Sunday, March 14, 2010

Deconstructionism in Detroit

Well after several days not blogging we're taking another trip to Detroit this Sunday. Well of course all we're doing is looking at what Detroit seeks to do as far as making for a better city today. One answer is to essentially shrink the city that is no longer home to a population of 2 million people as it once was around 1950.

You can read the article "Deconstruction: The Fate of America? - The Changing Landscape of America" over at New Geography. Of course Detroit is only one part of the argument of Deconstructionism.
There is no better example than the City of Detroit. Once the home of Henry Ford and the American automobile industry, Detroit has fallen on hard times. Its population has fallen from nearly 2 million residents to less than 900,000 today. With a budget deficit of $300 million per year, Detroit can no longer provide basic services to its own residents. There are 33,500 empty homes and 91,000 vacant residential lots. More than 300,000 buildings are vacant or in shambles. It is estimated that 40 square miles of Detroit lies abandoned.

Twelve years ago, British urban historian Sir Peter Hall wrote in “Cities in Civilization” that Detroit “has become an astonishing case of industrial dereliction; perhaps, before long, the first major industrial city in history to revert to farmland.” Hall may have been prescient. This week, Mayor David Bing released the “Neighborhood Revitalization Strategic Framework," a landmark document that suggests that vast sections of Detroit be razed and returned to farmland, open space and nature. The report suggests the first organized and orderly deconstruction of a major American city.

The report envisons replacing entire neighborhoods with “Naturescapes” (meadows), “Green Thoroughfares” and “Village Hubs” that require fewer city services. But, it will require hundreds of millions of federal aid to finance such a major transformation, money the federal government no longer has to give.

In an era of trillion dollar federal deficits, there are no longer easy solutions. The shift of tectonic plates caused by the Great Recession have exposed hopelessly unsustainable city and state budgets. Swollen payrolls, duplicative agencies and inefficient municipal services can no longer be afforded. The deconstruction of government services seems inevitable.

In five years, will Detroit remain a cratered landscape of vacant buildings, broken promises, and smashed dreams? Or will a smaller, safer, more efficient city evolve out of its ruins? If deconstruction is successful in Detroit, it could serve as a model for many other governments as well, from City Hall to state capitols and all the way to the most bloated disaster of all, Washington, DC.
You know I look forward to Reason taking a look at Cleveland hosted by Drew Carey (former star of The Drew Carey Show and host of The Price is Right). Carey is a Cleveland native so it may well be fitting that this production will have his imprint on it. It's certainly the story of many struggling cities in the land. The question is will stuggling major cities take the advice of a libertarian publication.

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