Rural farmland? Not quite. You're looking at a Google Earth satellite image of Detroit several blocks north of I-94 where "block after block of a city grid with virtually no homes or buildings lin[e] the streets."
Detroit's expanding urban blight and the city's rapidly declining fiscal health have prompted the city to seriously consider ending city services including police patrols, road repairs, street lights and garbage collection to more than 20% of the city. "As few as seven neighborhoods [are] seen as meriting the city's full resources," reports the Wall Street Journal.
Until now, the mayor and his staff have spoken mostly in generalities about the problem, stressing the need for community input and pledging to a skeptical public that no resident would be forced to move. But the approach discussed by city officials could have that effect. Mr. Bing's staff wants to concentrate Detroit's remaining population—expected to be less than 900,000 after this year's Census count—and limited local, state and federal dollars in the most viable swaths of the city, while other sectors could go without such services as garbage pickup, police patrols, road repair and street lights.
Karla Henderson, a city planning official leading the mayor's campaign, said in an interview Thursday that her staff had deemed just seven to nine sections of Detroit worthy of receiving the city's full resources. She declined to identify the areas, but said the final plan could include a greater number. Ms. Henderson said her team amassed hundreds of data—on household income, population density, employment, existing city services, philanthropic investments and housing stock —in its effort to identify the neighborhoods with the brightest outlook—those that could be stabilized with additional city, state and federal resources.
"What we have found is that even some of our stronger neighborhoods are at a tipping point with vacancy," Ms. Henderson said. "Vacancy adds to blight and blight is a disease that takes over the whole neighborhood. So the sooner we can get those homes occupied, the better for the city." Officials bristle when their efforts are described as downsizing, saying their aim is to repurpose portions of the city, not redraw its borders. "We will not be shrinking the city," Ms. Henderson said. "We are 139 [square] miles and we'll stay that way."
It won't shrink Detroit's virtual footprint on Google Maps, but "Bing's plan would effectively surrender 20% of the city to gangs and the homeless," critics argue. "Would you want to live in one of the gang war-zones that his plan would create? Would you want to live in a bordering neighborhood or in a bordering city?"
The plan would face an array of legal obstacles. The city is also not commenting on reports that eminent domain or condemnation would be used to "move" residents out of areas ....
No public comment yet from Charles Pugh, Detroit's first-ever openly gay city councilman and the city council president. Would be interesting to hear his take on how the plan would impact health services to Detroit's rapidly expanding HIV/AIDS caseload. Over 50 percent of Detroit’s zip codes report HIV prevalence rates at three percent or higher, state records show, "and one of those zip codes clocking in at six percent — on par with Uganda."