Category Archives: City Planning

How Small Can Detroit be and Still Survive?

detoit popIn Detroit’s emergency phase and subsequent turn around phase, Detroit must stabilize its population to minimum sustainable level. What is the Blue Sky Turn Around Survival Number To Stop Detroit’s Bleeding? Has anyone asked?

Current projections show Detroit’s population sliding a bit more. The white population has bottomed out. Blacks left during the housing boom but access to housing credit has dried up. Millennials are coming back to the city as are a small percentage of immigrants. Yet violent crime is increasing and is prevalent in all parts of the city, forcing residents to continue to look elsewhere to live.

The emergency manager must stabilize the city’s exposure to continued deficits. He must project a revenue trend in making his decisions regarding budget cuts. Given current population and city revenue projections, he is likely to make draconian cuts. What growth must Detroit realistically project for the next three years to satisfy the emergency manager that more draconian measures needn’t be taken for Detroit’s survival?

Will 50,000 net new jobs, 25,000 less people on public assistance, 35,000 more home property taxes, 3,000 new businesses and 50 new small factories and plants strategically dotting the Detroit landscape over three years be enough to reverse the city’s bleeding? What would be a satisfactory number without regard to whether it could realistically be achieved?

Whatever the number, shouldn’t Detroit be resetting its paradigm to achieve that goal and more? And if that flow of new business could be achieved, then the city must ask itself, “Are we prepared to do what must be done to support that level of new business?” Could the city’s land use and livability plans, city administrators and regulators, developers and contractors support the minimum growth that would satisfy the emergency manager, if that level of growth could be achieved over 3 years?

What would the turn around goal need to be to avoid a destructive sell-off of vital city resources that will occur to satisfy emergency restructuring, absent any growth to stabilize the city? Whatever that number is, set the target 25% higher. Now, how can it be achieved?

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Detroit Must Simultaneously Balance The Needs of All Its Stakeholders in Three Phases to Survive

detroit cant wait
Detroit has competing visions of its future that must finally meld if it is to realize Detroit’s great potential to re-create itself. Re-creation involves three distinct phases that must all begin immediately and in parallel, with each having different goals and differing endpoints, but with all participants in Detroit’s posterity understanding the importance of each phase being complementary of the others.

The first phase is Orr’s emergency planning phase. It should be expeditious and its pain and discord should end as swiftly as possible. All must sacrifice, but their sacrifices must be in keeping with optimizing the next two phases.

The second phase is the turn around phase. Detroit will not have the opportunity to grow if it cannot repair the structural impediments that are draining the city. For the turn around to succeed, crime will have to be dramatically reduced, 100,000 jobs will need to expeditiously return to the city targeting existing residents, schools must dramatically improve to contribute to reduced crime and to support an influx of new business, and home ownership must immediately be stabilized. What must be done to quickly implement these requirements? What impacts will they have on Detroit’s stakeholders?

The third phase is the most exciting for it is the growth phase in which Detroit has the opportunity to recreate itself. To sustain and to grow Detroit, the city must be re-tooled into an interwoven blend of modern livable communities that support existing and newcomer residents, including innovators and millennials who demand world-class standards in the cities they call home. How will Detroit integrate livability standards to compete as a growing, world-class city while meeting the needs of all its stakeholders?

Who are some of the stakeholders of Detroit who will demand that a collaborative solution for Detroit meet their needs as well? An optimal system-wide solution will ethically balance the best alternatives of each stakeholder, given the real alternative that Detroit’s sinking population might force dissolution if urgent actions are not taken to create a best effort model that can begin to go forward:

Current residents: Seek jobs, preservation of existing neighborhoods, lessening of crime, and better services

New residents: Must make up the remainder of a sustainable target population and want a highly livable city that meets professional, social, community, health, safety, and development goals

Detroit communities: existing and newly developed as part of a future envisioned Detroit

Property owners: Whether homestead or remote, that must upgrade and maintain their units, plus banks and trusts that must work with Detroit in the best interests of a master plan

Existing Businesses: Detroit’s Legacy industry and community businesses that anchor will key commerce zones in the new Detroit layout

New Businesses: Growth industry targets that will lure the innovators and entrepreneurs, and manufacturing industries that can optimize existing assets and fully employ Detroit’s existing citizens

Creators: Detroit professional and community planners such as the Downtown Economic Growth Corporation, Rock Ventures, Detroit Works, Greenways Coalition, and the Universities, Developers such as Detroit Venture Partners, and businesses that will tear down and construct, move homeowners, reuse and revitalize Detroit’s assets

Community activists that speak for the disabled, the elderly and the young, that seek balance against issues such as environmental injustice, and industrial racism, who will react to the solutions involving 100,000 feral cats and wild dogs.

Political activists that will protect against a shift in political and economic power that can isolate the minority as Detroit changes direction from decay to productivity and livability.

Philanthropists and Historic preservationists that seek a better Detroit and a preservation of Detroit’s character

Investors, shareholders, bankers, all who seek the profit motive of an optimal solution, ensuring efficiency of effort

Detroit services such as Detroit Emergency management, Police and Fire

Disenfranchised youth and organized crime that will be impacted by a shifting economy

Governments: City government, interconnected regional, state, and federal governments

People of United States who have a stake in the outcome as can be modeled by those that follow and Citizens of the world who have a stake in America living up to our ideals.

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Home Ownership’s Role in the Downfall and Rebirth of Detroit

24ferry-boardupThe New York Times article is a good read on an important facet of the continuing story…

An acre of land in Manhattan goes for $90 million. An acre of land in Queens goes for $2 million. An acre in the slums of Tremont, Bronx goes for a half million. An acre of land in Detroit goes for $3,000. Iowa farmland goes for more. The price for an acre of land in Livonia, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, can go for about $300,000.

Mr. Dan Gilbert purchased a downtown skyscraper that should have gone for $200 a foot for $5 a foot. He sees a gold mine that just hasn’t yet struck gold and is willing to invest in Detroit. Detroit will either continue to wither until it is forced to be broken apart, dispersing the gold nuggets to those that would cart them off, or it will recover, saving the city’s heritage for those that have remained and for those that wish to come back. My bet is on the latter, that Detroit is on the verge of recovery if concrete steps will be taken, for Detroit is critical to the success of Michigan and for the United States.

Detroit is ripe for those that would brave the elements, for once cured of its ills, the 88,000 acres that are the city of Detroit will eventually be worth a mega-fortune. The questions surrounding this fortune include, who will be the beneficiaries of the windfall, and how quickly will the fortunes of Detroit turn around, and will Detroit’s recovery create a livable city for those citizens that have remained in the city and that will be required to do heavy lifting.

Would it be wrong to expect that the current residents of Detroit should have a stake in the financial rewards of creating a more vibrant, crime reduced city as well as a better quality of life? At the end of the Civil War, black leaders asked for 40 acres and a mule, the tools of a financial start at that time. A home and a job are today’s equivalent.

Mr. Orr has the responsibility to create a path forward for the city that includes its citizens’ ability to prosper in their efforts to collaborate with those that will come forward to inject new life and new prosperity. A vision that is inclusive of the citizens who remain in Detroit is required.

Home ownership is an institutional privilege of capitalism. The perspective owner must have good credit, must have secured a down payment, must not have accumulated debt obligations, must have a history and prospect of adequate, must apply during reasonable economic times, must be in a location that is not wrought with undue competition for homes that drive their cost beyond reach, and in a location in which the lender feels adequately assured that the home will maintain its value.

Home ownership is a thread that weaves through the story of the African American. So few could own property before the end of the Civil War. So few could afford it afterward.

Most ex slaves were forced to endure plantation housing after the war. The capitalist system requires capital to start a free life. The minimal capital of the era was enough farmland to sustain a family. Yet without a means to acquire it, generations of ex-slaves would resort to share-cropping.

Lincoln’s Homestead Act made land available to hundreds of thousands of immigrants but a mere 20,000 blacks could afford to take advantage of 160 acres of free land offered. Most could not afford the travel and survival while planting the first year, nor could they afford the requirement that they build a house on the land. Yet, the Homestead Act was the impetus for Europe’s flood to the promise of America. Millions of descendants of Europeans in the generations that followed would benefit from the millions of acres freely given.

The 20 year “Long Depression” of 1873 was caused by a bank binge, housing bubble in Europe that sent thousands of immigrants scurrying for jobs in America’s cities, many of whom ended up in the slums of Detroit, competing for housing with newly arrived black migrants during the 1910s.

Housing would be discriminatorily kept from blacks in the 1920s, as restricted covenants supported by the National Association of Real Estate Boards became commonplace. Throughout the 1920s until the Supreme Court ruled them unenforceable in 1948, covenants would segregate neighborhoods.

By the late 1920s, banks created another housing bubble that burst at the start of the Great Depression. Out of the Depression came FHA housing insurance that made buying a home easier for millions of whites, but that continued to discriminate against blacks through a federally accepted practice of redlining. Through redlining, even though they had equal qualifications as whites, many more blacks were denied FHA backing and therefore did not “qualify” for homes.

This social engineered, institutionally racist, discrimination had a major impact on black communities, for housing was the major way middle class America grew and passed on wealth to heirs. Generations used their accumulated wealth to advance their families through such means as home equity loans to pay for college educations. Yet, this necessity of the industrial era, this replacement of 160 acres and a mule, was denied blacks.

The combination of FHA financing, a post WWII boom and the introduction of the Federal Highway system helped fill the suburbs. Thousands of whites exited Detroit. Restrictive covenants and Redlining kept blacks back in the city with 20% lower home ownership. At the time, 88% of blacks supported integrating neighborhoods and only 12% of whites found integration acceptable.

The remnants of restrictive covenants that were socially enforced and redlining that was institutionally supported continued through the 1970s, even after Congress passed Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act for fair housing in 1968. The efforts of grass roots organizations led to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 and finally to the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977.

The idea behind the CRA was to attempt to redress a century of housing discrimination that had preceded it through what would amount to racial balancing of loans going forward. Yet America’s bankers had already shown that they were capable of creating housing bubbles back in 1873 and 1929. Given the need to fund China’s gold rush that had just begun in 1979, it was only a matter of time for bankers’ greed to use the principles of the CRA as a means to create yet another housing bubble.

In Detroit, the housing bubble was a vehicle for middle class blacks to leave the city when loose credit and anti-discrimination housing laws made home ownership more possible. Yet, as the bubble burst, foreclosure hit blacks twice as hard as whites, continuing our nation’s housing saga. While banks used foreclosures to recoup losses in most parts the country, many banks, faced with plummeting house prices in Detroit, left them abandoned rather than pay the taxes, adding to the blight that earlier banking policies had exacerbated.

Abandoned housing can be assets for Detroit going forward. They can be a component of a more stable, safer Detroit. If allowed to continue to ferment, they may also be yet another stitch in the continuing thread of discriminatory housing as part of institutional racism that fed Detroit’s downfall.

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This emergency manager phase for Detroit Should not be about loss or regret but about hope and rebirth

Yet an important phase of rebirth must be letting go…When memories of what Detroit was, or visions of what one hoped it might become are released, then we can be free to see Detroit as it is and to plan for what it can really become.

After the economic burdens of Detroit’s collapsing past are lifted, the city must be ready to finally let go of old paradigms that have kept Detroit from transforming. We are free to state the starting point.

* Detroit is not safe

Detroit will initially still be a city that few will want to move to or to invest in until a clear path is created for Detroit to grow and to prosper. In fact, many will still want to leave if they can if crime is not dramatically reduced. But Detroit can become a very livable city if opportunity replaces hopelessness and if strong incentives for a prosperous future are introduced for newcomers. These are not just platitudes but very achievable goals.

* Detroit is blighted

After Mr. Orr and Detroit’s leadership make the tough choices, Detroit will still not be the vibrant city that downtown represents it to be. But it will have pockets of strong neighborhoods and it will continue to craft a fairly clean, brownfield canvas from which to build a future. Blight will continue to be cleared. Building exteriors, yards, sidewalks and vacant lots can be vigorously maintained by incentive and enforcement, main thoroughfares can be maintained to represent Detroit’s future, key growth centers can be enhanced to seed growth.

* Detroit is spread out and unwieldy

Detroit has three times the land that Walt Disney World had when it acquired 47 square miles in Central Florida. Speckled throughout the city, Detroit’s has liabilities but many can be transformed into assets. And Detroit’s land is one of its biggest assets. The West was settled by the draw of land. Given a well-defined land use vision, clear principles of growth, strong incentives for investment, and a culture recreated to support growth, Detroit can rapidly emerge, and positive signs of growth can simultaneously spread throughout its various neighborhoods, while highlighting the call for entrepreneurs, innovators and industry to return to Detroit’s key economic centers.

* Detroit is Gentrified

In 140 square miles, Detroit’s master plan has room for gentrification. It has room for high tech, for entrepreneurial centers, for commerce, education, and art. But Detroit is already the residence for 700,000 people, many of whom have been the forgotten ones, downtrodden, unemployed, poorly educated. Many have experienced the violence of Detroit. Most are hoping for opportunity and a better life.

Many of Detroit’s residents travel outside the city each day to give of their talents. Most can produce viable products and services right in Detroit, once employed. Yet, from Detroit’s existing population, workers must be matched to work they can readily perform. High wages for low skilled work is gone. Yet, the paradigm that living wages for low skill work cannot exist in an America that must compete in the world, that paradigm must be obliterated to put Detroiters back to work. There is a way.

* Detroit has stagnated in stalemate for decades.

A dynasty of political structures that preserved Detroit’s old economy must give way to equitable sharing of political powers for a new economy. A workforce power structure of high union wages for low skill work must give way to an economy that provides a living wage for low skill work and a city that promotes education and training for higher wage opportunities. Old prejudices that allowed Detroit’s neighborhoods to be underserved must be isolated through economic incentives that change behavior until prejudiced views can be reduced by stereotypes of a new economy.

* Detroit is isolated

A metropolitan region that has walled off communities from one another must be reconnected and interconnected to allow regional collaboration and regional growth. Solutions that can bring innovators, investors, and employers, those key components of growing economies, into the heart of Detroit will require agreement from regional, state, and federal governments, as well as support from entrepreneurs, local, national, and international industries to be dynamically effective.

As age-old paradigms are let go, Anticipation and new expectations can be formed to start rebuilding Detroit’s identity and to create a productive economy that provides jobs and a thriving future for all.

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Hat’s Off To Mayor Bing

1BING.I want to pause and say that I am quite impressed with Mayor Dave Bing.

Detroit has been in a free fall for 50 years. After saddling Detroit with institutionalized racism and after pulling out the core of Detroit’s economy, centralized industrial military, and auto manufacturing, after having created an obsoleted urban housing system, after having swelled racial divisiveness to a tender box, and after having incited generations of oppressed black youth to react in desensitized violence, whites packed up their belongings, built highways, and skedaddled out of town.

Now, quite understandably, Mayor Coleman, who had dabbled as a youth in socialism as his potential answer to oppression, when elected the first black mayor during white flight, reacted with a sense of indignity. “Who needs deserters” was perhaps a normal reaction to have. But Detroit found during his 20 years that it did need investment, the very type of investment that had fled the city before his arrival.

And Mayor Archer, understanding the need for collaboration, did enlist the help of white business leaders in his efforts. It’s just that the generation that had just left Detroit hadn’t yet figured out that what Detroit now needed was transformation, not simply architectural monuments to lure shoppers back into a dying industrial town.

When their efforts failed, Detroit brought in what could have been fresh thinking to revitalize the city when they elected their youngest Mayor ever, Kwame Patrick. Yet, he turned out to be the poster child for white bigotry. Mr. Patrick gave into his base desires and missed out on the glory of raising up Detroit.

In his stead, Detroit elected a man of principle to follow the character of Mayor Archer. Mayor Bing had earlier shown his tenacity and leadership in the NBA, and he had proved his business leadership with his successful company. Mayor Bing was the right leader for Detroit. Yet he was taking the helm of Detroit in its final throws.

When Mayor Bing came to office, Detroit was already bleeding $150 million a year in deficits. When he came to office, the United States of America was already on its knees in the greatest recession since the Great Depression.

Read the tweet posts from above and you can see into Mayor Bing’s mind. He learned quickly what must be done. Within his powers, he orchestrated a great deal more than his predecessors had done in the previous 40 years tp redirect Detroit’s future toward a thriving path forward. Detroit is on the brink of being able to exercise a posterity that can either be aided by this emergency manager or obliterated by him.

A red flag of urgent observation and participation has now been thrown into the arena….

My hat’s off though to Mayor Bing!!!

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Mayor Dave Bing Tweets His Progression Of Thought Toward Revitalizing Detroit

Dave BingMayor Dave Bing, 2009 to present

After Mayor Kenneth Cockrel briefly assumed office in Mayor Kilpatrick’s absence, Dave Bing was elected Mayor in 2009. Mayor Bing had been a 12 season basketball star, played for the Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics, and was a successful businessman, having owned an auto parts manufacturing business prior to moving to Detroit to run for Mayor. He took office in May 2009.

Selected tweets from Mayor Dave Bing show his progression of thought toward getting Detroit on Track…

2/4/10 Yes, Governor Granholm we are indeed on the path to creating a new Michigan…and a new Detroit!

3/2/10 The plan to address land use changes for Detroit is still being developed. The complete plan will be introduced before any action is taken

4/23/10 Detroit we still need your help in identifying SPECIFIC illegal dumping site for attention during Motor City Makeover.

7/8/10 The residential structure demolition program continues to make progress

7/30/10 Mr. President today was a great day for the nation’s auto industry. I look forward to your next visit FOR DETROIT!

8/16/10 Welcome to Detroit Quicken Loans! And, thank you Dan Gilbert for your vote of confidence.

9/9/10 Thank you for continuing the land use conversation. We are not “rightsizing.” We intend to plan for ALL of Detroit’s 140 sq mi.

10/4/10 This year alone 2,085 abandoned and dangerous residential have been demolished. We plan to continue at that pace through 2013

11/18/10 The success of Turino’s philanthropic partnerships may provide a model for Detroit

12/9/10 The City of Detroit cannot continue to operate as if we are 2 Million residents strong.

1/26/11 The Detroit Works Projects beginning meeting with communities to discuss specific neighborhood concerns and needs.

5/11/11 Yesterday I shared with City Council a detailed plan to eliminate the City’s deficit.

5/25/11 GM confirms it will build Impala at Detroit-Hamtramck plant, add 2,500 jobs. Good news!

6/3/11 Detroit’s greatest asset beyond people is its land. Land presents a great opportunity for the city not a liability.

6/19/11 Lighting is a major issue. We are working to improve the 100 year old system and provide every neighborhood with reliable lights.

8/22/11 Citizens Banks has partnered with the City of Detroit offering grants and loans to help area residents purchase homes

12/1/11 Detroit needs to be run by Detroiters. We know what needs to be done and we are ready to do it.

12/12/11 I look forward to working with the Detroit Delegation on legislative reforms in the MI Legislature that move the City forward.

12/14/11 We decided that RRT [rolling rapid transit] would be the most effectively means to connect Detroiters to job centers throughout the region .

1/11/12 We are working to stem crimes committed by 16-24 y/o through the Youth Violence Prevention initiative. We are also making changes that will put more DPD officers on the street.

2/1/12 The City of Detroit of Detroit has no plans to close any city recreation centers.

2/2/12 Members of the City’s non-uniform coalition of unions have reached tentative contract agreement. This agreement is the first meaningful step in achieving the necessary concessions and structural changes.

2/21/12 Mayor Bing is in Lansing today presenting his budget stabilization plan to the Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses.

3/7/12 500 letters sent to Detroit property owners saying they can buy adjacent vacant lots for $200.

3/9/12 The Citizens Bank Home Grant Program Was A Success

3/15/12 The nine-member advisory board resembles an emergency manager with majority of the votes going to the state. My staff began meeting Wednesday with Detroit City Council staffers to draft a counter-proposal to Gov. Rick Snyder’s draft Agreement.

4/4/12 The Detroit City Council’s vote tonight represents a pivotal moment in Detroit’s history. It is time now to begin the monumental task of stabilizing Detroit’s financial operations, which has always been [my] mission.

4/12/12 The budget reflects a new fiscal reality for Detroit. We can no longer spend money we don’t have.

5/18/12 We’ve got to figure out how to make people who live in Detroit feel safer.

6/7/12 Transforming Detroit is an ongoing interactive campaign highlighting the transformation of Detroit

7/18/12 I want to thank the four council members who took a tough vote yesterday in their efforts to restore financial stability to the City.

7/26/12 the consent agreement process isn’t perfect, but it was our best option to ultimately, avoid an emergency manager and allow us to continue to work to financially stabilize the City and transform Detroit.

9/25/12 The lease creates a cooperative agreement between the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan to manage Belle Isle as a state park

9/26/12 Chrysler’s move to downtown an indicator of confidence in the long term economic growth of Detroit

12/5/12 Breaking News: Mayor Bing Announces Six New Police Mini Stations:

1/23/13 If we can’t hire more police officers then we must restructure and redeploy the officers we have.

2/21/13 We have reduced the number of employees on the City’s payroll from 13,420 to 9,696. As a result, the City‘s payroll and benefits’ costs have been cut by nearly a half-billion dollars.

3/15/13 Kevyn Orr, told The Detroit News they plan to work quickly to turn around the troubled city

3/121/13 ATF, FBI, State Police and others working together along with the community will make Detroit One successful

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Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, 2002-2008, Detroit Diverted…

Mayor Kilpatrick was a promising son of Detroit, a the captain of his college football team and a Juris Doctor degree graduate from the Detroit College of Law when he took office as Mayor of Detroit in 2002. While his mother served as the U.S. Congresswoman from Detroit. Kilpatrick had been elected the state of Michigan’s first African American to hold the state senate position of minority party leader prior to becoming mayor. He became the youngest man to be elected Mayor of Detroit.

In Detroit’s difficult times, Mr. Kilpatrick became involved in sex scandals and criminal activity that eventually forced him to resign in 2008 amid efforts to have him removed from office. Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of numerous charges and was incarcerated. During his time in office and criminal trials, he stirred racial controversy and dissension.

On his Facebook, December 12, 2012, Mr. Kilpatrick wrote, “Detroit, I deeply regret my role in yet another distraction from the far more critical issues of Crime, Finances, Morale & Progress that must be addressed.” On March 11, 2013, Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of multiple felonies and awaits sentencing in prison.

As Mayor, Mr. Kilpatrick’s focus was on improving Detroit’s neighborhoods. He established “Next Detroit, a five year project to enhance six neighborhoods through improved maintenance and investment. He also instituted property tax cuts to aid homeowners.

During his two terms, 75 buildings were renovated downtown and 80 new businesses were established there. He also worked to ease the process of opening new businesses in Detroit, collaborating with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. He also used casino revenues to create a loan fund to assist neighborhood businesses.

During Mr. Kilpatrick’s tenure, Detroit experienced deficits for the first time in 2005. When he took office the population was 922,426. In 2005, the first deficit, the population had dropped to 836,056. The majority of the decrease came from middle class blacks leaving the city.

Foreshadowing the concerns of some Americans regarding what they perceive as America’s dire future financial predicament, in 2005, Mayor Kilpatrick was forced to make drastic cuts to city’s services and layoffs of city employees to avoid bankruptcy. While making the cuts, he failed to address Detroit’s longer-term structural deficits, instead using long term bonds to cover the city’s short-term deficits. In addition, the mayor resorted to raising taxes on constituents, 40% of which already were already refusing to pay taxes in protest of prior cuts to city services.

In parting, Mayor Kilpatrick exclaimed that he, “ Built more houses in the city than any mayor in the city of Detroit, fixed more streets, built more parks, built more rec centers, brought more national events to the city of Detroit than any mayor in history, more economic development than any mayor in the history of the town…We brought casinos, we brought the Major League Baseball All-Star game. Detroit took a giant step forward while I was mayor.”

With Detroit housing units having dropped from 530,000 in 1970 to 375,000 units at the start of the Mayor’s first term, 1,581 new house permits were issued during his time in office.

Unemployment remained relatively stable during Mayor Kilpatrick’s term rising from 12.8 to 14.4 until the economic implosion of 2008 when Detroit’s unemployment spiked to 24.8%. During His time in office, Murder and violent crime rates were fairly stable. Other crime was stable with burglary having the most visible increase of about a 33% rise after cuts to police in 2005.

Take Away from Mayor Kilpatrick’s term:

The writing was already on the wall, when the mayor took office. Yet still, no comprehensive long lived plan would be put in place to deal with Detroit’s turn around. Instead, reactionary responses of budget and service cuts were implemented.

Mayor Kilpatrick did have the right focus of aiding businesses into the neighborhoods of Detroit. Detroit needs growth and jobs to survive. His vision was too narrow and his implementation was ineffective.

His Next Detroit initiative was the nascent beginnings of an attempt to revitalize Detroit neighborhoods into more vibrant, livable communities capable of being integrated in a plan for regrowth of the city. Yet the concept must be tied to an integrated plan for reinvestment in industry, communities, and land use to make Detroit a growing, livable city. And Detroit’s neighborhood intiative must entail a detailed vision that encompasses best practice of urban design.

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Mayor Dennis Archer – Detroit Mayor 1994-2001, Democrat

Dennis Archer, previously a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, was elected mayor for two terms from 1994 through 2001. He promised to “build coalitions of all races, creeds, and economic levels to produce real improvement in the troubled city” and blasted Coleman Young for having run a political machine that “defended Detroit against the hostile forces from the white suburbs.”

In his campaign, Mayor Archer stated, “I represent. I represent the people who can’t get their garbage picked up on time … their streetlights to stay on all night … their phone calls answered at city hall. I stand before you representing children who are more concerned about surviving the school day … the homeless, the disenfranchised and the working poor who want affordable housing, and a clean and decent place in which to live.” He was an honorable mayor with a good record.

Mayor Archer was credited for ratcheting down animosity between black political leaders and white business leaders during his term. His accomplishments included:

• 11 billion in projects
• $100 million for empowerment zone
• Facelift to the downtown Renaissance complex when GM purchased it and moved their headquarters there.
• New Tiger Stadium
• Three Downtown casinos

Downsides listed included:

• A cumbersome bureaucracy facing new businesses
• Running thin on city services including police

The three casinos employ 8,000 people and provide $150 million in taxes to Detroit.

The baseball stadium was financed partially by Detroit taxpayers who went in debt $115 million to fund the stadium. The stadium added about 1,000 jobs in and around the stadium and added about $5 million a year in city revenues.

During Mayor Archer’s term Unemployment dropped across the United States from 6.1 to 4.0 %. In Detroit, unemployment dropped from 15.8% to 7.3% as Detroit’s population dropped from 1,000,000 to 904,000. Murder rate dropped from 58 to 44 per 100,000.

The figures suggest that in 1994, 421,000 people were working in Detroit, and in 2000 417,000 people continued working. Now 270,000 are working in Detroit out of a population of 730,000. The combination of job growth in the United States and Mayor Archer’s implementation of Downtown growth staved off unemployment.

The type of jobs from the casinos and ballpark fit the demographics of Detroit’s unemployed population, low skilled workers, and provided recreation that add livability value. The empowerment zone jobs added similarly. The saving of the downslide of the Renaissance saved such jobs and added surrounding service jobs. Mayor Archer did well in slowing the decline of jobs.

Yet, the loss of population due to crime continued its rapid downward slide.

Detroit’s Budget deficits started in 2005 and have grown to $387 million this year of a $1 billion budget.

Takeaway from Mayor Archer’s term:

Decent paying jobs added that can be readily absorbed by available unemployed workforce, will be when offered

Crime rates went down as employment went up…..

Detroit’s black population during the term stopped growing for the first time in a century and white flight continued its steep rate of decline. The following decade, middle income blacks would leave the city as well. And with their flight, a dropping population would finally cross the threshold that would thrust Detroit into deficit spending.

Livability added by a sports stadium, 3 casinos and an upgrade to a downtown shopping complex were peripheral to the population’s livability perception of Detroit. Crime was the overriding factor. Even though the murder rate for instance dropped from 58 to 44 per 100,000, it was still 10 times that of the suburbs. A better economy made migration more possible, white flight continued and Black in migration stalled.

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Root Cause Analysis Of Detroit’s Problems Leads to the Following Growth Principles


Detroit will finally have to face her problems that have been endemic to the city for the past century. if Detroit continues to deny, or worse to defiantly continue her stalemate of opposing political philosophies, the city will finally pay for its stubbornness by imploding into a smaller footprint. The remaining lands will either return to their historical township designation or they will be absorbed in part by surrounding cities. The absence of a viable solution will create a dramatic end to this once vibrant city’s history. The vultures will descend on Detroit’s assets in the aftermath to divvy up what could otherwise have been the basis of Detroit prospering once again.

Why is it that Detroit’s problems have grown for the past 60 years without correction? Many talented people have strategized and struggled to reverse the city’s declining trend. Yet, the city is finally in severe crisis, and is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It turns out that some of Detroit’s largest problems, which absolutely must be solved to save the city, are actually symptoms of other “root” problems, which have gone unchecked for 60 years. Until we expose these root causes, we cannot hope to find viable solutions that will turn around Detroit’s plight. And once exposed, Detroit’s political, business and civic leadership must finally commit to implementing system-wide solutions that up to now they have ignored.

We know the problems that Detroit is experiencing. Yet leaders have fruitlessly spent billions of dollars on solutions that have not reversed them. If money and effort are spent on solutions that do not address the problems that are the root of all remaining problems, then their efforts are in vain, for the root will then continue to nourish its branches of destruction, and Detroit will persist in continuing its decline.

What are the root causes of Detroit’s problems? Let’s list symptomatic problems first and then peel the onion deeper and deeper until we reach some root causes:

Symptomatic Problems:

A. Detroit Citizens are leaving the city in epidemic proportions, creating a hollowed out city.

Symptomatic Causes:

No jobs
High crime
Poor Schools
Lack of city services
Lack of livability qualities

B. Detroit Government cannot afford to provide the City Services that a city government is required to provide and will not be able to sustain itself without drastic changes.

Symptomatic Causes:

Smaller population to tax
Fewer businesses to tax
Decreased property values
Poor collection of taxes that are owed

C. The citizens that remain in Detroit are forced to live in what Forbes magazine calls the “most miserable city in America”

Symptomatic Causes:

Terrorized by crime
Live in blighted neighborhoods
Have low paying jobs or no jobs
Send children to schools that don’t educate them
Are denied basic city services
Wait too long for emergency services
Lack decent transportation to city amenities
Live in obsolete housing

Now, each of these symptomatic causes only scratches the surface of describing the cause of Detroit’s problems, and each symptomatic cause has more deeply rooted causes. For instance, one symptomatic reason people are moving out of Detroit is because there are no jobs. Certainly the trend started with the loss of auto and armament jobs but many more jobs have left since. Why?

• Some jobs leave Detroit to follow people that are leaving
• Some jobs are eliminated as businesses such as national grocery store chains refuse to
cater to the distillation of remaining citizens.
• Some business decry the lack of City services
• Others leave because of high taxes
• Some leave to find educated potential employees
• Other businesses are uprooted because their owners are unhappy with Detroit’s

Yet even these more deeply rooted causes are symptomatic of even deeper causes:

• Grocery stores claim that a lack of population density, higher crime rates, and a lack of
qualified employees make them unprofitable.
• The City claims that higher taxes on businesses are necessary to offset others that have
left and that city services have been cut because of falling city revenues.
• Detroit businesses have found that the existing potential employee base has a low
degree of education, that 47% are functionally illiterate, and that most have worked in
jobs that did not provide high skill level training.

And yet, even these more deeply rooted causes have deeper causes. Those that point to the city’s high crime rate, for instance, state several reasons for the higher rate:

• Black subculture of violence
• Street gangs
• Drug trafficking
• Poor policing

Yet these are all symptomatic of even more deep root causes. For instance, the black subculture of violence goes back to:

• Colonial times of slavery
• Post civil war terror and oppression
• Treatment of blacks in Detroit during the transition into the industrial era
• The failure of schools to educate
• For the failure of businesses to provide a living wage
• For intergenerational, institutional racism that has denied blacks equal opportunity for
jobs and housing, for neighborhoods, decent healthcare, and equal protection under the

So Institutional racism drops out as one of the root causes of the downfall of Detroit. Once this analysis of root causes is complete, then a set of solutions can be generated to combat these root causes. However, as in all systemwide solutions, any set of proposed solutions must create a desired outcome that is best for all citizens of Detroit to be optimal.

A cursory root cause analysis suggests a few patterns of future success for the city of Detroit, without creating the plan for how to achieve these patterns. Some might even suggest that these patterns are unachievable. Yet, remarkable solution sets can be created once the objectives are outlined.

In isolation, my initial assessment suggests the following. I will next compare this solution set to recent historical patterns of solutions and contemporary solutions being proposed.

Based on the constraints of what I expect to be true, to solve the immediate issues of turn around, Detroit will have to:

• Restructure existing debt
• Soften expectations of entrenched unions
• Reduce unsustainable city pensions
• Enforce collection of current taxes
• Resize from the now unsustainable level of city services
• Create fair alternative to foreclosures

To stop stampeding exodus, the city will have to:

• Dramatically and quickly reduce high crime levels
• Limit the impact of the illegal drug market
• Lower city tax rates to compete for business and new homeowners
• Provide alternative to failing schools

To quickly reduce high crime levels will require:

• A dramatic early increase in law enforcement in transition to sustainable levels of crime
• That the city provide freedom for potential emigrants to seek viable alternatives to public
education while Detroit public schools are dramatically overhauled so that all kids have
an incredibly higher probability of academic success
• That the city immediately begin to provide highly probable access to higher education or
to higher paying income jobs to transitioning upperclassmen and to graduating high
school seniors.

To rebuild, Detroit will have to begin to:

• Initially repopulate the city with jobs appropriate to the educational and job skill level of
its population, which will begin with a high number of illiterate, uneducated, unskilled
persons in the workforce
• Transition from failing schools that will start with very poor results even if they transition
to success
• Provide highly probable, well paying jobs to students who graduate from college and
from high school
• Create a plan for compact city service zones and reduced services in outlying areas that
can transition with increasing population.
• Exercise a city land use plan that incorporates a citywide pattern for a livable city in all
neighborhoods as the city repopulates.
• Immediately dialogue with surrounding cities to formulate an understanding of what
benefits (and potential threats) are availed through cooperation, collaboration, and
synergies with surrounding governments.
• Reform government services to eradicate institutional racism and multigenerational
diminished expectations
• Assess all Brownfield properties for assets that may have intrinsic value for any potential
reuse as part of a citywide plan to use assets, including land as draws for new
businesses and workers.
• Rid city of blight through integrated coordination of credit, loans, and jobs, tied to blight
enforcement and city confiscation for redistribution.
• Create a viable foreclosure alternative tied to credit, loans, and jobs.
• Create citywide access to credit for city’s public and private growth.

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A Confused Oligarchy Stagnated Innovation and Starved America’s Parasite Industries, Further Weakening Detroit

A Confused Oligarchy Stagnated Innovation and Starved America’s Parasite Industries, Further Weakening Detroit….

With such a tax base as afforded by the auto industry, Detroit offered the latest amenities of cities of the era and was called the “Paris of the Midwest”. The name implies that Detroit, at one time the fourth largest city in America, had the leading livability standards of the age. We know this was not the case for many of the underserved communities within Detroit, which led to a social cancer. Yet for others in Detroit, a booming city meant rising property values, good schools plus social and cultural benefits.

In the 1970s, even though domestic competitors were not a threat, foreign competitors emerged with a better mousetrap. With OPEC’s manipulation of high fuel costs, Japanese cars found an entrance into the U.S. market. Having established a foothold, they brought in better cars that competed against the Big Three’s higher quality vehicles.

What happened to Detroit’s innovation in the face of foreign competition? It seemed that the oligarchy was dazed by the machinations of OPEC and Washington’s tepid response. Prices would rise for a bit and then fall. Successive waves of price manipulations led to multiple calls for a national energy policy that never emerged, yet signaled confusion in the American industry. All the while, America’s love of big muscle cars survived the frustrating fluctuations in fuel prices. The confusion of Washington’s signals and America’s flip flopping sentiments left Detroit faltering in strategy.

The auto market eventually shifted, but in the confusion, Detroit lost its way, waiting to respond with real innovation and instead doling out body style and grill changes as substitutes for competitive innovation. U.S. buyers now perceived that true technological shifts were coming from foreign competitors, and the big three lost market share.

Detroit saw some of this impact, and the region surrounding Detroit suffered even more. All of America was impacted as the auto industries’ parasitic industries declined with autos. Detroit’s jobs fell, resulting in declining home values as people left. Taxes then declined, followed by a cut to city services, suffering city budgets, and higher crime, all exacerbating the flight to the suburbs, as the fall of Detroit spiraled on.

Could innovation have been a key to turning Detroit around? Yes, new businesses not tied to the falling auto industry, could have replaced the void if Detroit government was not so lockstep tied to the Big Three. While cities like Pittsburgh and Akron began to find ways to reinvent themselves, Detroit clung to autos in a mutual death spiral.

Innovation is a key factor but innovation comes from people, and people want to live in a city that brings to them a vibrant place to live. Thriving cities cater to innovators by fostering livability. Detroit has recently been given the “Un” honor of being the most unlivable city, the most miserable city in America. Therefore it has a severe innovator recruitment gap.

Detroit cannot go from the bottom of the livability scale to the top without enduring years working a plan for turn around. The beginning years will entail efforts to correct the cancers that are killing Detroit. They will also include years implementing a city plan that creates a land use of a highly livable city that can be Detroit 20 years from now.

The rebuilding will begin with a concerted effort to bring the right businesses to the right locations within Detroit as outlined in the 20-year plan. The right businesses will be those that can hire the right people with the level of education that exists now, plus those that can capitalize on the assets that Detroit has now. Detroit can then grow the city piece by piece back toward a Paris of the Midwest, if that is its vision of a livable city that can be enjoyed by all its citizens.

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Filed under American Governance, City Planning, Jobs, social trajectory