DETROIT — Just before the holidays, on a dark street a few blocks from downtown, a group of public officials crowded onto a makeshift stage before a shivering crowd, flipped a big switch — and the last of this city’s 65,000 new streetlights blazed on.
For years, urban decline here was encapsulated in headlines about Detroit’s lights going out. Nowadays, tales of the city’s slow recovery tend to focus on plucky hipsters from Los Angeles or Brooklyn colonizing abandoned spaces, opening pickle companies or tilling little urban agriculture plots. Glossy magazines acclaim Detroit as the next Berlin; never mind that Germany’s reunified capital has always floated on a bed of cushy federal subsidies.
Let’s hope that if anyone writes a history of Detroit’s rejuvenation, a chapter is devoted to the lights returning. Like picking up the trash, fixing potholes and responding to emergencies, these efforts signal that no matter where you live …