• January 17, 2014
Flickr Crative Commons Photo by Jimmy Emerson

Cozy Wadena, Flickr Crative Commons Photo by Jimmy Emerson

This post deviates from Minnesota Litigator’s normal policy of news and developments in Minnesota civil litigation. Got a problem with that?  You guessed it: sue me.

One of the many joys of being a civil litigator is the travel.

I will be headed to Wadena County Courthouse later this month, for example (2.5 hours drive Northwest of the Twin Cities).  Travel does not always take us to quaint and interesting towns, however.  Last week, I went to Detroit.

Detroit by Bob Jagendorf (Flickr Creative Commons)

Detroit by Bob Jagendorf (Flickr Creative Commons)

As most Minnesota Litigator readers know, Detroit is now in bankruptcy.  For some time now, the city seems to be a dystopian movie location, an emblem of urban decay.

To the layperson, it is unclear what this bankruptcy will do for the city, the state, and its people.  We all hope it means that Detroit will get a “fresh start” and, along with the U.S. automotive industry, will soon be on the rebound.

But in the short term, it seems to mean that the city and surrounding area is in the grips of austerity measures in which the impact of decades of poverty and perhaps gross mismanagement creep into any and every moment and interaction in a dying city.

The hotel room I booked, part of a national chain, was unheated.  The temperature outside was about ten degrees Fahrenheit.  (There was no thermostat or heating in the room so I don’t know how cold it was in the room. It was cold. The hotel provided a space heater, which took the temperature from intolerable to merely cold.)

When I asked at the hotel for a tip on a place for dinner that would be within walking distance in the center of the city, the front desk was at a loss.  No place came to mind aside from the hotel’s own restaurant.  The front desk referred me to a nearby bar for which the term “dive” would be too fancy.  (How could it wreak of cigarette smoke, I wondered?)  I beat a retreat and ate at the hotel.

The deponent showed up for his deposition 90 minutes late because the roads had not yet been cleared from a snow storm four days before.

Not being a political scientist, historian, city planner, civil engineer, or politician, I do not have the slightest idea where Detroit went wrong and how the Twin Cities can insure against that risk.  As with most of us, however, having no sound basis for strong opinions does not stop me from having them.

I believe that race and racism have played a complicated role in Detroit and in many or maybe all U.S. cities, leading to policies that overlook or underserve large constituencies (that is, poor African Americans and their neighborhoods).  I get the sense that there is a “them and us” mentality that interferes with sound social policy that would otherwise be implemented if the problems were regarded as OUR problems, rather than THEIR problems.

But I can end this post on a positive note.  I had positive interactions with every single person with whom I interacted in Detroit.  Notwithstanding the obvious hardship facing all of them, I was truly impressed, gratified, and appreciative of a general feeling I got of resolve and positivity.


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