A plea for service in Detroit

City's ombudsman says complaints going up about trash, dilapidated buildings

By Roger Weber - Reporter

DETROIT - Detroiter Durene Brown is aghast at the enormous pile of tires --perhaps 200 of them-- on a lot on the east side. 

"This doesn't make sense. No one else lives like this in the United States. This is crazy," she said.


Brown is more accustomed to fielding complaints than lodging them. She is the Detroit Ombudsman, also known as the official complaint taker. 

The noisy and often nasty debate over a possible state takeover has overshadowed a bitter reality for Detroiters. They're not getting the services they need. 

Brown examines the ugliness along a street with an ill-fitting name: Fairview. 

"We are the only independent voice in city government where I can take you out and show you these things," she said.  

The tires and other trash are between two vacant and open houses. They are magnets for drug dealing, arson or worse. 

Brown says progress had been made on removing rubbish and dilapidated buildings. 

Not any more. 

"All of our complaints are increasing as the city and state go through this turmoil," she said.  

In 2006, Brown's office received 6,353 complaints. In 2010 the number mushroomed to 27,491. 

The leading areas of complaints are illegal dumping, vacant buildings, broken street lights and dead trees. 

"It's one thing to talk about services," said Brown. "It's a whole other thing to provide them. That's desperately needed."

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