Thursday, October 2, 2008

Can't keep ignoring poverty

I have heard Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers called a lot of things since she emerged on the political landscape three years ago. However, "right," has seldom been one of them.

This week, Conyers called for the leadership in Washington, D.C., to make sure that the economic bailout they were working on include relief for poor and struggling middle class people. The statement is undoubtedly the most cogent, substantial plea she has made in her time on the council, and it was important that she made it.

Being the wife of U.S. Congressman John Conyers, strategically it made since to connect something he and other Capital Hill Democrats pushed for to the local level. More importantly, vocalizing her position openly makes since because most of Detroit falls into either the poor or middle class camps. During a presidential race in which Michigan is a prized state and Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have been making visits here weekly, it's good that the issue is on their radar. Let's hope it is, anyway.

Now that McCain has scaled back operations in Michigan let's hope Obama picks up on Conyers' plea and does something to attack poverty on the home front -- on our home front.

The Freep ran a piece last week on poverty that bolsters her contention that something needs to be done to address poverty here.

It said, "Detroit, the nation's poorest big city, is the poster place for a central city in a free fall, having lost half its population over the last 50 years, with no end in sight. Motown's economic losses have exceeded even those of its population. From 1970-2000, the city shed more than half its jobs.

The decline of cities like Detroit has undermined regional economies that support states and, collectively, the nation. Cities and their regions need a new set of federal policies and investments.

Healthy central cities attract and keep the young talent that drives the new knowledge-based economy. Members of the so-called creative class seek dense, diverse and walkable neighborhoods with access to mass transit. In other words, they want to live in cities that work -- and the lack of such places in Michigan has figured mightily in the exodus of young people from this state.

After decades of neglect, the federal government must become a more aggressive partner in the economic redevelopment of cities, as called for by the International Economic Development Council. In that regard, presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan for a White House office of urban policy is encouraging. "

Let's hope, as the candidates jump on the bailout the middle class bandwagon, that they make a strong move to do something in Detroit. If Obama is elected, I'd like to see the Conyers, both at the local and federal levels, do they part to make sure Detroit gets its slice of the pie. Our profile on the radar will only get larger between now and next January.

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