Small Actions and Budget Cuts: Detroit Citizens Pick Up the Slack

by Kirsten Nelson on July 10, 2013

Kirsten Nelson · Small Actions Social Trends · July 10, 2013
Photo Credit: 08OceanBeach SD

Photo Credit: 08OceanBeach SD

What’s a city to do when the budget runs dry? In the face of the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy ever, citizens of Detroit have shown that small actions can be an effective way to mitigate chaos as government-funded services are cut. Public services ranging from law enforcement to bus services have been eliminated but residents, instead of  becoming paralyzed with fear and inaction in the face of the shutdown of vital government services, have rallied to supplement and even improve traditional public services by offering better and cheaper services that are reflective of the actual needs and desires of the city’s residents. (This is a very “We”-centric marketing strategy, by the way.)

Dale Brown’s organization the Threat Management Center (TCM) has improved policing based on the philosophy the objective to “make the world a safer place by denying the opportunity for violence to take place,” security has been more readily found through love and compassion, not through violence, weapons and punitive laws.

And for anyone who has struggled to decode a city bus schedule and need to rearrange his or her life to catch the right bus, Detroit has a great solution. The Detroit Bus Company a private bus service founded by 26-year-old Andy Didosori, abandoned traditional bus routes for something far more efficient: a live tracking app that allows you to call or text to schedule a pickup. (A geek-a-licious tidbit that makes my inner geek grin. This is a seriously cool idea in action!)  Their goal is to change the way you think about public transit. And the company is doing a great job of that with friendly drivers, free onboard Wi-Fi and live tracking app.

It’s interesting to see the resistance from the traditional government agencies toward these grassroots efforts. For example, a city bench installed by Charles Molnar and some fellow students after watching an elderly woman forced to stand while waiting for a bus was  soon removed by Detroit Department of Transportation because the bench was not authorized and failed to follow protocol, according to DDOT deputy director Angela Jones. Protocol for what? The ill-treatment of the elderly?

In any event, things were beginning to change, and should continue to, thanks to activist citizens. The next time the evening news floods your ears with cries of impending chaos and anarchy as the American economy struggles, think of Detroit residents. Then look for small actions you can take in your own community to be part of a greater solution. The time is right in our current “We” cycle. Society is open to working together. Now is a great time to partner with a friend, neighbor or even complete stranger and change the world, one small action at a time.


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