Here’s the thing about being a really poor North American city. You have two options really.
The first one, we’ve tried for at least 41 years now. (I’m starting with late 1978 because Default Night was such a landmark.) It doesn’t fucking work. We should stop doing it.
The second one, even though it will piss off landlords and stockholders and crooked politicians, will be awesome.
Here’s the first option: Take it for granted that your city is poor, it will always be poor, and your people are just. not. adequate. Run your city like a tinpot dictatorship, engage in transparently shitty real estate deals, and tax the shit out of working people. Definitely do not invest in education. Make sure nobody in government is accountable to the public, but also make sure that the public is accountable to petty elected officials.
Guess what? You’re running the city on “float” and some casino revenue. It smells like failure but at least the “leadership” gets paid.
Here’s the second option: Believe in your people. Understand that black lives (which are almost exactly 50% of your city) matter and therefore that all lives do matter, and that those lives merit investment in education, public health, transportation, arts, and ordinary daily safety. Be boldly, openly, aggressively small-d democratic and transparent. Destroy organized crime and destroy their allies in “law” “enforcement.” Stop taxing labor and tax the absolute shit out of monopolies. Build a legal system that’s humane, egalitarian, accessible, and whatever word you want to use for the opposite of “petty.”
The point here, and I do have one, is this.
Urban poverty in a (sorta kinda) wealthy country is a result of selective disinvestment. Cities can always get some kind of “investment” but under one scenario it’s always exploitative, demeaning, one-sided, and gimmicky; under the other one it’s sometimes fair, potentially transformative, and actually nourishing if you do it right.
The problem here is not that we’re a very poor city and thus badly governed. It’s exactly the reverse of that. When you run a small-minded, no-ass, trifling little fiefdom you will attract carnies and speculators. When you find some fucking courage and do better than that, you will do better.
Believe in your people, not in schemes.