Kraniak the Maniak Opinion
The long hot summer took a toll on my lawn. The lack of rain and number of 90+ degree days nearly wiped out all of the grass. Pockets survived, but as a whole the once green lawn was wiped out. The weeds on the other hand not only survived, but thrived. What to do?
I thought about simply seeding. There were plenty of bare spots, albeit they were hard and crusty. The seeds would land there but would they stay and grow? A good rain would likely wash them away. Laying seed over the weeds seemed pointless as surely the weeds would win the battle.
There was only one solution to save my lawn. Rip out everything out but the pockets of good grass and start over.
Weeds are criminals
In my yard: I grabbed a rake. First I focused on the weeds. Tough. Tenacious. Spread out. They were everywhere. I had to dig deep to root them out. This was no skim job, like raking leaves. This was chop with the rake, get down into the dirt and pull. It takes several attempts to get the crabgrass. I often used my hands to get the bull thistle, which can be sharp and cut you, even through gloves. The dandelions' roots were 3-6 inches deep. The goose grass was 18 inches across. Dig, chop, rake. I used a shovel, a hoe and a couple of different rakes. I broke a few wooden handles in the process.
In Detroit: The first thing you need to do is get the weeds out. This means crime. The rake is police. Think of each prong as a police officer. You need a lot of prongs to dig this yard out. It's huge. The more prongs, the bigger the rake, The bigger the rake the more weeds can be pulled. But not all weeds can be raked, some need to be pulled by hand. The hands are the people. The citizens of Detroit. How do you pull a weed by hand? You start by nipping them in the bud before they grow to be full blown killers. If their already grown you identify them, cut off their roots by not giving into fear and you get them to rake to be swept away. Mayor Bing preaches about parents doing a better job in raising their kids and managing their neighborhoods. He says citizens must tell the police what they know and get rid of the 'snitch' attitude.
He's right. But without real police support who would date to face down a criminal knowing that retribution is more likely than police action. Bing needs to give police the proper tools to fight the weeds. More prongs in the rake means more police officers. Give them the tools they need: a hoe, a shovel, a rototiller some weed killer if you must.
Nothing else will grow for very long if you have weeds in your yard. You want a healthy lawn, get rid of the weeds. You want to get rid of the weeds, put the work in and provide the resources to do it. There is no healthy future of Detroit without getting a handle on crime. Period.
You need good soil to grow
In my yard: After taking out the weeds, I decided to scrape off the entire top layer, about six inches worth, to create the proper environment for growth. This was a lot of work and a long term commitment. I needed to be sure I was rid of the root of the problem, which in fact are the roots of the weeds. No roots, no weeds. It meant some good soil was scraped off, but this is a price I was willing to pay to have a healthy lawn where grass could truly grow.
In Detroit: After taking out the criminals you have to scrape off the layer that fueled their growth. Abandoned houses are a good place to start. Cutting down overgrown playgrounds and vacant lots would make for a better environment, at least make it harder for criminals to hide or dump bodies. This is about 1-inch worth of scraping if you compare it to the six inches I took off of my own yard. The remaining layers have to do with removing barriers to a good education. Public schools have to be fixed. Remove the idle stagnation. Open up recreation centers. Organize more athletic leagues. Provide after school activities. Scrape off joblessness. Say what, how in the hell are you going to do that? The truth is that high paying manufacturer jobs are gone. What's needed are training programs. Retool the worker to land the jobs that are available. It took me a weekend to scrape off a layer in my yard. It will take months and years to do this in the city, but it can and must be done.
Where do you put all the dirt you scraped off?
In my yard: I designated a corner of my lawn to house a compost pile. This is where my scraped off layer goes. It's out of harms way, but what's great is that nature provides the magic that turns this dust, decaying roots and dead weeds into a healthy soil. I will reintroduce it to my yard as a foundation to plant new things like more grass, flowers, bushes and trees.
In Detroit: You need a place to house the criminals. There is no magic here. For them to turn around and become useful to society, work must be done. It's costs more to keep a prisoner in jail than to spend an entire year at most colleges. These prisoners need to work their asses off. Maybe they should be the ones who clear the abandoned houses, cut the acres of grasslands and work in the city. In return they get some job training. A chance at a new life. This is no picnic -- and if you screw up in the john you stay there to continue to work your ass off. You do some scraping and remove criminals, you're going to have to put them somewhere. Staying with my analogy, you're either creating a compost pile or industrial waste heap that one can use or afford to maintain.
Plant the seeds
In my yard: Before I planted the grass seed I placed a new layer of soil on top of where the old dirt used to be. I bought and paid for the new soil, but spread it across the yard myself with a rake in my hand. I picked the optimal seed to fit the environment my yard offers, a variety that grows best in a mix of sun and shade. I spread it evenly across the entire yard.
In Detroit: Before seeds can be planted new soil must be laid down. The new layer comes in the form of neighborhood programs, like a partnership between the police and the community. In comes in the form of streetlights that work, buses that run on time and functional city services like garbage pickup and EMS. It comes in the form of neighbors getting to know each other again, helping one another and banding together. It comes in the form of maintaining your own house, tending to your own garden, raising your children. It comes from taking responsibility for your own actions. It comes from having good schools. It comes from job opportunities. It comes from giving back to the community. This is the environment where Detroit can grow.
Let it rain and if doesn't -- make rain.
In my yard: I plant the seed, and then everyday for two weeks straight I water the yard, unless it rains. This is what's needed for the roots take hold; moist soil, allowing them to spread and grow. Then if all goes well you can see the sprouts and before too long you have a lawn again. It's not perfect. There are a few weeds and a few bald spots, but these are now very manageable. The lawn is now in a place where I just have to care for it. The benefit far outweighs the cost. Last week my daughter laid in the new grass, lost in her imagination as she created dialogue for her dolls.
In Detroit: You plant the seeds of change and then you water it everyday for a generation. Water is a resource. Resources take money. volunteerism, community activism and a commitment to succeed. Where will it come from. The tax base is bankrupt. You don't have enough working people to contribute dollars to the equation. Besides, the tax rate in the city is already high. You don't have enough value in property to raise the money there either, at least not now. So you need outside resources. The feds? Maybe. An argument must be raised like the one that offered tax payer money in the form of bank bailouts. 'THEY WERE TO BIG TO FAIL.' DETROIT IS TOO BIG TO FAIL TOO. If the city which once stood as the shining example of industrial might goes down, what does it mean for all cities whose residents have gone from high paying manufacturer jobs to lower-paying retail and food service jobs, or worse, no job. Detroit's path to salvation could lead the way to our nation's salvation.
What about corporations? Where is the philanthropic nature of the big three. Where is the vision to donate land like New York's Central Park? Talk about a return of investment, the increase in the quality of life there is beyond compare as a result of the park. We need vision and planning like that. We need an investment like that - only we're talking infrastructure and an investment in people, not just open space. Where are the Carnegies in our town. The Mellons? Have you been to Pittsburgh? We could learn a lot about reinventing a city from our brethren at three rivers. And Big Three and others -- how about the next time you open a plant or office -- you do it in the city?
How about our city government offering incentives to businesses to set up shop in town. Find a way to offer short term breaks in order to incentivize long term gains. How about a city government that stops feeding its own weeds with nepotism and instead focuses all of its attention on gaining resources and better managing services. Look for revenue wherever you can get it to support your long term goals.
How about creating a volunteer army, call it the Detroit Corps and anyone from anywhere is welcome to join. Get all the media outlets to sponsor a telethon to fund the Detroit Corps. We did it as a nation for New Orleans after Katrina. We did it for Haiti after the earthquake. Why can't we do it for our own city? It's a way to drive funds and membership at the same time. Look, if we can charge tourists to pay to fight fires, what might we draw to rebuild our city. For the hundreds who come every year to take photos of the Packard plant, give them a hammer to help knock it down. Let them stay for free at the Book Cadillac if they use the hammer to drive nails to build a wall at a new recreation center.
You need rain for seeds to grow and in building a new city you need money, people and resources. Find a way to make it rain.
Reap what you sow
My yard is green and lush, but it took some sweat, a back ache, time, money and a commitment to get it there. I wish fixing Detroit was that easy. All I know is that if we don't do it, at least another generation is lost. The weeds thrive and nothing else grows. Is that what we want or can we come together to fix our home? Are you ready to tend to our garden?