Detroit Porn, like Urban Blight Porn in general, is pretty played out at this point. A follower on Facebook suggested that I watch this video, though, and because it was produced by Detroiters rather than outside voyeur-journalists I decided to give it a shot. If you have the opportunity, give it a watch.
The first ten minutes are standard Michael Moore-style "Everyone is unemployed and the CEO gave himself a giant bonus" boilerplate that is so familiar to us now that it hardly registers. The next ten minutes about Detroit's local elected officials is…more interesting.
It is not a surprise that any city's elected officials – mayors, county boards, city councils, assessors, etc. – turn out to be incompetent boobs. Frankly it's more shocking when a local public servant isn't a knucklehead. What very few people appreciate, however, is how corrupt they are compared to, say, members of Congress and why the near-complete absence of interest in local elections ensures that we'll never get anyone better. Certainly I would never imply that corruption is absent at the higher levels of government; only that it is more common and significantly more brazen at the local level. Detroit is just one of many big cities whose elected officials could be used to prove that point.
The problem is that most Americans pay very little attention to politics. What attention they pay is generally devoted to the big national political issues of the day and Washington. As newspaper readership continues to plunge, radio programming is increasingly syndicated/nationalized, and local news is downplayed we are left few people outside of the over-55 local TV news watching and newspaper reading demographic paying any attention to local politics. Not coincidentally that's also essentially the only group voting in local-only elections, in which turnout is often under 10%.
Morons, scam artists, lunatic extremists, the guy who owns 8 bars in your medium sized city…this is the kind of person who ends up on a county board. And they will continue to because local politics are ignored unless and until someone makes the mistake of trying to raise property taxes by 0.01% or pass a bond issue to do something evil and socialist like build a library or fire department. Then the pitchforks and torches come out, of course.