20% of Detroit in the dark, paper says
Many of Detroit's light poles are antiquated, making quick fixes nearly impossible because of the costs, city officials say.
October 19th, 2011
06:03 PM ET

20% of Detroit in the dark, paper says

About 20% of Detroit is without working street lights, and in some areas up to 50%, the Detroit News reports.

A combination of problems, including an aging infrastructure, a shrinking city budget and criminal activity - both real and perceived - have made public lighting a problem, officials say.

“I know you heard that 50% of the city is in the dark. I wouldn’t say that high, but it is a great number,” City Councilman James Tate told CNN Wednesday. “And I don’t care what side (of town) you’re talking about - east, west, more affluent - you see lights out everywhere."

Strapped for cash like most cities, Detroit officials are trying novel - and controversial - ways to fix the longstanding issue:  The Detroit Works Project proposed by Major David Bing would shift the city’s resources to the more vibrant neighborhoods, prioritizing working lights, water systems and trash pickup to areas that are heavily invested. On the other hand, blighted areas – huge swaths of the city  - would be divested of resources in a bid to encourage residents to move out of those parts of the city.

“What it does is try to encourage density in certain areas of the city,” Tate said, “because in these areas that have pretty much no one on the block now the challenge is if you have one person who lives there, you’ve got to provide the services, all of them, garbage collection, water, lighting,” he said.

Another plan would have the lighting department privatized.

In any case, city leaders are angry. This past summer, several leading clergy members took Wall Street to task over contributing to blight by letting foreclosed properties fall into disrepair.

"They kick people out of these properties and now they're abandoned, windows kicked out, pipes stolen," the Rev. Charles Williams II of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church said at the time. "This is a city-wide epidemic. We want to call Chase into action to put money back into these houses and put people back into these houses."

The city has been struggling to reinvent itself for years, a feat made all the more difficult in the face of low confidence in city officials, a shrinking tax base and a crippling recession.

Census numbers show the city has lost more than 250,000 residents from 2000 to last year - its lowest population in a century. Along the way there have been major lapses by the city's Public Lighting Department. CNN affiliate WDIV last month reported that a city street light outage lasted more than two months.

"After dark it's scary. There's no lighting," Aledra Shannon said, according to WDIV. ""I mean, three or four months, you know, I just didn't think that was normal, even for the city of Detroit," she was quoted as saying.

And it’s not just on the east side.

“If you look at Outer Drive, (the lights are) all out both on the east side and west side of the city, and that’s a major thoroughfare,” Tate said.

Metal thieves have long been the bane of police departments, but in Detroit they have managed to darken whole city blocks by ravishing light poles for iron and other metals.

“We have folks that are taking out some of the coils at the base of the lights,” Tate said. “They are looking for some type of metallic material, but it’s of very little value, according to public lighting officials, and it takes out the whole light.”

Also keeping much of the city in the dark is an antiquated lighting system that makes quick-fixes nearly impossible because of the costs. “They don’t even make the part anymore,” Tate said of the city's transformers. “So we have to now install an entire different light right now, an entire system just to fix a light that goes out.”

And then there's the perception of crime, which has dogged the city for decades. Without proper lighting, whole areas, even those with robust commerce, become danger zones.

"We’re trying to get people to move to the midtown and downtown areas which are very, very successful and yet lights are out in those areas as well,” Tate said. “So it is literally a public safety issue, because if you can’t see the individual committing the crime, they are more likely to continue to commit those crimes,” he said.

But city officials contend that as bad as the situation seems, there is some, well, light, at the end of the tunnel.

"It doesn't make me happy when I go into a neighborhood at night," Chris Brown, the  city official over the Public Lighting department, told the News. "We've got an obligation to get it done. In the next couple of years we will see a strong improvement of the lighting of those more dense areas, and that's where we're focused on, and that's what we've got to get done," he was quoted as saying.

Post by:
Filed under: Michigan • U.S.
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    lmao ok raven, not sure i liked the anology of the city i live in tho! 🙂 but all jokes aside, one of the biggest reasons of detroits downfall is the years of corruption!

    October 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat2u

    That is what I really meant. I just got to typing so fast I intermingled my meanings. Sorry about that.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    Lmao @ bobcat its all good hun and woohoo goooo cards! Top of the 5th cards 2 rangers zip!

    October 19, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. raven

    my apologies ,chrissy. I know what ya mean: I can say anything I want about my darling,perfect,angelic kids but noone else better.. (actually they arent kids anymore but y know, theyre still perfect , just ask em !)

    October 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bimbo the Birthday Clown

    Good thing the rabid monkey isn't running around there. That would complicate things.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bimbo the Birthday Clown

    It's one city I haven't been to, but I haven't heard a lot of good things. A friend of mine who left about 10 years ago goes back to visit family every 2-3 years, and said it still feels dangerous.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. the prophet

    It's called decaying America....and now with the new free trade agreement with Spanish America we are doomed to rut to our death. F...ck the Government and their subordination and taxation including property taxes.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    Get the monkey to take some aspirin. All better.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. raven

    Lol m.s. ! just make sure its generic.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    lmao @ banasy, hey did you ask joey my ? And raven no worries girl. And yes parts of detroit is scarey just as parts of any large city bimbo, but other parts are beautiful! Even some of those old abandoned buildings like the train depot....Awesome!

    October 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bimbo the Birthday Clown

      Good point. Maybe she just comes from a bad neighbourhood.

      October 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. the prophet

    Occupy wall street, and all the city halls acroess this land enough of BS from Governmfnt

    October 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chrissy

    hey maybe raven can answer that ? raven would you say someone who has their reproductive organ, or ding ding as you put it, sucked up into their abdomen, would that person be an INTROVERT? And if they were a HE, would they now be a SHE? lmao

    October 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gung hoe

    When you talk about the downfall of detroit please dont forget the hand the all to mighty UAW has had to do with it.when they first came on the scene back in the 20s or 30s they were needed but as much as they were needed then they over priced the workers right out of a job.hence the downfall of a once beautiful and glorious state my state michigan

    October 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bimbo the Birthday Clown

      I think I stated on another thread a few weeks ago, and it has been noted by smarter people than me, that the non-skilled and semi-skilled manufacturing jobs are the first casualties of free trade deals and globalization. Maybe the UAW could have slowed the decline by not being so demanding, but ultimately the auto industry was going to decline.

      October 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chrissy

    wow prophet i actually agree with you! 🙂 never thought that would happen lol

    October 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gung hoe

    @chrissey I calj them Its

    October 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7