Friday, January 16, 2009

Connecting Detroit To The Future by Akindele Akinyemi

In the past 50 years, the population of Detroit, Michigan dropped by over 50%, from a high of over 1,849,568 residents in the 1950 US Census to just 871,000 in 2008. Due to a complex mix of social, economic, and political dynamics, a half-century of flight from the inner city - of both people and capital - has produced devastating effects on the city's population, economic base, and infrastructure. Detroit's policymakers are struggling to downsize our city's infrastructure. The challenges they face are staggering, including eliminating thousands of decaying and abandoned structures, maintaining an aging infrastructure, providing adequate public services, and encouraging new business activities and employment opportunities to a heavily dependent population with limited tax capacity.

This has been substantially affected by urban sprawl over the last four decades. Many older urban areas have lost and continue to lose population, employment opportunities, private investment, and tax base. In many areas, sprawl has concentrated those in poverty and resulted in racial segregation. Residents who remain in these areas face higher costs for public services, fewer accessible well-paying jobs, decreasing property values, deteriorating neighborhoods, low-quality schools, and a general impairment in the quality of life. Recent studies have shown that the lack of viable central city areas in our state at a distinct competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining the young, highly recruited workers needed to encourage private economic investment and sustain economic prosperity. Vibrant cities could also position Michigan as a national and international tourism destination.

According to the 2000 US Census, Metro Detroit is one of the nation's most racially and economically segregated metropolitan areas. Peaceful suburban communities border crime-ridden urban neighborhoods. Rings of the vibrant new technology economy surround remnants of the rusting old manufacturing base. The region boasts some of the nation's best public schools and struggles to rescue some of the worst. Its premier medical facilities exist alongside others on the verge of bankruptcy.

The Michigan Land Use Leadership Council has pointed out several principles that our policymakers can use.

(a) The importance of reducing concentrations of poverty in inner cities and making good schools, safe neighborhoods, quality health services, recreation, and other quality-of-life amenities (e.g., nearby retail service, employment, and cultural institutions) more equitably available to all residents.

(b) The desirability and benefits of walkable and rollable, compact, mixed-use, mixed-income, racially diverse, livable urban cores and neighborhoods.

(c) The need to make land use decisions in a way that ensures the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes.

(d) The council also believes that state agencies and local governments must have access to
effective redevelopment tools and supporting laws and regulations that:

Promote new private investment and reinvestment in already developed areas

• Address existing government barriers to downtown revitalization.

• Discourage state decisions and policies that subsidize and support sprawl.

• Target investments to maintain public infrastructure already in place (Fix-It-First).

• Allow timely assembly of lands and property needed for urban redevelopment.

• Expedite government decisions on the appropriate reuse of environmentally impaired property while protecting human health and the environment.

• Provide for “green infrastructure” as a catalyst to make urban areas more livable and to complement efforts to protect water quality.

I am in agreement with this because for quite some time now I have been concentrating on urban revitalization.

We must continue supporting other public investments in urbanized areas (e.g., expanded student resident housing constructed by Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, the proposed Michigan Welcome Center in southwest Detroit), including the siting of facilities by local governments and federal agencies.

Also, adopting legislation that requires school districts to comply with master plans and infrastructure capital construction plans adopted by local government. This is critical not just for traditional school districts but also charter schools.

Lastly, engaging in state incentives for constructing new schools and renovating schools within existing town centers and encouraging shared use of athletic facilities.

Examples of urban revitalization in Detroit includes the New Center Area, Lafayette Park, Campus Martius, Grand Circus Park District, and the Washington Boulevard Historical District. There are things happening in Detroit. The problem is how city officials are running the show in this town on a early 20th century mentality. If the Silver Rights Movement is ever going to work in places like Detroit then we needs fresh minds who are going to help out in continuing the revitalization process of our city. Keep in mind our city government are ran by Civil Rights people and Black Nationalists. If President-elect Obama wants change then how come our leadership will not change?

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