THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Resist the land grab
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Mar. 7-13, 2010
Forces are gathering to support the proposal by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to close off sections of Detroit and relocate the people living there to parts unknown. The Detroit News reports that the "majority of the City Council members are on board with the concept of downsizing the city to save it and may soon move closer to choosing which neighborhoods to target for help at the expense of others."
The same article said that the plan is backed by the efforts to collect data about the city of Living Cities, a national philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions.
The Kresge Foundation of Troy also supports the effort. Rip Rapson, its president, says that Bing "deserves enormous credit for leading the community into this."
In the Detroit News editorial supporting the relocation effort we learn that "the Brookings Institution, local foundations leaders, several national funding groups and the White House offered financial support of up to $100 million a year for downsizing the city." Bruce Katz, vice president of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program, says, "There is a nothing-left-to lose quality in Detroit, much like there was in New Orleans after Katrina."
Those of us who care about Detroit and its people need to resist these efforts by every means necessary. We need to alert the City Council that it is being hoodwinked into going along with some of the most destructive and backward thinking that has ever been aimed at our city.
A look at the array of forces backing this idea is our first clue that none of these folks are motivated by the best interests of those of us who live here. They see us as part of the problem rather than the solution, Those of us who have been too stubborn to give up on neighborhoods abandoned by everyone else are now being threatened with forced removal.
If any of these so-called philanthropic organizations were genuinely interested in the future of our region, instead of being shaped by the powers who give them money, they would at least be talking about shrinking the suburbs as well.
By any ecological or rational standard, suburban living is by far the most damaging not only to the Earth but to the psyches of those who live there. Moreover, if any of those foundations had encouraged building within the boundaries of the city, including their own offices, we might be facing a very different question today.
In short, the forces that have undermined us, who have spent billions lining the pockets of suburban developers in the form of development schemes that have failed time and again, have now come up with another scheme to improve all our lives, a .scheme which involves removing people and seizing our most precious resource, our land.
While trying to dress this naked land grab up in clinical language like "data driven," "restoring a physical footprint" and "right sizing," these forces are completely out of touch with the reality of the city.
The work of re-imagining the city has been going on at the neighborhood level for decades. Neighborhood groups, small organizations and visionary individuals have created urban farms, civic theaters, homes that feed the bodies and souls of people with respect and love. Most of this work has been invisible to the power brokers and unsupported by philanthropies that see people only as victims, not as makers of our future.
If Mayor Bing and the City Council are seriously interested in redeveloping our city, they should stop listening to those who have benefited from its destruction and start going to the residents currently struggling to restore life in our neighborhoods and asking "How can we help?"