Donkeys in Detroit? DNC Considers Motor City for 2016

The Democratic National Committee asked fifteen cities to submit proposals to host its 2016 convention, and among the obvious contenders one is raising eyebrows: Detroit, Mich.

Conventions bring more than passionate partisans in funny hats. When delegates descend, they bring with them millions of dollars in revenue. (And occasionally some really awful pick up lines. A GOP delegate in New York tried to get me excited by saying, “Ester? That’s an old-fashioned name. I like old-fashioned women.”) Sometimes they revitalize the local sex industry! It can be a big deal to a struggling metropolis.

Is Detroit ready for a moment in the sun? It is, um, officially bankrupt: “Detroit filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in July 2013,” which is a complicated and intriguing process for a city. Deep anger and mistrust in the streets sometimes churn into violence, as in this heartbreaking story of a suburban driver who hit a city child and, contra Tom Wolfe, stopped to help, only to get beaten unconscious by furious onlookers. A retired nurse, who was already helping the child, is credited with also saving the driver’s life.

The story only illustrates how fraught and combustible the situation is in Motor City:

Under a new police chief, the Detroit Police Department has reported a decrease in property crimes in the first quarter of 2014 of 28 percent over a year ago, and a 15 percent drop in violent crimes. But crime remains a pervasive worry, and many Detroiters said they felt obliged to keep weapons.

Detroit also recently made news, though, for its energetic art scene, which is helping to revitalize at least parts of the downtown (“this provocative 21st-Century renaissance happening in Detroit is not fancy, and it’s not cradled with money. It’s about ingenuity and hard work”). Writers can apply to get free houses. Thanks to the resilience and creativity of its residents, and some newcomers, it is being called an Art City of the Future. That’s progress the DNC should be proud to support.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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6 Comments / Post A Comment

Come on, Billfold. You ran an interview with Drew Philps earlier this month, called it “Detroit Would Rather You Not Take Pictures of Its Ruins”, then use the above photo for this story? How about a nice photo of something in the city that might actually attract the DNC?

Mike Dang (#2)

@Allison Hagen@facebook Ester wasn’t around for that yet! I’ll swap.

@Allison Hagen@facebook Mea culpa!

chevyvan (#2,956)

I went to a conference in Detroit a few years ago. Believe me, almost nobody in the organization was psyched about it being held there. I guess one of the higher-ups was hell-bent on it. It was held downtown, and we actually had a great time. It was beautiful, right on the water. We were able to head to Greektown for dinner, and found several cool little bars. But the thing that struck me was how appreciative the restaurant staff were everywhere we went to eat. It was obvious we were their for a conference (nametags, etc), and they all keep saying, “Thank you SO MUCH for coming to Detroit…We’re so glad to have you here…Please come back for dinner…” It was so nice, but made me so sad. They are really suffering.

nell (#4,295)

@chevyvan I was there for the Winter Classic (outdoor NHL games at Comerica Park in Detroit and at the Michigan football stadium in Ann Arbor) and had a similar experience. It was tangible how stoked all the bars and restaurants were to be so busy –our waitress told us that they essentially close a lot of the restaurants in the Comerica Park area when neither baseball or hockey is in season. It would be great to have the DNC in Detroit for obvious economic reasons but also because it’s such a beautiful city that could stand to have a few more powerful people fall in love with it.

Eric18 (#4,486)

Glad to see that Detroit (and the state govt. in Lansing) has at least recognized some of its fiscal problems and is starting to take steps to fix it. The denial that alot of people and elected leaders displayed towards the city’s problems was baffling and anger-inducing.

Recommend people check out the documentary “Burn” on Netflix about the Detroit Fire Department and the struggles it faces on a daily basis. One of the best docs I have seen.

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