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From Eyesores to Leaf Piles, Government Doing Good

Dearborn activist Fred Hoffman reprints his chapter from the second volume of "Best Dearborn Stories" now available at the city's historical museum ($20). He is one of 162 authors in the book.

Perhaps it was Watergate or Vietnam or Roe v Wade.  Perhaps it is the explosion of political fringe opinion media. ... Whatever the case, we know that arguably there is more cynicism and outright animosity toward "government" than anytime in our Nation's history.... But, in my opinion, that is not the case in Dearborn. Having spent most of my life here, I know the mood pretty well - and I know that while people don't always agree with every political decision, they respect the system and generally support the "team" elected in Washington, Lansing or City Hall. --- Civic civility, you might say. --- I think a lot of this has to do with clean government, high voter turnout and civic participation.  Ever since I was a little kid, I looked up to political leaders. I admired and respected those who stepped up and were willing to serve their fellow citizens. ...OUR CITY FATHERS AND MOTHERS also did good things - not only keeping the streets safe and clean.  Our leaders strategized that to maintain high property values, we needed to create programs like "Operation Eyesore" using city revolving funds to buy up dilapidated homes and sell the lots for new construction.  Government doing good! ... We needed to bring in businesses create jobs in order to create wealth for the community, so they started downtown development authorities and offered tax abatements.  And they adopt strict zoning to keep residential areas free of traffic, pollution, and other problems. Government doing good! ... They invested in parks in every neighborhood, Camp Dearborn and all sorts of recreational programming. I remember city officials saying that "if two or more kids want to play it, we'll sponsor it" -- under the rationale that "every dollar spent on recreation saves two spent on law enforcement."  Government doing good! ... Our leaders sent city newspapers to servicemen and women to keep them connected to their home town.  And they built subsidized housing so that senior citizens could afford to stay in their home town (the first apartment tower was even named for Dr. Francis Townsend, a pre-Social Security advocate of a federal pension for all retirees.) Government doing good! ... They picked up trash, swept up piles of leafs, plowed snow, cleaned sewers, controlled traffic, administered hearing tests and fluoride treatments, planted and trimmed street trees (I read somewhere that tree-lined subdivisions enhance home values by $10 ,000).  They opened libraries and reading rooms. They supported local historic research and preservation. They enhanced quality of life by sponsoring parades, fireworks and holiday events.  Government doing good! --- All of these examples are subject to change based on available funds and needs, nevertheless, you get the picture.  Government is not evil - it is US! ... Somehow, we learned this lesson in Dearborn in ways that others in our nation have not. We learned that working together is a force multiplier. We learned that "the pursuit of happiness" spoken of in our Declaration of Independence is much easier achieved in unity with our neighbors. - - - AND HOW DO WE DO THAT? GOVERNMENT - - - Remember that next time we hear someone railing about the cost of welfare or health care for the poor...or the need to relax regulations on banks and polluters...or how "free enterprise" somehow means businesses shouldn't pay their fair share.. . . And remember that we learned this lesson in Dearborn long ago.

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