Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm Tired of "Cool"

Today is Wednesday. This is the day when (more often than not) I proclaim one thing or another to be the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week. I'm not going to do that today and it will probably be awhile before I do it again.

The fact of the matter is that I am tired of "cool." Absolutely sick of it.

I have developed a reflex action, an almost innate desire to punch anyone who so much as uses the word "cool" around me.

I grew up in the Warrendale neighborhood. I've invested a few thousand hours over the years in neighborhood clean-ups and other such projects. I've paid taxes when I didn't have cash to spare.

All that I have to show for it now is heartache and a few things that someone or another tells me is supposed to be "cool."

I have witnessed drive-by shootings.

I have heard the sound of gunfire so often that I'm actually starting to get used to it, which is just sad.

I have seen the body of a 19 year old laying in the street, just a few blocks from my home.

I have seen the homes of childhood friends torched or vandalized.

I have seen businesses close down, and their employees laid off, because the business owner was so sick of crime that he or she decided to walk away from everything they invested in, leaving Detroiters with another vacant commercial building.

I have one friend who moved out of the Warrendale neighborhood after his home was broken into three times in less than six months. The Detroit Police Department never showed up or did anything after of those incidents.

Others are ready to walk away from everything they've spent years building because they don't want to raise their children in this kind of an environment.

One of my neighbors was carjacked and beaten on the Southfield Freeway service drive last summer. The police, of course, never showed up. If it wasn't for a Good Samaritan who came to his aid, he would probably be dead today.

And the most common response to any of these things when one goes do a police station to file a complaint the most common response is, "What do you want us to do about it?"

I hate that response, by the way. I hate it almost as much as I hate the word "cool" at the moment. If you're a police officer and you need to ask what someone wants you to do when they tell you that a felony has been committed in your jurisdiction then it's time to turn in your badge.

I'm tired of it all.

The fact of the matter is that one person after another is simply giving up the fight and trying to build a new life elsewhere; somewhere away from all of the "cool" things that the news media and politicians talk about when they don't want to talk about the reality that we live in.

I'm tired of "cool."

I'm tired of excuses.

I'm tired of delays.

I'm tired of being told that I'm being unreasonable when I expect the most basic of services in exchange for taxes that are double national average.

I hit my breaking point during an on-line conversation about food trucks, of all things. That was the moment when I became ready to punch the next person who used the word "cool" in my presence.

The City of Detroit, for those who haven't already heard, began licensing food trucks to operate in downtown Detroit this week. This places them in direct competition with brick and mortar restaurants who pay more in taxes than food trucks do and who employ more people than food trucks do.

More than one person has expressed concern over the potential for this to put at least some brick and mortar restaurants out of business; resulting in a net loss in jobs and tax revenue. Since the City of Detroit already has a budget that is strained, and since roughly half of all residents are currently without a job, the potential impact on jobs and tax revenue seemed important to me.

I suggested, in an on-line conversation, that it would be in the best interest of all parties if these food trucks were given a choice:
  • Confine their operations to areas of the city and times of day that would not place them in competition with brick and mortar restaurants; or
  • Pay the same amount in taxes that brick and mortar restaurants pay.
It seemed simple and straightforward to me.

But I guess I'm not "cool."

Don't worry about jobs or tax revenue, one person after another replied. Food trucks are "cool."

Food trucks shouldn't be taxed, one person after another argued. Food trucks are "cool."

I'm worried about this line of thinking. One regular restaurant pays enough in taxes to keep an EMS unit operating for three days. If that restaurant is driven out of business by a food truck that doesn't pay the same taxes, where is the money going to come from to keep that EMS unit running?

Don't worry about such a thing, I was told.

I was anti-business for worrying about such a thing, I was told.

I wanted to give the Ilitch family the power to control everyone and everything, I was told. (No, really. I'm not making this up. Someone actually said that.)

Food trucks, after all, are "cool."

Of course, if food trucks were really "cool" then no one would really mind paying an extra 50 cents or so for a taco so that said food truck could, in turn, pay the same taxes that regular restaurants pay.

No, don't worry about such things, I was told. Food trucks are "cool."

Who cares if people lose their jobs? Food trucks are "cool."

Who cares if the City of Detroit doesn't have enough money to keep the street lights turned on or ambulances running? Food trucks are "cool."

Young folks love them. Food trucks are "cool."

People shouldn't have to pay for anything that's "cool." Paying that extra 50 cents for a taco would destroy the coolness of the taco that one bought at this food truck. No one should ever have to pay for anything because paying is not "cool."

The truly sad part of all of this is that I'm not making a single word of it up.

I'm tired of "cool." I really am.

I'm tired of this belief that because something is "cool", everyone in Detroit should have to suffer so that others can enjoy their "cool" thing without paying for it.

Maybe I'm way off base, but if someone can raise $50,000.00 for a RoboCop statue because it was regarded as "cool" then there really shouldn't be a problem with a food truck having to charge an extra 50 cents or $1 for its "cool" food item so that said truck could, in turn, pay the same taxes as a regular restaurant.

Oh, I forgot - people should never have to pay for things that are "cool."

I think there's actually a clause in the U.S. Constitution about people never having to pay for anything that is cool. "Cool stuff should be free" is somewhere in between "providing for the common defense" and "establishing domestic tranquility."

How uncool of me to forget such a thing!

I'm tired of "cool." I really am.

Food trucks, of course, aren't the only examples of "cool" things that are destroying Detroit. They are simply the example that set me off. Food trucks are the moment where I reached my breaking point with freeloaders and excuse makers.

I'm tired of a news media that hypes a "cool" project downtown, but never gets around to mentioning that the Detroit Police Department sometimes has to release criminals back onto the streets without prosecuting them because our officers don't have enough holding cells to put them in.

I'm tired of conferences about what will be the next "cool" thing as well as the complete absence of a focus on the things that we could do to address problems with our police and fire departments.

I'm tired of news stories about "cool" drowning out the real news.

I'm tired of one reporter after another from New York telling me what is "cool" about my own town.

I'm tired of excuses.

I'm tired of delays.

I'm tired of "cool."

The closest thing to a Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week I can come up with this week is Peter Finch's legendary speech from the movie Network.

I'll see everyone next week. Maybe by then I will have thought of a way to make police, fire service, EMS, and street lights seem "cool." This way we will be able to get them without having to pay anything.


Dylan said...

Food trucks are not responsible for the dysfunctional bureaucracy that doesn't deliver despite spending similar or elevated amounts for services.

They also do not threaten brick and mortar restaurants as they serve different clients. They can be open for the bar rush. They can locate by events. But as you could witness in Mexican Town: both food trucks and restaurants can succeed side by side creating a vibrant community.

We do need to figure out how to pay for our city. I reckon serious enforcement of already existing laws and codes could go a long way. The number of people speeding and running lights alone should pay for fifteen EMS academies.

But until they fix the online app so it doesn't waste peoples' time by forcing them through the app only to read fine print at the end stating that if they don't receive an email they have to go pick up a paper app. I had to go do just that.

And you have to catch them in the two week period when it's listed. But they can't find candidates.

And they have money for all these academies. But they never run them.

It's poor management. Not food trucks.

Dy∞ said...

And how are you already tired of seeing positive stories in the press about Detroit? The local news is a parade of misery that might be closer to what you're looking for. Nobody has forgot that Detroit is the murder capital with still dysfunctional police, ems, & school systems.

FrankNemecek said...

Food trucks and brick & mortar restaurants can coexist. However, if food trucks aren't willing to pay taxes then they are still a detriment to the community.