlined, cost efficient programs to jump-start our most damaged and abandoned communities. Help them help themselves.

There is less time than ever to get it right. And ‘get it right’ we must.

May G-d bless you and keep you: The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.


Elizabeth Rukeyser Johnson
A US Citizen
Lincoln Park


3 thoughts on “What a WHITE OUT looks like; a Letter to the Senator vs. Detroit City Council’s veto of the Belle Isle State Park Proposal the results of that action

  1. I do not agree with the decision either. This is Detroit, we love it, but this is the reality we have had to deal with. One city council member is leaving for sure. All the seats are up for grabs this November. We shall see if things change.

  2. Good letter Liz. The problems and complexities of the City of Detroit go deep and there is no simple solution. Carl Levin is a great Senator and has the best interest of the people. I’m scared who they will try to put in after he retires or dies. As for Snyder, I agree, he has the best intentions and is sincere. He is naive to some of the realities of Detroit, but he tries. He could be a lot worse! One of the biggest issues hindering Detroit is the lack of tax revenue. EVERYONE is leaving the city. Those who are left have given up or are too far gone into the cycle of ignorance and poverty to care. There is a contingent of folks who continue to reside in the city and are desperate for renewal. Everyone has their own agenda. I’m looking forward to the City Council election in November. Some of those people got to go!

    • Yes yes yes, Leah! You are piercingly correct when you say:
      “One of the biggest issues hindering Detroit is the lack of tax revenue.”
      Isn’t it obvious that by converting a lovely local city park into an amazing national wildlife preserve would attract visitors from all over, marketed as part of the Michigan State Park network? Wouldn’t the tax revenue start pouring in when visitors spend Downtown left and right en route to Bella e Isle picnic or bike ride? Detroit residents would have jobs inside and at shops surrounding the park. OK, so the city council members’ beef is the park is leased to the state rent free, but park administration and maintenance bill is picked up by the state. And it is up for negotiation in 10 years. Yeesh.

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