Twenty years from now, what do you think people will say about this turning point in Detroit? What will you remain proud of and what do you think will have people scratching their heads?
I think they’ll scratch their heads over two things. First, how it was possible for a major American city to have dug such a deep hole — financially, administratively and in so many other dimensions. And second, how getting out of that hole happened so quickly.
Looking back, they’ll see that the current period presented a remarkable moment of inflection in which multiple sectors agreed to collaborate for a common outcome. What we’re experiencing here that’s different from, say Pittsburgh or Portland, where the leadership was largely coming out of the private sector, is a different allocation of roles among the sectors. The public sector is attending to the basics – finance, administration, neighborhood blight. The private sector is contributing to the physical infrastructure necessary to make the City an attractive place for its employees to live and work. The federal government is focused on optimizing pre-existing investments – introducing flexibility in ways that permits the City to use federal dollars more flexibly and creatively. And the philanthropic sector has developed a wrap-around vision for the city – everything from transportation reform to a more robust arts and culture ecosystem, from a green economy to an anchor institution community engagement strategy. No one of those sectors could do it alone. I think we’ll be able to conclude in retrospect that this remarkable cross-sector and cross-discipline approach was the key to overcoming Detroit’s most intractable problems.
From an interview with Rip Rapson, a key player in the current story of Detroit.