Saturday, March 06, 2010

Detroit Shrinks To Survive (Or Thinks About It)

Sorry, once again for not posting more--it's not that there isn't news, in fact I'm overwhelmed with things we should be thinking and talking about.

When I made my post about the snow, I meant to do a follow up delving into the issue it opened up. Are all people entitled to the same level of government funded infrastructure, schools, roads, snow plowing, transit etc... no matter where they choose to live--or is it reasonable for a city to limit services and use prudent cost benefit judgments to focus money on places where it would be most productive? Should it charge according to cost? Believe it or not, in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, transit either breaks even, or is operated by a company with real estate interests along the line.

Infrastructure, is the great unspoken entitlement program, so embedded in our culture few ever think about it.

Detroit, never ever thought about these things. All people were entitled to live anywhere they pleased regardless of cost and as the city shrank, tax dollars by default flowed towards the areas of greatest "need". The final result, was a regional population spreading out and shrinking at the same time. Detroit's land area today could hold all of Boston + all of San Francisco + all of Manhattan and a nice chunk of some other city and still have room.

Boston Population 620,535 ('08 estimate) Land Area 48.43 sq mi
San Francisco Population 808,976 Land Area 46.7 sq mi
Manhattan Population 1,634,795 Land Area 33.77 sq mi (area includes bulk of NY regions good jobs)

Detroit Population 912,062 (estimated to now not be much over 800,000) Land Area 138.8 sq mi

Finally, the city and entire state of Michigan are beyond broke and beyond temporary bailouts or fixes. The subject is on the table in a big way.

"Bing's (Detroit mayor) staff is using its own data and a survey released last weekend by Data Driven Detroit. The block-by-block study of the 139 square-mile city showed that roughly one in three parcels are vacant lots or abandoned homes. The mayor's staff didn't elaborate on Bing's comments to WJR beyond a statement saying, "the mayor will utilize data from several sources including city departments, Data Driven Detroit, as well resident input, to prepare a viable land use plan."

Steven Ogden, executive director of Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, is using the group's data to come up with a plan for which neighborhoods his nonprofit should target in the next several years with time and money. He submitted a proposal to the Bing administration within the past several days on what areas he wants to partner with the city to target."

I don't have time or details on this. It's pretty clear using force to physically remove people from their homes and neighborhoods is wrong and not likely to be possible on a large scale. (even though the city has done this over and over in the past) Equally clear is that one way or another some type of triage in terms of providing city services will likely be made either now or in the future. Already, Detroit's utilities are making these choices and cutting more and more blocks off from power and gas.

An extreme example of issues many cities in the former rust belt are facing.

Related articles.

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