Archive for May, 2010


May 11, 2010

I was watching Blade Runner over the weekend.  Deckard the detective was quizzing Tyrell about his soon to be replicant girlfriend as to how she could be oblivious to the fact that she was an android.  Tyrell responded: “Commerce is our goal……”

Today, I had a conversation with someone about Belle Isle.  I mention how the albino deer had been removed from the island prior to the commencement of the grand prix races a few years ago.  To my dismay, I was informed that the deer had actually been corralled at the island zoo  and eventually died off after being imprisoned there!   Upon further discussion I found out that a plan was in the works to remove the Canadian Geese that are now in overabundance on the island.

The news was depressing to me.  I have lived in Detroit most of my life.  I spent some years on the sprawling Michigan State University campus and in a farming community in southwestern Michigan which provided me with exposure to flora and fauna ad nauseam.  I am an urbanite, a native Detroiter.   I am accustomed to concrete and pavement but thanks to Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, I have the opportunity to go down to the river, hang out at the water’s edge, take my shoes off and languish in the grass.  I go to Belle Isle 2-3 times a week all year round.  I feed the geese, the Sparrows and the Finches.  I watch the Gulls fight and bully the smaller birds.  I read, gaze longingly at Windsor, take lots pictures and daydream about being a merchant marine on an Atlantic bound freighter.

Commerce is robbing me of my little piece of urban paradise.  Goose shit and goslings are problematic to city managers!  In order to avoid cleaning up dead birds that fools run over as the unassuming animals attempt to cross the road and to keep the island, the geese must be removed!

More Human Than Human

Over twenty years ago, I worked for the Michigan Department of Public Mental Health.   The brain trust of the department decided that institutions that housed the mental and developmentally challenged must be closed.  The propaganda that the department put out indicted institutions as being “too restrictive” for the people housed in them.  The belief at the time was that the delivery system had become top heavy with bureaucrats and there was not enough “hands on” treatment.  By providing funding directly to community mental health service providers the brain trust envisioned that consumers would receive better more targeted services in less restrictive settings.

I am admittedly biased when it comes to institutions.  I worked at an institution for the developmentally challenged in that rural community, at the start of my professional career.  The staff was comprised mainly of farmers from the local community who would bring the residents fresh vegetables from their gardens in the summer and fall.  The direct care staff took very good care of the residents.  Many of the staff had established long term relationships with the residents and developed affinities for them.  Some of the staff expressed to me that they cared more for the residents than some of their biological children!

The Department of Mental Health worked with contractors and direct care providers to develop alternative housing that was deemed less restrictive than big institutions.  Institutional life for some was admittedly a double edge sword.  Back in the day, people- mainly young women- were locked away for being promiscuous or narcissistic.  There were others however that had physical and emotional problems that required that they receive twenty four hour supervision.  When deinstitutionalization was completed many of the consumers that required twenty four hour medical supervision were temporarily housed in intensive care units in hospitals.  The state could not afford to bear the expense of critical care over the long term.  Eventually, those consumers were moved into licensed foster care facilities.  Like my albino deer, many of them died n that first year of life without twenty four hour medical supervision.  The Michigan Department of Public Mental Health however declared placement of residents in less restrictive living arrangements a resounding success!

The restrictive environment that provided consumers with dorm like rooms with heated floors, three meals a day, hot baths, physical therapy, clean clothing, recreation, medical care and dental services has been replaced by correctional facilities and understaffed underfunded clinics that provide mental health service delivery to consumers.  The folks who were housed at Coldwater Regional Center, Lapeer, Northville and Lafayette Clinic now roam the streets or end up in county lock ups.  The street has become their least restrictive environment.  Commerce triumphed(?). 

The Michigan public mental health service delivery which was one of the best in the nation no longer exists.  The Blanchard Administration in the early eighties decided that it was no longer feasible to fund such a massive bureaucracy.   The belief was that the private sector could provide better services without the overhead.  The brain trust was wrong. 

The infrastructure of the tax based economy has eroded.  The Big Three and the silicon empire have left the building.  Tourista are afraid to come to the Water Wonderland because of all the negative media.  The police can no longer take people that are a danger to themselves and their love ones to Eloise.  Lafayette Clinic is now a charter school.  The jails are overcrowded.  Mentally challenged miscreants are being released from prison only to commit more crimes

And now the Canadian Geese on Belle Isle at Detroit will be exiled to a place they do not recognize as home.  Commerce is our ONLY goal.