Monday, October 22, 2012

Political Musings

For those few of among the skateboarding public who did watch the most recent (last) presidential debate, this first paragraph means nothing. However, if you are like the vast majority, you may want to continue reading this thesis paragraph. In 2008, when the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) requested a bailout from the government, Mitt Romney wrote an editorial article for the New York Times concerning our fair city of Detroit ( The article is entitled 'Let Detroit go Bankrupt'. While many, including myself, immediately jumped to the conclusion that we should get an old fashioned mob of pitchforks and torches and hunt Mitt down, reading the article brings up an important question that only skateboarders would care about: which would have had a more desired outcome for Detroit? To let the city die in a controlled manner, or to throw money at the problem and hoping that it goes away? (to the uninformed, we DID get the bailout)

It isn't without reason to immediately think that the Big Three's (as well as the rest of Detroit, by default) economic crisis has helped the actual act of skateboarding (meanwhile, shops still flounder, hoping to make it into the black every year... This is another story). The failed policies of Reagan have a complete opposite, as the depression can trickle down just as well as the money was supposed to trickle down, meaning that when employers have less money, this means they obviously don't have enough money to

A) hire 24 hour security to kick you out of a spot at three AM (Kerns seems to be the exception)
B) hire companies to wire their buildings with security cameras to be manned by the employees mentioned above
C) be frivolous with their spending on other luxury items, I.e. power-washing and skate stopping ledges (this deals more with the city funds, or lack thereof)
D) stay open, as much as it pains me to say this. However, the effects businesses have on skateboarding is easily the biggest problem for us as Detroit skateboarders, not the police. The cops could care less, but all workers seemingly have an issue with us.

This, to a degree, is exactly what happened. In fall/winter 2011, Detroit simply did not have enough money to pay the security guards at Hart Plaza. Therefore, Hart has essentially turned back into the hassle-free zone that old-timers like Steve Durant have frequently waxed-poetic about. This can be seen as one of the benefits of the depression that hit Detroit decades before it hit the rest of the US ; Detroit not having the money to pay people to essentially stop skateboarding at Hart Plaza (ironically, the only law on skateboarding in Detroit deals specifically with Hart Plaza).

HOWEVER, if Obama had followed Romney's advice, Detroit could be looking drastically different in a few years time.

"Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself... Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check." - Mitt Romney, NY Times, 2008

Ignoring the fact that the article I cite for that quote is entitled "Let Detroit Die", this COULD have been good for Detroit skateboarding (not only if it pushed us deeper into depression). If Romney's idea had been accepted, it could have had a benefit akin to the one just previously discussed. However, Romney's plan, had it been accepted (and worked as he says it would have, keep in mind this is written by a fervent Obama supporter) could have had some great side effects for Detroit's skateboarders.

First off, if Romney's plan would have (take this with a grain of salt) worked, the Detroit government would have likely felt a 'managed bankruptcy', along with El Big Tres DEFINITELY experiencing a managed bankruptcy. This sort of bankruptcy is essentially saying to those who are lending money to The Big Three, or Detroit in this case, that they don't have the money to pay back their debt. The business (or in this case, city of Detroit) would restructure their company (Detroit), cutting back frivolous spending (in this case, the city would not be power washing ledges, destroying areas like Brewster, etc), cutting back on employees (in the city's case, the city workers deemed unnecessary, such as those who power wash ledges, secure essentially vacant lots like Hart Plaza, etc) in order to penny-pinch their way back to the top, wherein, if the plan were to be successful, they would essentially do the exact opposite.

After Detroit's economic 'death', as Romney put it, the city would essentially spend money removing those pesky wax-stains on your favorite ledge, but, they would also have more money to renovate new plazas, hopefully creating a Love-park-esque plaza or two in the process, and a version of Capitol Park with a medium sized, non-beveled, ledge in the process. While this would mean that, yes, there would be more security, this would also mean that there would be more skate able areas in the city limits (and somehow by default more crack-friendly areas).

Due to Detroit's penny pinching, it would emerge in the black for the first time in decades, free to spend money on all the right things, replacing burnt down homes, abandoned buildings, abandoned lots unnecessary underground parking lots (the old Hudson's lot is set to be turned into lofts in the near future, hopefully complete with new spots), with new buildings, schools, public parks, and businesses, and at least one of them would have a damn fine planter ledge in front of it. More security, but more spots to decide on after the inevitable boot we would suffer from in a prosperous Detroit, however, due to the fact that there would probably be more than three ledge spots in the city to choose from, the employers hired due to a more forgiving economy would hopefully be unable to recognize the same recurring faces.

So, is the city going to emerge as a prosperous area rife with new spots popping up monthly? Certainly, however, when will this happen? And, will it happen before the readers of this blog have gray hair (this statement does not apply to blog-mainstay Ryan Schendel, who blames his grey hairs on teenage drug usage, not Steve Martin syndrome)? Or are we going to hold our breath until Detroit becomes a dystopia, similar to John Carpenter's 'Escape From New York' , when the city becomes so damn shitty that it doesn't matter if we grind some damn curbs...

As a counter-point to Romney's article appearing on the LA Times website last night (,0,7740119.story):

“Without government financing... they [WBS note: the Big Three/Detroit] would have been forced to cease production, close their doors and lay off virtually all workers..."

Also, the article features a quote from the former vice chairman of one third of the Big Three, Bob Lutz. He told the Detroit Free Press that the bailouts were a “necessary government intervention.”

“The banks were even more broke than we were,” Lutz said of the nation’s financial condition in late 2008. “Who had the money?"

The answer is Kerns. Kerns has all the money.

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