Life in the Motor City
Re TIME's cover story by Daniel Okrent [Oct. 5]: The violence that has beset Detroit is, sadly, well known, but the utter collapse of the public-school system is just starting to be understood. Nothing captures that collapse better than the video, popular on YouTube, that shows the shocking condition of the building that once housed Detroit's famous Cass Technical High School. Cass Tech meant a lot to me and other graduates for the opportunities it gave us. The old building, abandoned for a newer facility for the school, was a war zone--a ruin of overturned desks, textbooks, TVs and other equipment that could have been packed up and reused. If any public-school leaders had cared, and clearly they didn't, they would have treated the place better.
Isaac T. Graves, RICHMOND, VA.
My parents and uncles raised their families in the idyllic suburbs of Detroit, where we kids all received a good education and a leg up into the middle class and beyond. I remember my mother saying that when she moved to Detroit in the 1930s, it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen. I also fondly remember going on shopping expeditions with her to the opulent Hudson's on Woodward Avenue. It was indeed a beautiful place. I hope something can revive a city with such a rich history.
Susan Valentine, MADISON, WIS.
The ultimate blame for Detroit goes to the voters who elected Coleman Young mayor five times despite his constant race-baiting of white suburbanites and his unwillingness to work with corporations to keep them in the city to help jump-start the economy. Hopefully, Detroit voters will now realize that electing politicians who scapegoat others instead of finding solutions are not looking out for their best interests.
Andrew Gallagher, PHOENIX
One point you missed: A key factor in "white flight" was government-forced busing in the early '70s. The local schools were the anchors that held together the neighborhoods for many of the young parents and kids of Detroit. It didn't make sense to walk your child to the corner to be bused across the city to another school.
Fred Kuplicki, FRASER, MICH.
The "committee to save Detroit," paradoxically, featured no leaders from the health professions. Detroit has a higher burden of chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes than many comparable metropolitan areas. The city is a primary-health-care-provider desert. Hundreds of thousands of people lack insurance or are underinsured. Millions of dollars are spent each year on uncompensated care for its citizens. Detroit will not rise again unless the health of its citizens rises first.
William Nettleton, DETROIT
Detroit needs a marshall plan. A directive should be given to a group of architects and environmentalists to resurrect the city. Detroit's recovery would also provide a model for other American cities.
Charlotte Fauth, INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.
Pass the Diesel Fuel, Please
Re TIME's story on green heroes [Oct. 5]: You needn't go to Japan to find people using biofuel. My son has been collecting oil from local restaurants and converting it to diesel fuel for his truck for years. The vehicle runs well, the process is relatively simple, and it costs him next to nothing.
Dian Woodroffe, SHREWSBURY, N.J.
Another Side of Bill Clinton