'The start of a new era in Detroit'? The Model D team weighs in on 2021

Dorothy Hernandez, Model D managing editor
To be sure, I'll be keeping an eye on major stories like the mayoral election and 2021 development projects, but more broadly we'll be looking at the big ideas and concepts that aim to reshape our city as we head into year two of the pandemic. How is the city landscape, from streets and alleys to parking lots and vacant spaces, shifting in response to a new normal of physical distancing? How is inclusive, equitable design being incorporated? How are generations of Detroiters working together to build community and heal amid a nationwide reckoning on systemic racism? How are the racial and health inequities laid bare by the pandemic being addressed? 

Nina Ignaczak, editor of Model D sister publication Metromode and editor and publisher of Planet Detroit

How will this dynamic play out (how the local economy and small businesses found ways to survive) in 2021 as we emerge from the pandemic? Will we be returning to office life? How will the newfound flexibility play out in terms of our community services and design?

 

David Sands, project editor of our Resilient Neighborhoods series and frequent Model D contributor

Looking forward I'm very interested in how much 2021 serves as a counterpoint to these very same issues, especially in regards to shifting political winds. During the Obama presidency, urban areas like Detroit received a lot of resources and support on the federal level. Can we expect a similar shift as the Trump administration gives way to the Biden administration? Will President Biden be able to get the coronavirus under control, and if so what would a post-pandemic Detroit look like? Will local leaders simply try to return things as much as possible to the way they were before or will the disparities and systematic injustices laid bare by the pandemic be the starting point for a different sort of future? The same could be said for how the city handles policing in the wake of the past year’s massive BLM protests. Will there be a reexamination of how the city deals with public safety, particularly in regards to treatment of young African Americans, or will the status quo remain fundamentally unchanged? Beyond all this, politics will certainly be front and center over the coming year with Mayor Duggan's reelection campaign, and I'm also very curious about what implications the new census and Democrat Dave Coulter becoming Oakland County Exec will have for Detroit in the coming year. I think 2021 could be the start of a new era for Detroit, but what that looks like exactly is still anyone's guess.

 

Erin Marie Miller, frequent Model D contributor

I'm going to be closely watching all of the previously-mentioned issues that largely fell under the radar in 2020: homelessness and COVID; the looming eviction crisis and the homelessness crisis that will inevitably follow without smart policy that addresses the needs of both landlords and renters; the state of the economy in general including business closures and bankruptcies; K-12 students falling behind in education due to virtual learning (specifically in public schools); increasing unemployment rates; the permanently-closed small businesses across the city and state and the impact those lost livelihoods (and ruined credit scores) will have on their families' lives for a very long time to come; the accumulated concentration of corporate power that will inevitably arise from mass small business closures; new public assistance and social programs and their impact on the future of our economy; the mental health impact of the pandemic on the general public and minority groups; COVID deaths in nursing homes and the policies that potentially enabled them; constitutional and civil liberties violations (in particular, I'm interested in the specific science that was used to make what often felt like arbitrary decisions about business closures — situations where one kind of business would have to remain closed but another similar type of business was allowed to reopen — why could hundreds of people shop at Walmart but only 50 people could go to church, where they would be far more easily physically-distanced? Why could people dine-in at restaurants but only until 10 p.m.? Was the risk of contracting COVID somehow higher after 10 p.m. in the same environment, following the same sanitation protocol?)

 

Mostly, I'm just looking at decisions that didn't quite add up logically in public policy amid the pandemic. Since the governor's executive orders were ruled unconstitutional and instead left up to the health department, the data behind future policy decisions will finally be accessible through FOIA requests (unlike before, when it was protected by the privilege of the governor's office — transparency is always a good thing). I'm also, as always, going to be keeping an eye on Big Tech in the city (Amazon, etc.) and of course small tech too.

 

Kate Roff, project editor of our small business and NEI series

I will be keeping a close eye on the solar power initiatives going on in Metro Detroit, the industry has been rapidly growing and, in a city known for its ingenuity and innovation, I believe this will be a space to watch. There's a real social equity piece around renewable energy that I look forward to reporting more on.

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