Monday, August 4, 2014

One money losing scheme after another

Detroit: Setting Taxpayer $ On Fire

By Jim Epstein, Jul. 24, 2014,

Growing up in the 1940s, Robert Fogelson remembers banging on the typewriter and peering out the window at his father’s office in a Manhattan skyscraper. Then "[my dad] would take us for lunch to a nearby Schraft’s, a chain of restaurants that was popular with housewives like my mother, who regularly went downtown to shop…to socialize ...or to meet my father for a play or a movie." Fogelson hadn’t decided yet what he would do with his life, "[b]ut I took it for granted," he writes, “whatever I did, I would do downtown."

As much a concept as a physical location, "downtown" was "the most powerful and widely recognized symbol of the American industrial metropolis," wrote historian Sam Bass Warner Jr., and it evokes sentimentality even in those of us who grew up long after flagship stores and corporate headquarters had relocated to the outskirts, leaving urban commercial districts empty and decrepit. Tourists still pack Times Square in New York City, where they can revel in a Disneyland-like recreation of downtown’s bright lights and crowded sidewalks. Fogelson never became a denizen of a towering skyscraper; he’s an urban historian at MIT and the author of Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950, an examination of how center cities have shaped public policy.

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