Thursday, February 25, 2010

Detroit Shrinks

I’ve said before that Detroit’s biggest problem is that with it’s current tax base it can’t afford to provide services to the vast area that it encompasses.  The only solution seemed to be to shrink the borders, but how can one do that realistically?

It looks like new Mayor Bing has a plan:

In his strongest statements about shrinking the city since taking office, Bing told WJR-760 AM the city is using internal and external data to decide "winners and losers." The city plans to save some neighborhoods and encourage residents to move from others, he said.

"If we don't do it, you know this whole city is going to go down. I'm hopeful people will understand that," Bing said. "If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation.

In theory, it’s a good idea.  In practice I have my doubts:

Among the court challenges he sees ahead include the legality of cutting off city services to particular neighborhoods and using eminent domain to relocate residents. In 2006, voters approved a prohibition on government's ability to take property for economic development.

In general, I’m not a big fan of eminent domain takings, but this may be the most justified case I’ve seen.  If the residents are given enough economic incentive to move, perhaps most of them won’t fight too hard. 

The most damning quote is here:

Bing's 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.

1/3rd of the city is abandoned, but that’s still area you have to police, and plow, and provide lighting to, and water and sewage and all the other things that make life possible in a city.

2/3rd of the population has to finance that, and that doesn’t take into account the number of people who are currently not paying their city taxes. 

Detroit started as a small hunting camp on the shores of the Detroit River.  It grew from there to the industrial powerhouse that helped win World War II.  Perhaps if it shrinks to a manageable size it can begin to grow again.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100225/METRO01/2250391/Detroit-Mayor-Bing-emphasizes-need-to-shrink-city#ixzz0gYxRtbZG