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The greatest asset any city can have is its people. Detroit  is no exception to the rule. For far too long, the people of Detroit have been neglected by a city government and City Council that has turned a blind eye to the needs of its residents.

City government has a responsibility to provide structure and support to the vital needs of its residents beyond such basics as roads, lights and water. Providing that support comes in the form of helping neighborhoods organize block clubs, community groups, and civic associations.City Council, which controls the purse strings, has the opportunity to focus more of the city’s resources on these neighborhood organizations.

In recent history, Detroit city government created a program called New Detroit that was initially charged with the responsibility of coordinating activities among community groups. Unfortunately, what happened instead was that New Detroit grew and began to compete for some of the same grants and resources that traditionally went to neighborhood groups. The result of this unnecessary competition for scarce funds was a death blow to organizations that were already struggling to stay above water as more time and attention from city government went to its own pet project – at the expense of the organizations that the “pet project” was originally designed to serve and protect.

It’s time to refocus city government’s attention back on the community groups that make up the fabric of Detroit.

Additionally, it is time for individual City Council members to take a more active role — as citizens — in their own neighborhood associations. It’s time for City Council to act as a body to lift up block clubs and community associations. Set the example. Hold more meetings outside of downtown and in neighborhoods where the attention of an entire city can be brought to bear on the challenges facing an area of the city.

In other words, the City of Detroit needs to collaborate at a higher lever with Detroit’s neighborhood community associations to leverage all of the good work that they do. The police department has to work at a higher level with neighborhood associations in order to help them make their neighbors safe. Get out there and help block clubs organize. Give neighborhood associations the crime data they need and help them develop crime prevention plans. Neighborhood City Halls must mobilize and assist neighborhoods more often than every year during Angel’s Night on Halloween. Our community organizations need to be treated as real partners, not just personnel used to mobilize people at election time. Historically, Detroit has had some of the most active community organizations in the country, and the Detroit Police Department has had a Community Policing Section that was second to none.

Furthermore, organizations like Rosedale Little League provide recreational opportunities to thousands of kids from all over the city. The city needs to collaborate at a higher lever with these types of organizations to enable them to expand and provide services to even more young people. If we can’t afford stand-alone recreation centers, we should put the money we do have behind successful non-profit organizations that are supporting our kids.

We all need to keep in mind that Detroit’s city government is designed to represent the people, and the people are really all of you. There is no way city hall can solve Detroit’s ills without a solid partnership that links government to the grassroots community movers and shakers who are working on behalf of our city every day without pay and often at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. These individuals and the organizations with whom they operate are Detroit’s eyes and ears, and without them city hall is deaf and blind. How do we rebuild Detroit? Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.

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