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Fear of becoming Detroit is so 2010

Things weren’t great in Detroit in 2008. The globalization of auto production, the city’s’ political leaders, and decades of poor public and cultural policies had made the city a shell. Add to that the nationwide recession that hit everyone even harder in fall 2008, and Detroit was pretty much bottom of the barrel.

When I moved from Michigan to Washington, D.C. in 2008, no prospective employers questioned the move. It only took one sentence, “Well, I’m originally from Michigan,” for them to understand why I wanted out. No jobs, no opportunities, and a depressed core wasn’t much for a new college graduate to look forward to.

But things in Detroit — and Michigan — have changed.

That’s what makes the Conservative War Chest Superpac’s use of Detroit in an Arkansas political ad as a scare tactic so stupid.

Maybe news of Detroit’s harder days may has just now made its way down to Arkansas. But that doesn’t justify the completely out-of-context, so-bad-it’s-almost-funny way in which this group claims it won’t let certain politicians running for office this fall “Detroit America.”

The Detroit News reported on the ad, which leads to the question: When did “Detroit” become a verb?

“The Conservative War Chest Superpac is running television ads opposing Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas., that make a series of assertions about Pryor’s record.

‘This is Arkansas — and we won’t let you Detroit America with taxes and debt — and no jobs,’ says the two-minute ad that started running Sunday. It features scenes of an abandoned house with used tires sitting in its front yard — apparently in Detroit. ‘We will not let you Hollywood our families and schools.'”

That’s just it. “Detroit-ing” is no verb. Detroit has certainly had its fair share of challenges, some self-inflicted, some unavoidable. But it’s turned around its luck quickly enough that it deserves to be more than a verb.

The city has changed in so many ways in the past 10 years. It suffered some back-and-forth blows in at least one presidential campaign, and continues to struggle with image problems as it emerges slowly from bankruptcy. Individual neighborhoods undoubtedly need help, and many residents struggle to meet daily needs.

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Streetlights have been replaced. The water department is handling issues it should have dealt with years ago, the city’s mayor is taking charge of social programs in way never before done, and millenials are committed to reviving the city. Blight is being torn down, and money is being invested into the city at a record pace.

Detroit doesn’t deserve pity, and it certainly doesn’t deserve digs circa 2010 for a bunch of political hacks attempting — a key word in describing this ad — to make a point.

For tacky groups looking for an easy punching bag in this fall’s political bloodbath, look elsewhere. Or offer some real solutions of your own.

Kaitlyn Buss
Kaitlyn Buss is editorial page writer for The Detroit News. Prior to joining the News, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked in public relations, opinion writing, and ran communications for an association of state legislators. She's a native of Metro Detroit. Follow her @KaitlynBuss.