The Motor City is financially strapped, trying to dig out of a $265 million deficit and saddled with more than $12 billion in long-term debt. In addition to its cash-flow problem is a shrinking population, so the city’s governing body is considering turning off half of its streetlights in sparsely populated areas in order to save money, reports the New York Daily News.
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The process of deciding the fate of streetlights has actually been put into effect in a few cities across the country like Santa Rosa, California, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Rockford, Illinois which have gone partially dark because they too were also cash-strapped but not to Detroit’s extent. With nearly 40 percent of its existing 88,000 street lights not working anyway and since the city can’t afford to fix them, the initiative would save nearly $10 million a year. The responses to the move have been both good and bad.
One eco-friendly, preservers of the night group, The International Dark-Sky Association, which has a large chapter in the U.S., contends that much outdoor lighting is not only wasteful, but counterproductive. It cites poorly placed street lights that blind drivers as much as help them, or misplaced safety lighting that creates sharp contrasts that can hide intruders rather than expose them. Nighttime lights have been implicated in some environmental problems, such as confusing birds and bats.
Then there are more who worry that in large cities like Detroit which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, law breakers will have a field day in the dark. Merchants and residents worry that in the dark, neighborhoods will become havens for street crimes and drug gangs and that these areas will then continue to decay.
Jamahl Makled, 40, said he’s owned businesses in southwest Detroit for about two decades, most recently cell-phone stores. He told the New York Daily News, they’ve have been burglarized more than a dozen times. “In the dark, criminals are comfortable,” Makled said. “It’s not good for the economy and the safety of the residents.”
The proposed lights out move which has been sanctioned by the state’s governor Rick Snyder still requires state legislative approval.
With the once bustling city of Detroit now being pushed into darkness will it ever really recover financially?