The Economist on Detroit—Thinking about shrinking

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The city has had a dismal stretch, even by its standards. But harsh realities have produced radical thinking. For the first time, dramatic steps are being discussed seriously, including plans to close dozens of schools, cut services and transform the landscape. The speech was a chance for Mr Bing to chart the way forward.

Mr Bing did describe his vision, but for now it remains hazy. The most urgent tasks are to create jobs, cut crime and clean up a fiscal mess. His long-term plan is less clear. The city, he said, would demolish 3,000 homes this year and 7,000 more by the end of his term. This would be only the first step toward re-imagining Detroit. Already, however, local groups are working on plans for broad change. Their premise was once politically unthinkable: before Detroit can thrive, it must shrink. Mr Bing supports this. But executing it will be difficult.

For years, reviving Detroit meant recreating a bustling metropolis. This has changed, thanks to a string of devastating events. Detroit was ailing before the downturn, but foreclosures have weakened the city’s few healthy pockets: Rosedale Park, a lovely neighbourhood in the north-west, now has boarded-up houses beside its pretty brick ones. The collapse of America’s carmakers, meanwhile, has helped push unemployment close to 30%. Economic disaster has coincided with political chaos. In 2008 the then-mayor was indicted. Mr Bing, a 66-year-old former basketball star turned businessman, took over last May before winning a full term last November. The budget deficit is now $325m.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralCity Government

Posted March 29, 2010 at 8:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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