Bob Simon, correspondent for '60 Minutes' on CBS. / John Paul Filo/CBS
Detroit Free PressVeteran CBS correspondent Bob Simon said he was struck by the
contrast between Detroit’s ailing neighborhoods and a revitalizing
downtown during his recent visit for a “60 Minutes” TV segment set to
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Simon, who interviewed a half-dozen residents, civic
and business leaders for the news program’s segment on Detroit, said
that from downtown it was hard to tell he was in a bankrupt city “until
you get in the car and drive for 5 minutes.”
Yet once he toured
through the city’s vast neighborhoods, he was surprised by the extent of
the decay and number of burnt-out buildings.
Speaking by phone
Friday, Simon said that of all the places he has visited in more than
four decades of reporting, much of it as a foreign correspondent,
Detroit reminds him most of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
“And Mogadishu is the worst place I’ve ever been,” said Simon, 72.
“Not the worst place in terms of danger, but the worst place in terms of
what it looks like.”
He and the “60 Minutes” crew set out to
capture what daily life is like in the biggest American city to declare
bankruptcy. They interviewed firefighters, neighborhood residents, an
urban farmer, emergency manager Kevyn Orr, Quicken Loans founder Dan
Gilbert and John George, founder of Motor City Blight Busters.
According to a partial transcript of the show,
Gilbert describes his numerous recent downtown Detroit real estate
purchases and revitalization efforts as “doing well by doing good.”
by Forbes as the third-wealthiest person in Michigan, Gilbert has spent
more than $1 billion buying, building and renovating properties in
downtown, including his recent acquisition of the Greektown
Casino-Hotel. He owns or controls more than 30 downtown buildings and
has moved thousands of Quicken Loans jobs to downtown from the suburbs.
his interview with Simon, Gilbert deflects cynicism from those who
might view him as an opportunist for buying real estate on the cheap.
know that sometimes there’s Hollywood movies that, you know, describe
every investor and profit-making capitalist as somebody very greedy,”
Gilbert says. “But in our case, you know, I think it’s doing well by
Gilbert says he tells prospective tenants of his
buildings that they can have a palpable impact on Detroit’s future by
“And that sells,” Gilbert says. “Here you can actually
see what you do affect a great American city, and its hopefully
Simon said that despite the poverty and
bleak scenery he witnessed, he left Detroit with some sense of hope for
the city’s future.
“Nobody actually said this to me, but I would
think that if you make this bubble downtown, that the bubble will slowly
spread,” Simon said.
In Simon’s interview with Detroit’s
emergency manager, Orr describes how he is “by no means insensitive to
the human cost” of a municipal bankruptcy, such as the potential
trimming of benefits and pensions for current and former city employees.
“We don’t have a choice. These choices have been made for us a long time ago,” Orr says in the segment’s transcript.
show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS. Simon said Detroit’s
segment, which airs first, will be slightly longer than the standard 12