Detroit’s spring, anti-government rhetoric, and the importance of paying taxes

by Linda Beale

Detroit’s spring, anti-government rhetoric, and the importance of paying taxes

Dear Readers:

As you know, I’ve been offline for a few days. Spent a very nice holiday enjoying the outdoors. Spring has sprung in Michigan. Daffodils are blooming, bobbing their gay yellow heads in various corners of the yard where I tucked bulbs in last fall. Tulips have surged upwards like the subprime market before the crash–any day I’ll see that bright red, pink and purple that makes one sure that the world can’t be all that bad. I’ve planted quite a few fruit trees on my 3/4 acre in the “New Center” area of Detroit (Boston-Edison, to be exact). Cherries and ornamental pears will likely start opening blossoms today. Plums are in line close behind. Peaches appear set to be loaded again this year. Apples are slower–even the crabapple hasn’t yet shown its buds. Mulberries, grapes, kiwis, elderberries. This will be the third full year I’ve lived in Detroit, and the time when most of my earlier labor at planting will pay off.

Infrastructure is like that. You need to plan, and you need to do a lot of hard work. And eventually, the infrastructure supports the development you foresaw when you started. Short term thinking doesn’t get you very far. Oh sure, you can plant a gazillion annuals and you might get a raucous splash of color for the season. But it is lacking compared to the recurring beauty of perennials and trees that work together to provide food for humans, birds, squirrels while cleaning the air, beautifying the landscape, and just adding grace to human existence.

The US needs to do better at long-term planning, and one of the most encouraging things this year in Detroit is that we just might get our act together to do that. With some support from federal tax revenues, some creative thinking, and sheer determination, Detroit may be able to downsize and upgrade at the same time. It will require a lot–demolition of vacant and decayed properties that will cost money and not bring rewards til several years down the road; construction of public/private facilties like sports arenas, the riverwalk, bridges, and the Cobo Center; creation of a real public transportation system for the future (light rail); bicycle trails (we already have cyclists down our one-way street on Third every weekend); and new ideas like urban farming (if they can figure out what to do about the high lead level in the Detroit earth). Most important, though, is improvement of the schools. That means taxpayer dollars and volunteer hours. Encouragingly, Detroit Public Schools’ new volunteer program for a three-year commitment to two preschoolers has more than 5000 participants.

There is hope in Detroit, and hope in the country. But we have to achieve a balance between holding government officials accountable, which is terribly important, and helping government officials do their job by supporting government programs and understanding the importance of taxation as the necessary foundation for good government that does many things for its citizens that citizens cannot do for themselves.

Spring is a time of renewal. Let’s think of it as a time to cut out the ideological hate rhetoric, and get down to the business of governing ourselves in ways that help ordinary Americans lead better lives. That would be by far the best antidote to the growing problem of oligarchy and corporatism in this country!