Nation: Down but Far from Out

Nation: Down but Far from Out
Hurt by the recession, the G.O.P. ‘s host is fighting back It’s a lunch-bucket town with a world-class symphony. A heavily black
city with a black-run government, but an economy dependent on white
business leaders. A community that prides itself on its race relations,
yet a town where the underlying tensions could still cause another
riot. And it’s a Democratic town holding the Republican National Convention. With its many contradictions, Detroit defies labeling and upsets
preconceptions. Self-styled sophisticates from elsewhere have long
scoffed at the industrial city. Just last week a researcher from one of
the television networks had the gall to ask a Detroit spokesman to help
put together a list of a dozen “top mugging spots” for convention
delegates to avoid. Actually, crime in the city has dropped
dramatically in the past few years. And a European reporter who assumed
the Detroit River was hopelessly polluted by the city’s heavy industry
looked out over the waterfront in astonishment at fishermen angling for
coho salmon. More than 20,000 visitors will form their own conclusions about Detroit
this week during the four-day Republican Convention. Some 15,000
journalists will jostle with 4,000 delegates and alternates in and
around the just finished $27 million Joe Louis Arena, where Ronald
Reagan will become the Republicans’ presidential candidate. The crowds
are overwhelming Detroit’s limited hotel and eating facilities; some
conventioneers are staying across the border in Canada, or up to 40
miles away in small towns of Michigan. Both Detroit and the G.O.P. are out to exploit each other, and make no
bones about it. Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s shrewd and aggressive
mayor, hopes to use the convention to prove to the nation that his town
is, as its boosters have been boasting, a city in the midst of a revival.
He is well aware of the risk in seizing the national spotlight, if only for a week.
“We have our warts,” Young says with typical candor, “and we see them too.”
Republican Party leaders, in turn, hope to use Detroit as a theatrical backdrop
in their bid to lure blue-collar workers and blacks away from the Democratic Party. Some of Detroit’s warts were highly visible last week. Even as
parking-lot operators were putting out potted geraniums to brighten the
city’s face for visitors, some 425 striking sanitation workers let
garbage pile up along the streets. Bus mechanics, too, were on strike,
forcing the collapse of local service that carries 200,000 people
daily—although some residents claim the system has long been so poor
that no one can tell the difference. In all, about 8,400 striking
municipal workers tried to use the convention as a club
to beat the city into granting hefty wage hikes. Young, who came out of
the same tough “Black Bottom” ghetto that produced Joe Louis and was
once an organizer for the United Auto Workers, bargained hard but at
week’s end settled for a draw. A new pact gave the workers less than
they had asked but more than the mayor had offered—despite Young’s
repeated plea that “I ain’t got no more goddam money.”