Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Knocking Over Shrinking Cities. And Please Pare Down the Support Ranks, Too.

The news industry is always catching up to itself, and more frequently editors are letting through stories that have been published before.
An April story by the New York Times addressed an initiative to “shrink” cities, or taking out blighted neighborhoods wholesale.
The Times’ piece no doubt sprung from this Flint Journal story in March.
This is what news has come to.
The story is based in Flint, which, as you well know, has been a pox on Michigan for a long time and is home to both one of the nation’s highest crime rates and most widespread poverty. It has gone from a population of 200,000 in 1965 to 110,000 today. We’ve often wondered why school districts and municipalities never seem to contract along with the local population.
“Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods. The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval. “Decline in Flint is like gravity, a fact of life,” said Dan Kildee, the Genesee County treasurer and chief spokesman for the movement to shrink Flint. “We need to control it instead of letting it control us.” “
This week, the issue is back in the news because a reporter at the Guardian in the U.K. decided to spice it up by adding in a reference to President Obama. Bingo! Big chatter in a slower news cycle.
Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country. Mr. Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes. Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,Baltimore and Memphis.”
This talk is good, though, and the idea of taking these properties, plowing them and hoping for a better option is a good one.
The Flint Journal’s blog does a good job of fielding the issue, as it was the first one there.

Flint sign image by Flickr user theworldthroughmyeyes, CC 2.0

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