Robert Beauregard is a Professor of Urban Planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. He writes on U.S. industrial cities after World War II (now known as shrinking cities), redevelopment policy, and planning theory. His latest “urban” book is When America Became Suburban (Minnesota, 2006) and he is currently finishing a book-length manuscript on planning theory tentatively titled PlanningMatter: Essays on Materiality and Politics.
In my remarks, I will likely focus on what a “politics of things” might mean in Detroit. My premise is that politics is never devoid of things (for example, abandoned buildings, street signs, budget documents) that enable certain actors – in coalitions with humans and non-human things-- to define reality and be influential. Other actors (outside these coalitions) are marginalized. At the plenary, and drawing upon the discussions I have heard at the conference, I will attempt to position the actions of planners and policymakers in the material world of Detroit.
Henri Briche is a PhD candidate
in political science and urban studies at the University of Saint-Etienne
(France) working on residential mobility among minorities in shrinking cities.
His PhD focuses on the way residential trajectories can interrogate housing
policies in Saint-Etienne and Detroit, both cities suffering from demographic
loss, racial segregation, urban sprawl and a sharp housing crisis. In the fall
of 2013, he was invited by the University of Michigan as a visiting graduate
student for a 3-month stay in order to carry out ethnography
and participant observation in several Detroit neighborhoods and local
community organizations as part of his research. This fieldwork enabled him to
gather more than 80 interviews from Detroit inhabitants and local key actors as
well as various qualitative data collected through his partnerships with local
“It’s Not For Us!”: The Non-Effects of Urban Policy on Residential Mobility among Racial Minorities in Detroit (USA) and Saint-Etienne (France)
The presentation draws on a comparison of residential moves of minorities in both Detroit (Africans-Americans and Latinos) and Saint-Etienne (North African and Turkish people) and wonder whether local housing policies influence and shape these trajectories. Whereas in Detroit it is somehow impossible to identify an ordered and comprehensive housing policy, Saint-Etienne embodies the typical French example characterized by a complex, chaotic and state-funded urban policy. Nevertheless, even though both cities face very similar challenges and rely on different policy strategies to face them, residential trajectories from minorities depict a pattern that does not disrupt the structural urban inequalities affecting shrinking cities. This intervention concludes that the way these two cities respond to urban decline has very limited positive effects on their most marginalized inhabitants. The French case portrayed here enables to assert that urban policy for shrinking cities should not only be part of a comprehensive and structured plan but also conducted precisely toward racial minorities that make up the large majority of those cities.
Charles Bright is Professor of History in the Residential College and its sometime
Director. He works on prisons, including a book on the history of the
Michigan state prison at Jackson called The Powers that Punish,
and on global history, including a number of articles on the origins of
the global condition in the 19th and 20th Centuries. He has enjoyed a
long association with the city of Detroit, teaching its history for 25
years, doing collaborative theater projects with community partners, and
developing the now successful Semester in Detroit program for
Sam Butler brings more than 7 years of experience working in Detroit community development to his current position as Director of Planning and Technical Programs for Michigan Community Resources (MCR). Before joining MCR, Sam worked with several different CDCs across the City of Detroit and spent three years working for the Creekside Community Development Corporation, eventually serving as the organization's Interim Executive Director. While at Creekside, Sam fashioned an innovative lease-purchase model for infill residential rehab, quadrupled the amount of funds available for home repair grants, and worked with residents to initiate a code enforcement advocacy campaign. Sam co-authored the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategic Framework published by the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) and currently serves on CDAD’s board and co-chair of its Strategic Framework committee. Sam also serves on the board of Detroit SOUP.
Laura Crommelin is a Ph.D candidate in the Faculty of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Her Ph.D research examines how place branding and other reimaging strategies are being implemented in the post-industrial cities of Detroit, Michigan and Newcastle, Australia. In 2012-2013 Laura received a Fulbright scholarship to spend 8 months as a visiting researcher at the University of Michigan, conducting field research in Detroit. She has previously received an M.Litt in US Studies from the University of Sydney and a BA/LLB (Hons) from the University of Melbourne.
Exploring the social, political and symbolic aspects of debates over reshaping the built environment: insights from Detroit and Newcastle
The spatial and physical challenges associated with reshaping Detroit’s built environment are undoubtedly significant, given the scale and extent of the disinvestment that has redefined the city’s built form over the past half century. Yet as the varied responses to the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework have illustrated, there are a multitude of social, political and symbolic issues that also influence attempts to reshape the built environment of post-industrial cities like Detroit. These issues add even greater complexity to the process of bringing about physical change in the city, and are therefore an important element of any discussion on reshaping the post-industrial urban environment.
My perspective on these issues is primarily informed by my recent research on urban branding and DIY urbanism in Detroit and another post-industrial city - Newcastle, Australia - in which I have examined the efforts of both official and unofficial image-makers to shift public perceptions of these cities. The physical shape of the city, both now and in the future, is a recurring theme in the narratives and visual representations these image-makers produce, highlighting the built environment’s central role in how these cities are understood as places. Interviews with these image-makers identified the following issues related to the physical redevelopment of these cities:
My introductory presentation will briefly explore these social, political and symbolic aspects of current debates about reshaping the post-industrial built environment in Detroit and Newcastle, in the hope of providing a broad foundation for the forum debate to follow.
Bruno de Oliveira Cruz is a researcher at IPEA, Institute for Applied Economic Research, since 1996, where he was deputy director of regional, urban and environmental studies from 2008 to 2011. He holds a PhD in Economics from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) and his research interest is in regional and labor economics; macroeconomics.
De-industrialization and a new geography of industrial jobs: the case of Brazil in the last two decades
The de-industrialization usually is identified as a process which employment in manufacturing sector falls as a share of total employment in the world’s most advanced economies. Those structural transformations from an industrial age to a service economy had already been studied by economists in the so-called Kuznets stylized fact, an inverted U-shaped relationship between industry share and the per capita income. However, this phenomenon has also been observed in developing countries like Brazil, even though the turning point in terms of per capita income, which each industry share falls, is much lower than that one of developed countries. In the Brazilian case, a latecomer in industrialization process, in the second half of the XXth century the industrial growth was impressive, above 10% per year, and the manufacturing industry share reached the peak of 1/3 of the GDP in 80´s. Nonetheless, a premature process of de-industrialization begins, and nowadays the share of the manufacturing industry is not higher than 15% of the GDP. (See for instance Cruz e Santos, 2011; Palma, 2005 among others).The loss of relevance of the manufacturing sector, as measured by percentage of GDP or total employment, is not neutral in spatial terms. Using a very rich administrative record database of Ministry of Labor, we study the dynamics of those industrial jobs, at the geographical level of micro regions; we do find evidence of an industrial de-concentration. In the aggregate the country loses industrial jobs in 90´s; however there are many other regions that gain industrial jobs. This new geography of industrial jobs, among others, has contributed to explain a part of the process in the reduction in inequality of earnings in Brazil. Cruz and Naticchioni (2012), for instance, show that in recent years the reduction of the urban premium was an important variable to describe the dynamics of the wage distribution in Brazil. In this paper, we discuss those results and use the Brazilian case to show important consequences of a process of reduction of industrial jobs for the dynamics of the economy and the regional distribution of activities.
Joe T. Darden received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Pittsburgh. He is Professor of Geography and former Dean of Urban Affairs Programs, 1984-1997. He received the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1984. He is a former Fulbright Scholar, Department of Geography, University of Toronto, 1997-1998. Dr. Darden’s research interests are urban social geography, residential segregation, immigration, and socioeconomic neighborhood inequality in multi-racial societies. He is the author or co-author of 9 books and numerous scholarly articles on race and residential segregation, especially in Metropolitan Detroit. Among his previous books are: Detroit: Race and Uneven Development (co-authored with Richard Hill, June Thomas, and Richard Thomas), Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987; and Detroit: Race Riots, Racial Conflicts, and Efforts to Bridge the Racial Divide (co-authored with Richard Thomas), East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.
Detroit: Differential Disinvestment, Demographic Change, and the Geography of Opportunity as an Alternative for Social Mobility
In July of 2013, the City of Detroit was forced to file for federal bankruptcy protection since it could not pay its $18 billion debts and still provide a minimum level of services for its residents. Detroit became the largest city in United States history to do so. The present condition of Detroit is best understood by tracing the history of disinvestment practices since 1950, combined with the differential outmigration of the white population to the suburbs following the employment opportunities that the investments generated. While many blacks also tried to move to the suburbs, they were prevented from doing so by the discriminatory practices of the housing industry. More than 25 years ago, in a 1987 book called Detroit: Race and Uneven Development that I co-authored, we predicted that if the population and disinvestment trends continued, the racial polarization between Detroit and its suburbs would increase, along with the class gap between the poor in the city and the affluent in the suburbs. Central city financial problems would likely worsen, and the city’s political influence in the region would continue to decline (Darden, Hill, Thomas, & Thomas, 1987). Our predictions have unfortunately come true. As businesses and industries continued to move to the suburbs, the city experienced a declining property tax revenue base, declining income tax revenues, and a continued decline in revenue to pay for essential public services. Thus, fewer resources now exist to pay for police and fire services and to reduce violent crime. This situation has also created a vicious cycle. Exposure to crime has become more prevalent as the economic conditions have worsened.
Disinvestment in the city and investment in the suburbs have created a demographic imbalance by race, class, and residential location within the Detroit Metropolitan area that has contributed to the present problems of Detroit’s economic decline, very high unemployment rate, very high poverty rate, and very low percentage of high achieving public schools.
The sharp race and class divide between the city and its suburbs demonstrates the significance of place of residence in influencing the quality of life. It influences the quality of housing and neighborhoods, access to high quality public schools, jobs, shopping, safety, and other public services.
Census, financial and other public access data were used to document the extent of the present demographic imbalance and its social and economic consequences. I also offer a spatial mobility alternative for residents that will provide them with greater access to economic and educational opportunities and future social mobility within the Detroit Metropolitan Area.
Margaret Dewar is professor of urban and regional planning in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on American cities that have lost large shares of their peak population and employment and now have extensive blighted buildings and vacant land. She is the co-author of The City after Abandonment (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and numerous articles on planning and policy in the context of extreme urban decline. She has degrees in urban planning from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Angela D. Dillard is Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and serves as the Director of the Residential College (RC) at the University of Michigan. As part of that role she also provides administrative oversight for the UM’s Semester in Detroit Program. She specializes in American and African American intellectual history, religious studies, conservatism, and social movements. Her most recent book, Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2007. Her first book Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Now?: Multicultural Conservatism in America (NYU Press, 2001), was among the first critical studies of the rise of political conservatism among African Americans, Latinos, women and homosexuals. She is currently at work on a political biography of James H. Meredith, the civil rights icon turned conservative Republican. She was born and raised in Detroit and takes every opportunity to engage in critical – and hopeful – discussions about its future.
Dr. Dillard writes and speaks frequently on issues of race, religion and politics on both the Left and the Right sides of the political spectrum. Her work has appeared in such public forums as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Dissent, and the Chronicle of Higher Education and she has been a guest commentator on a variety of television and radio programs.
Renia Ehrenfeucht is an associate professor of planning and urban studies at the University of New Orleans. She holds the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association professorship. Her research focuses on two areas. She investigates public space use and politics and how cities as institutions and urban residents respond to population loss and other forms of decline. She has published Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation in Public Space (with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris) and numerous journal articles. She received her PhD in Urban Planning from UCLA.
The Opportunities and Limits of Neighborhood Action in Rebuilding New Orleans
What can we learn about rapid redevelopment in a shrinking
city from observing New Orleans nine years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita?
Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of the city and instigated citywide rebuilding
efforts. The disaster brought unprecedented influx of federal and philanthropic
funds, technical assistance and volunteer labor to the city, making some wonder
what “if Detroit had a hurricane…”
In New Orleans, immediately following the disaster and threatened by urban consolidation plans, residents organized to defend their neighborhoods and rebuild the city. In the last decade, researchers have paid much attention to local action and the myriad ways that people use urban space and adapt the city in unplanned ways as well as create informal economies, housing and urban services. Under the rubrics of everyday urbanism, urban informality, do it yourself urbanism and the insurgent city, observers have celebrated and urban residents have demanded respect for unplanned grassroots activities. Post-Katrina New Orleans was no different. Residents leading the recovery were sources of local pride and faraway praise. Commentators have since seen promise in the street art, pop up restaurants and events, and the increasing number of food trucks that have entered New Orleans’s landscape.
In this presentation, I focus on the intersection of rapid rebuilding and how neighborhood actions shaped the outcomes. I will discuss the efforts of neighborhood organizations and everyday acts of stewardship—such as maintaining vacant lots—that residents engage in to manage change in their neighborhoods as well as how residents talk about their efforts. Grassroots actions are logical responses to local circumstances and reflect what residents believe can be done. How residents understand and assess responsibility for their neighborhood conditions influence how they work towards retaining and regaining the neighborhood qualities they seek. Because grassroots action takes varied forms with different effects in diverse neighborhoods, looking across neighborhoods helps show what local action can accomplish. The challenge is determining how to effect systematic change through these local efforts. Some mechanisms can be institutionalized such as the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s programs to increase opportunities for residents to care for property in their neighborhoods, but the different outcomes among neighborhoods also show that grassroots action alone has limits.
Akwugo Emejulu is a Lecturer at the Moray House School of Education and a Co-director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland, University of Edinburgh. As a political sociologist, she has research interests in two areas: investigating racial and gender social and economic inequalities in a comparative perspective and exploring the political movements of marginalised groups particularly in relation to welfare states. She is the Co-PI for the British Academy funded project Minority Women's Activism in Tough Times and she is the programme director for the new online MSc in Social Justice and Community Action which launches in January 2015.
Minority Women Activists and the Politics of the Third Sector: Partnerships, Governance and the Logic of Enterprise
In my talk, I seek to explore how the changing politics of third sector organisations under austerity problematises minority women’s activism in Scotland, England and France. In particular, I examine how the transformation of key third sector organisations in each country into a governable landscape for state social welfare service delivery entrenches an enterprise culture that valorises neoliberal principles and behaviours which in turn undermines and misrecognises minority women’s intersectional social justice claims. The neoliberal colonisation of third sector organisations is not a new phenomenon, however, in these austere times when the welfare state in each country is being rolled back and social citizenship rights are being curtailed, what is new, I argue, is the rapidity with which an enterprise culture is being adopted by (and in some cases foisted on) third sector organisations in order for them to survive in a context of acute resource scarcity.
As third sector organisations grow in importance as key mechanisms for the delivery of state social welfare services, their local and national state partners are slowly refashioning them as objects of policy through governance processes. Carmel and Harlock (2008: 156) persuasively argue that governing the third sector through service delivery partnerships is a deeply ideological act of ‘imposing an institutional and normative order’ onto a diverse array of voluntary and community organisations that privilege ‘market-like behaviour and market-style organisational forms’ and ‘assumes their necessity’. By privileging enterprising organisations, through both resource allocation and sponsorship of particular organisations’ policy agendas, these institutional arrangements prompt wider isomorphic transformations of third sector organisations. It seems that once third sector organisations become the object of state policy this has the (sometimes unintentional) effect of embedding marketised principles and practices such as competition and commidification in the sector.
Drawing on 83 interviews with minority women activists and anti-poverty, housing and migrants rights organisations in Scotland, England and France, I will then move on to discuss the impact these changes in third sector are having on minority women’s activism. As the third sector increasingly resembles the private sector, the groups with whom it works must be recast as clients, entrepreneurs and innovators but not necessarily citizens with particular political, social and economic rights. For minority women, this process of being represented as an ‘enterprising actor’ in Scotland and England or by being rendered invisible in the ‘difference-blind’ French republic, undermines the ability for activist women to organise and mobilise on the inequalities they experience, particularly in relation to austerity. In the current crisis, resource scarcity shrinks the available range of frames of contestation and organisations adopt an enterprising approach in order to secure a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other organisations vying for the same funding. In a context where organisational survival often asserts itself as the dominant concern, it seems that minority women’s social justice claims are silenced and/or misrecognised due to the prevailing logic of the sector.
George Galster is the Clarence Hilberry Professor of Urban Affairs at Wayne State University. He served as Director of Housing Research at the Urban Institute before coming to Wayne State University in 1996. His research has focused on urban neighborhoods and housing markets, exploring how they change and how they change the people who live within them. His latest book is Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City (2012). He has provided housing policy consultations to public officials in Australia, Canada, China, Scotland, and the U.S. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics from M.I.T.
Theorizing the Idiosyncratic Dynamics of Urban Decline
Why Bother Learning from Declining Cities? Aren’t they Mirror-Images of Growing Cities? NO--Because their dynamic processes are distinctively different from growing cities’ in at least four respects:
1. Spatially-Temporally Unpredictable
where & when neighborhood residential & retail abandonment occurs is difficult to predict and, unlike growth scenario, is little influenced by land use planning; abandonment (esp. of larger multifamily buildings) may lead to rapid & involuntary (and unpredictable) residential turnover that ruptures social ties & erodes collective efficacy for remaining residents, thus (unpredictably) intensifying their exposure to violence
2. Psychologically Conservative
Conservation of Resources (CORE) theory argues that people fundamentally are driven to obtain, expand and retain physical, social and psychological resources; but they behave differently when they are trying to protect themselves from shrinking resources due to asymmetry in valuing gains vs. lossesà unwillingness to invest strategically in restoring/growing resources but rather hold on more tightly to the remnants of resources they have (which ultimately is self-defeating); another reaction to declining resources is scapegoating, since reduced self-esteem hinder one’s acceptance of personal responsibility
3. Dynamically Nonlinear
neighborhood indicators do not change in a linear fashion on a declining trajectory, instead they are characterized by thresholds where the degree of residential and commercial disinvestment and flight of non-poor residents jumps sharply, often in catastrophic fashion; poverty concentrations in turn have their own associated thresholds of about 15-20% where they are strongly associated with rapidly increasing incidences of social problems in the neighborhood
4. Incompletely Irreversible
downward trajectory different from upward trajectory of urban areas due to:
Galster, G. “An Economic Efficiency Analysis of Deconcentrating Poverty Populations,” Journal of Housing Economics 11 (No. 4, 2002): 303-329.
_____. Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City, by George Galster. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012: ch. 9 http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15027.html
Galster, G., J. Cutsinger & R. Malega. “The Costs of Concentrated Poverty: Neighborhood Property Markets and the Dynamics of Decline,” pp. 93-113 in N. Retsinas and E. Belsky, eds. Revisiting Rental Housing: Policies, Programs, and Priorities. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2008.
Galster, G & R. Quercia. “Threshold Effects and Neighborhood Change,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 20 (No. 2, 2000): 146-162.
Galster, G, R. Quercia & A. Cortes. “Identifying Neighborhood Thresholds: An Empirical Exploration,” Housing Policy Debate 11 (No. 3, 2000): 701-732 (with R. Quercia and A. Cortes).
Lim, U. & G. Galster. “The Dynamics of Neighborhood Property Crime Rates,” Annals of Regional Science 43 (no. 4, 2009): 925-945.
Quercia, R. & G. Galster. “Threshold Effects and the Expected Benefits of Attracting Middle-Income Households to the Central City,” Housing Policy Debate 8 (No. 2, 1997): 409-435.
Raleigh, E. & G. Galster. "Neighborhood Disinvestment, Abandonment and Crime Dynamics," Journal of Urban Affairs (accepted and forthcoming 2014)
Annegret Haase is an urban researcher working on urban shrinkage and reurbanization, urban land use change, socio-spatial inequalities and urban governance; the regional focus is Europe. She leads a working group on urban land use change and urban ecosystem services within an integrated project on urban transformations towards sustainability at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig and has been part of several international projects including the coordination of the EU 7FP project Shrink Smart.
The governance of shrinking cities: experiences from Europe
For a long time, debates on shrinking cities in Europe have been mainly national debates, putting in focus the most apparent problems in the respective national contexts such as deindustrialization, ageing, decay, abandonment or housing vacancies etc. Since these phenomena do not appear in all such cities and the causes and consequences vary, a common, cross-European debate was not developed and a systematic investigation of this pathway of urban development is still at the beginning. This is especially true for the case of postsocialist countries where currently many shrinking cities can be found but the problem is rather not at the agenda and only scarcely discussed by scientists, policymakers and the public.
Urban shrinkage has manifold impacts
on different fields such as
housing, social cohesion, infrastructures, land use, local labour markets and
budgets. It also reshapes the
social settings for the actors affected: residents, planners, policy makers,
entrepreneurs, and service suppliers. It is, firstly, difficult to set
shrinkage onto the agenda or to strategically “plan for shrinkage” and,
secondly, to steer or govern urban shrinkage in reality because under the
conditions it produces, governance arrangements risk becoming unstable and
fragmented due to a high dependency on external funding, a funding-dependent
restriction on initiatives and unstable coalitions among weak actors.
Set against this background, this paper follows a twofold purpose: On the one hand, it scrutinizes the current stage of research and knowledge on urban shrinkage in Europe using a comparative perspective. On the other hand, it sets a specific focus on governance that is on how cities respond to shrinkage, which actors are involved, which forms of cooperation and exchange can be found and how decision-making processes are being conducted.
It is structured as follows: In its first part, the paper gives
an overview about shrinking cities across Europe. In a second part, it summarizes
what we know about shrinking cities in Europe; here, it gives
examples of different local trajectories and different policy fields on which
shrinkage impacts on such as land use, housing, residential segregation or social
cohesion. In a third and main part, it analyzes which consequences shrinkage
has for local governance arrangements and policymaking processes; examples from
different cities and policy fields including housing market policy, development
strategies for urban brownfields as well as social cohesion policies will be
given and illustrated by stories from different cities. A final part of the
paper summarizes what can be learned from the presented research for dealing
with urban shrinkage both scientifically and for policymaking and planning at
different levels from local to EU.
For its empirical part, the paper uses empirical evidence from the 7 FP project “Shrink Smart – The Governance of Shrinkage within a European Context” (2009-2012; www.shrinksmart.eu) which analyzed urban shrinkage and governance responses in ten cities across Europe with a focus on postsocialist countries.
Jason Hackworth is a professor of planning and geography at the University of Toronto. He writes broadly about urban political economy with a focus on North American cities. He is author of two books, The Neoliberal City (2007), and Faith-Based (2012), and numerous journal articles. His current research focuses on the politics of land abandonment in Rust Belt cities.
Paradigm, harbinger, extreme or exception? Some thoughts on the role of Detroit in contemporary urban theory.
In his exploration of the role of iconic ruins in art and literature, Christopher Woodward noted that, “when we contemplate ruins, we contemplate our own future”. This very simple notion seemed to briefly capture popular anxiety about Detroit after the economic crash of 2008 as national attention turned to the ailing city. National reporters flocked to the city to cover its evidently moribund automobile industry and to record imagery of its famously decayed housing stock, as though both offered a sense of what was to come for the country. The notion that Detroit was a portal to the American future was evidently less far-fetched than it was just a few months earlier. The interest subsided for a few years, but then returned in the summer of 2013, when the city was driven into Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Charlie LeDuff, with characteristic hyperbole, bluntly warned the rest of the US in a New York Times op-ed to pay attention because Detroit’s offered a glimpse of America’s coming years. “Come take a look at your future”, he quipped. It is difficult to know what to do with such deliberately provocative assessments, but the episodic obsession with the city’s troubles as a putative vehicle to understanding the wider economy raises a more subtle theoretical question. Namely, how much can any individual city be used to shed light on a wider set of politico-economic processes?
This paper begins by conceptually exploring the role that important individual cities have played in the development of urban theory more generally. Four deployments are given particular attention: city as paradigm; city as harbinger; city as extreme; and city as exception. City as paradigm is the notion that a particular place embodies something representative about a wider set of cities or processes. City as harbinger is the notion that a particular place offers a glimpse as to what the future will be like for other cities. City as extreme is the notion that a place is subject to the same set of processes as other places but those processes are more acute or concentrated. Finally, city as exception is the notion that a particular place represents nothing; it is a qualitatively separate from the urban or economic experience elsewhere.
The paper then synthesizes the story of the post-war fall of Detroit by drawing on already-assembled histories of the city, and focusing on the role of the following factors in particular: racial discrimination; suburbanization/ balkanization; orphaning by higher levels of government; corruption; poor quality housing stock; and copious demolition without reconstruction. I then place these narratives (and other more recent work) into the aforementioned categories (paradigm, exception, extreme, and harbinger). I also draw on recent empirical work comparing Detroit to other cities of the industrial Midwest between 1950 and 2010.
I conclude by suggesting that the deployment of Detroit into these categories (paradigm, extreme, exception, or harbinger) varies according to at least three epistemological tensions: 1) difference versus process; 2) structure versus agency; and 3) crisis versus equilibrium. The use of Detroit (and other iconic cities) in urban theory is as much about these tensions as it is about its empirical fit as a paradigm, extreme, exception, or harbinger.
Jerry Herron is Professor of English and Founding Dean of the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University. His publications include two books, Universities and the Myth of Cultural Decline, and AfterCulture: Detroit and the Humiliation of History. His essays and critical articles have appeared in Places: Design Observer, South Atlantic Quarterly, Raritan, Social Text, Representations, Georgia Review, Antioch Review, and Harper’s. He has also written for the London Times Higher Education Supplement, Detroit News, Hour Detroit, the MetroTimes, and Playboy. He is currently finishing a book-length project, “Living With Detroit: An All-Purpose History of America.”
Paper Title: Living With Detroit
Detroit, I argue, is the most American spot on Planet Earth. By America, I mean both a country—the United States—and also our way of seeing this country, that all of us here, variously and cantankerously, call home. It’s an existential address in addition to a geographical one. And when it comes to this compound notion of America, everything that makes us who we are has gone further, faster here—in Detroit—than anyplace else. When America happens, in other words, Detroit is the result, both heroic and otherwise. And that is my subject—both the city and its history, and also the way Americans have used Detroit not to remember the past, but to forget about it.
Living with Detroit is a matter of serial denial, which state Americans have been living in, with varying degrees of success. We are a designer people, called into being not by a shared origin, geography, or culture—all of us being immigrants here, willing or otherwise, including the natives—but by the ideas that create us, which are set out in our founding documents, the Declaration and Constitution. This most representative city represents the working-out of a design that reveals itself variously, at this crucial point of convergence. In that sense, the city is an on-going dialogue of present and past where we become who we are not be reverencing the past and sticking to it, but by un-making it serially, generation after generation, just as we have un-made our cities and the public realm that brought them into being, with that being the uniquely defining characteristic of Americans that sets us apart from other cultures and makes our cities different from the cities that other people create.
I propose Detroit’s urban form—and responses to it—as specifically revealing. First, is an investigation of Detroit as viral, un-city. The un-city is not a place or way of seeing a place, but an on-going production that is comprehensive in scope and also widely, if unevenly, distributed. Second, I will examine what I have called “forgetting machines”—site-specific agents essential to the transformation of city into un-city. I will argue that our history is not a simple matter of forgetting the past; it is something more complex, a forgetting how to remember the past. And finally, I want to address what I refer to as the ecology of hope. The history of forgetting how to remember the past is a categorical denial of consequences—a refutation of the idea that the earth or the city are on-going systems, in which every cause has an ecological effect. But just as it’s possible to restore a natural ecology that has been damaged, it’s possible to restore the ecology of hope as well because each—nature and hope—will find a way, given a chance.
Elizabeth Hinton is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan and a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Michigan Society of Fellows. Beginning in July 2014, she will join the Departments of History and African American and African Studies at Harvard University. Hinton's broader scholarship concerns the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the United States. Her forthcoming book, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: Race and Federal Policy in American Cities (with Harvard University Press) examines the emergence of federal law enforcement programs in the mid-1960s that laid the groundwork for contemporary mass incarceration. Hinton received her Ph.D. in United States History from Columbia University in 2012. She also co-edited The New Black History: Revisiting the Second Reconstruction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) with the late Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Manning Marable.
Amidst the plant closures, abandonment, and drug-related crime, of the past fifty years, police departments and correctional facilities have emerged as the final vestige of public services in this country’s former industrial centers. This forum examines the connections between the contemporary socioeconomic crisis in Detroit and the mass incarceration of its residents. Indeed, Michigan taxpayers spend nearly half a billion dollars annually (roughly a quarter of the state’s total prison expenditure) housing inmates from Wayne County alone. While 1 in 25 Detroit residents are currently under some form of criminal supervision, the costs of mass incarceration are particularly pronounced in the city’s neighborhoods of extreme segregation and poverty. In some areas on the East Side, for instance, 1 in 7 adult males are behind bars or on probation or parole. At a time when the state spends more money on incarcerating young Detroiters than on educating them, the shift in domestic policy towards surveillance and confinement has profoundly shaped the contours of decline in Detroit and the nation as a whole in the decades following the civil rights movement.
By taking into account the ways in which the marked expansion of the carceral state and the retrenchment from the welfare state has eroded democracy and contributed to the persistence of racial and class inequality in Detroit and elsewhere, this forum seeks to identify avenues for change as well as possibilities for the future. How does positioning the rise of mass incarceration at the center of our consideration of transformation and development both deepen and complicate prevailing interpretations of austerity? How might a focus on penal and juridical practices shed new light on the political, economic, and historical developments that have rendered Detroit the poorest large city in America today? Finally, what types of reforms are needed to redirect these punitive measures in Detroit and other distressed urban centers? Our conversation will touch upon a range of problems, including the enforcement of uniquely draconian sentencing laws in Michigan, the “pipeline” from Detroit public schools to state prisons for disparate numbers of black students, and the devastating impact of mass incarceration on political representation and power, in order to inspire our search for new beginnings.
Kimberley Kinder is an Assistant Professor in Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, and she is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Michigan Society of Fellows. She is the author of the forthcoming book Cities Without Services: Do-It-Yourself Urbanism in Detroit’s Spaces of Disinvestment (University of Minnesota Press). Dr. Kinder’s current research explores strategies that residents use at the household scale to negotiate processes of market and government disinvestment in Detroit. Her earlier work, reflected in a second forthcoming book, The Politics of Urban Water: Changing Waterscapes in Amsterdam (University of Georgia Press), explores similar processes of quasi-formal spatial intervention and collective governance in the context of urban growth. Dr. Kinder received her Ph.D in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley.
Self-Provisioning the City
“The rich have state help, the poor have self help.” Evidence of this situation, which urban scholar Ananya Roy so aptly summarized, is blatantly palpable in Detroit. Detroit has a reputation for being a quintessential DIY city, a place where residents sweep public streets, board empty buildings, mow vacant lots, and maintain city parks. With the rise of austerity- and market-based governance, the experience of living in areas with unavailable or unaffordable services has become routine, not only in “shrinking” cities like Detroit but also in sub-sections of “prospering” cities like Seattle, El Paso, and Boston. As neighborhood conditions deteriorate, many residents are attempting to “domesticate” city services by using their personal labor and daily routines to compensate for disinvestment. Although these practices can provide meaningful, immediate, short-term “fixes,” the continuation of neighborhood deterioration in Detroit despite widespread self-provisioning offers a trenchant indictment of political rhetoric favoring individual solutions to the structural problems of disinvestment, racism, and inequity. At the same time, given that structural solutions may never arrive, a study of the localized processes and politics of self-provisioning offers invaluable insights into the shifting role of residents in managing the collective life of the city.
Dan Kinkead serves as director of projects of the Detroit Future
City (DFC) Implementation Office.
The Office is dedicated to fulfilling innovative initiatives, research,
and civic engagement to catalyze Detroit’s transformation. Before forming the Implementation
Office Dan was Design Principal at Hamilton Anderson Associates (HAA), in
Detroit, and an urban designer with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, LLP (SOM) in
New York. Dan is a Next City
Vanguard, and a built, registered, and published architect. Dan graduated from Harvard University
with a Master of Architecture in Urban Design, with distinction, and from the
University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Architecture.
Leveraging Liabilities for Detroit's Innovative Future
Over the last 60 years Detroit has suffered a well-known, and arguably unparalleled, decline. Over that time period the city has lost 63 percent of its population and 90 percent of its industrial employment, while accruing a 20 square mile portfolio of vacant land – equivalent to the size of Manhattan. In a city dominated by “trauma” one needn’t look any further than its physical characteristics to not only reveal its struggles, but also provide seeds for a more sustainable, equitable, innovative, and prosperous future.
The work of Detroit Future City (DFC) – both the Strategic Framework launched in January of 2013, and the Implementation Office established shortly thereafter – includes efforts to transform discernable liabilities within the city into assets. This often includes land, physical networks, and other socio-spatial resources. It is DFC’s contention that all parts of Detroit will require human and capital investment for its transformation, but we must think strategically to maximize impact and ensure sustainability.
My introductory presentation will illustrate this transformation across four main elements, and demonstrate how ongoing, coordinated DFC implementation efforts at systems (policy), sector (government, business, non-profit), and neighborhood (individual, advocate) levels can contribute to a more integrated, participatory, and sustainable approach to reshaping Detroit’s built environment:
Land Use – Shaping policy to acknowledge and engage Detroit’s existing physical challenges and unique opportunities. This includes the development of a new Master Plan of Policies concept for the City of Detroit to strategically guide future development that accommodates growth aspirations while creating a new portfolio of innovative spatial uses. From green residential typologies to innovation landscapes for agriculture, some uses establish new dimensions of urban space, including an integrated open space network.
Economic Growth – Adaptively reusing existing, defunct industrial, commercial, and educational building stock for emerging, innovative small-scale fabricators. Here, buildings often portrayed as illustrations of demise are being reused as shared spaces to foster a more resilient agglomeration economy in the city. Buildings that remain structurally viable, within areas of accommodating zoning, supplied with substantial power and water are being redeveloped for production and living. High growth startups in these spaces can then leverage Detroit’s robust communications, marketing, and global logistics networks to take operations to scale.
Transportation – Establishing flexible transportation networks to provide much needed public transportation to those residing in areas with insufficient densities to support necessary fare box returns for conventional systems. Here a dynamic, on-call para-transit network will navigate the vacant terrain of the city to provide services to those most in need that would otherwise be unavailable or fiscally unsustainable.
Green Infrastructure – Reutilizing existing vacant land and excess surface road capacity to create new soft systems to complement existing conventional infrastructure systems. From carbon buffering along major freeways to areas for storm water retention, Detroit’s available vacant land (often within public holdings) can be reutilized to mitigate operational and capital costs for fixed systems, while improving environmental and health conditions within the city and across the Great Lakes.
Lang is an Associate Professor of African & African African American
Studies, and American Studies, at the University of Kansas. He is the author of Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics
and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-75 (2009); and co-editor with
Robbie Lieberman of Anticommunism and the
African American Freedom Movement: “Another Side of the Story” (2009). He has published in such periodicals as
The Journal of African American History,
Journal of Social History, Journal of Urban History, The Black Scholar, New Politics, Against the
Current, and The Chronicle Review.
Khalil Ligon grew up in Detroit and is committed to advancing communities through planning, engagement, advocacy and action. A graduate of Detroit Public Schools, Ms. Ligon holds degrees from Kalamazoo College and Wayne State University.
Ms. Ligon is involved with numerous organizations, including Great Lakes Leadership Academy, Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, FoodPLUS | Detroit, Michigan Association of Planning and Detroit Young Professionals.
She has developed award winning city planning projects in Michigan and led Detroit’s Lower Eastside Action Plan, an acclaimed, grassroots planning project. Through her leadership, LEAP received the EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.
Ms. Ligon heads Vista Vantage, a technical assistance company offering urban planning and environmental strategies.
Ms. Ligon enjoys traveling, film and football.
Teresa Melgar is
an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology of the University of the
Philippines-Diliman. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison and has research interests in democratization, participatory governance,
citizenship, broad-based development, social movements and Latin American
politics and society. Her presentation for the conference draws on her
comparative research on the dynamics of local democratization processes in Porto
Alegre, Brazil and Naga, the Philippines, during the post-authoritarian period.
My presentation draws on the experiences of the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil to explore how a powerful alliance between the local government, under the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores or PT) and grassroots social movements reinvented the provision of urban services and infrastructure in the city via participatory budgeting, in the process, redressing growing problems of social exclusion, political clientelism and general urban decline in the 1990s up to the early 2000s. As a mechanism for more inclusive governance, participatory budgeting sought to deepen citizenship rights and democratic participation in policymaking. The presentation explores precisely how participatory budgeting developed a constituency for a more redistributive approach to the provision of public goods and transparent, democratic governance, in the process strengthening claims for a more inclusive city. It concludes by examining the shifting fortunes of participatory budgeting amid the city’s changing political configuration by the mid-2000s, and what insights such experiences might hold for the revitalization of Detroit.
Jamie Peck is Canada Research Chair in Urban & Regional Political Economy, Professor of Geography, and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He was previously Professor Geography & Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, and Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester, UK. Jamie Peck’s research interests include the political economy of neoliberalism, the politics of policy formation and mobility, economic governance, labor studies, and urban restructuring. Author of more than a dozen books and over 200 research papers, his recent books include Fast policy: experimental statecraft at the thresholds of neoliberalism (with Nik Theodore, Minnesota, in press), Constructions of neoliberal reason (Oxford, 2010), and the co-edited collections, Contesting neoliberalism (Guilford, 2007), Politics and practice in economic geography (Sage, 2007), and The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography (Wiley, 2012). An elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an Academician in the Social Sciences, and a former Guggenheim Fellow, Jamie Peck is the recipient of the Royal Geographical Society’s Back Award, for contributions to economic geography. He was recently identified by Thomson Reuters as one of the 250 most cited social scientists in the world.
Paper Title: Detroit's Ordinary Crisis
In support of the contention that the Detroit bankruptcy represents an extreme but nevertheless “ordinary” crisis of an unraveling regime of fiscal federalism, the presentation will seek to historicize and contextualize recent events with reference to the long-run, systemic consequences of financialization and neoliberalization. In one sense, the city’s bankruptcy represents a crisis of crisis management itself, in another, it speaks to the corrosive and contradictory logic of the devolved, neoliberal form of fiscal federalism that has been (de)constructed in the United States since the 1970s. Either way, it is certainly more than a “local” event, just as the reverberations of the crisis exceed the Detroit city limits too.
There are political as well as analytical reasons to “position” Detroit’s crisis in such a way, both in terms of an historically entrenched system of devolved, credit-dependent government financing and in terms of the contemporary geographies of what is called here “austerity urbanism.” This is because such critical accounts challenge, and fly in the face of, dominant neoliberal and conservative constructions of the crisis. Characteristically and indeed systematically, these constructions serve to localize, endogenize, and pathologize the causes of the crisis. They work to displace and devolve both the blame for and the burdens of economic restructuring. The resulting form of trickle-down fiscal discipline operates to redistribute the associated costs “downwards” onto the local scale and onto the socioeconomically marginalized. This is not just a case of blaming the victim; the victims are also being sent the bill.
Rather than seek only proximate (and politically expedient) causes for Detroit’s troubles in, for instance, incompetent municipal management or dysfunctional public-sector unionism, deeper historical investigations rightly call attention to the long-run consequences of racialized and class-structured processes like deindustrialization, decentralization, disinvestment, and dispossession. Cross-cutting these processes, the combined effects of neoliberalization and financialization also deserve attention, for together these establish the conditions of existence for, while at the same time animating, Detroit’s experience of “lean state failure.” This is associated, inter alia, with a redoubled attack on the social state, public asset-stripping, wage and benefit rollbacks for government employees, targeted efforts to undermine public-sector unionism, and new rounds of privatization. The bankruptcy, in this sense, can be seen as a court-administered form of structural adjustment.
New narratives of urban crisis are being fabricated under these conditions, but the incessant conservative chorus should not distract from underlying patterns of causality that are structural in nature, and which have historical antecedents and extra-local drivers. As a result, we must not only historicize Detroit’s crisis, we must work to delocalize it too. Hence the need to locate Detroit on the landscape of austerity urbanism. Here, the reigning neoliberal doctrine of fiscal federalism (the antithesis of Keynesian redistribution and countercyclical measures) holds that cities, suburbs, and local-government entities must always be free to opt out, but they must never “bailed out.” This is a disaggregated, go-it-alone world where (in)solvency is a local matter. And it is a world marked by uneven fiscal development, one increasingly divided between free-riding, low-tax suburbs and structurally debt-ridden cities. In the morality plays of austerity urbanism, “irresponsibility” is perversely conferred on the latter, not the former.
Pothukuchi, Ph.D., is associate professor of urban planning at Wayne State
University and the founding director of SEED Wayne, a campus-community
collaborative in sustainable food systems. Her research examines how food planning
may advance social justice, public health, economic development, and ecological
integrity. The “Community and
Regional Food Planning Policy Guide,” co-authored with Jerry Kaufman and Deanna
Glosser, was formally adopted by the American Planning Association (APA) in
2007. Dr. Pothukuchi serves on the Detroit
Food Policy Council and the city of Detroit’s Urban Agriculture Work Group, among
other advisory groups, and she is a co-convenor of APA’s Food Interest Group.
Urban agriculture and food networks in Detroit: A resource for a shrinking city?
To respond to neighborhood abandonment in the mid-1970s as well as to facilitate subsistence in the face of high rates of price inflation and unemployment, Mayor Coleman Young instituted the Farm-A-Lot Program to support food production in vacant lots within neighborhoods. It offered a model for supporting city-wide urban agriculture activities that emerged in the late 1990s, which activities then replaced the program when it faded at the turn of the century. Urban agriculture evolved in the 2000s into a sophisticated array of food system initiatives, with a great deal of coordination among community-based groups* supported by federal and foundation funds, but with little support from City Hall. Community and market gardens, neighborhood-based fresh food retail, school gardens, community nutrition, micro-enterprise development, and anti-racism dialogues are some examples of initiatives.
Additionally, the Detroit Food Policy Council (established 2009) and an Urban Agriculture Ordinance (adopted 2013), respectively, offer a comprehensive approach to community food issues and a supportive framework for the expansion of urban agriculture. In turn, these have helped start a community conversation about a systematic process for neighborhood groups to gain access to land within neighborhoods. Whatever the outcome of these conversations may be, these developments would not have been possible without overlapping neighborhood-based networks and a growing cadre of community food advocates. These efforts may be understood as a combination of a) responses to abandonment and the failure of redevelopment planning to address the basic needs experienced within neighborhoods, and b) a national alternative food movement that is helping shape specific local responses.
More recently, larger grocery chains, Whole Foods and Meijer, have opened (and an additional Meijer is being proposed on the Westside) with the help of significant land and financial subsidies, a pattern familiar in Detroit’s history of redevelopment planning. Given the further decline of the city’s population since previous supermarket closures, these developments need careful examination for their short and long term outcomes especially from a social justice perspective. Whether these developments can co-exist with and complement grassroots food system efforts, or if they will tend to cannibalize or co-opt these efforts are especially important questions for community food networks.
A product of decline, the lack of code-enforcement capacity created an opening for the development of a sophisticated, networked model of urban agriculture on vacant land, which is evolving into a cutting-edge alternative food system serving multiple community purposes. Can public planning and governance honor, support, and build on bottom-up efforts by urban agriculture groups to manage shrinkage (and, if yes, how)? How can mutually supportive governance processes be created with grassroots networks that already have a track record in creating multiple benefits for neighborhoods? Can conventional redevelopment efforts be modified to complement and support efforts originating from the grassroots, and if yes, what is the content of these designs? My presentation will draw on Detroit’s urban agriculture and food system experiences to take up these questions.
*Note: This coordination and mutual support based on shared goals is in contrast to an expectation of lack of coherence and coordination noted in the session prompt. Indeed, recent food system efforts seem to be drawing from a repertoire of past community development strategies and discourses in the city.
I come from a region, the Ruhr Valley in Germany, the population of which has extremely grown during 150 years. Today, the region is undergoing a phase of shrinkage, and it has recognized that it needs new formats of urban and regional planning to become fit for the future. The International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (1989-1999) for the first time called for reconsideration with the headline “Change without Growth”. Formats following the exhibition, like the European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010 and the present efforts of a Climate Expo 2022 as well as the realignment of a regional development plan show that there is a consensus concerning the forecast that a long-term planning is necessary to cope with the decreasing population. However, there is no agreement with regard to how to approach this challenge.
In my contribution, I would like to bring up to discussion 10 perceptions that I think are relevant when approaching shrinkage. They are divided into findings (I) and strategic approaches (II) when dealing with shrinkage.
Tackling abandonment and vacancies: experiences from
The city of Leipzig is an extreme case and a symbol of urban shrinkage in Europe, it belongs beside Liverpool to the only two big cities with long-term shrinkage. In Leipzig shrinkage has started with the great depression 1933, has continued after WWII and during socialism and was particularly pronounced after the collapse of socialism in the transformation period of the 1990’s. Shrinkage has impacted to a variety of fields of urban development, including housing and land use. Caused mainly by disinvestment and shrinking demand Leipzig has become the “German capital of housing vacancy” around the year 2000 with approx. 69,000 vacant apartments, more than 20% of the total housing stock. In addition, the massive deindustrialization wave has impacted to a loss of 90% of industrial jobs within only four years and the emergence of a large number of brownfields. A brownfield survey, conducted in 2002, has counted a number of around 3,000 sites with an extend of 900 hectar, approx. 5% of the settled urban land. Both problems have constituted serious challenges for urban planning and policy, since around the year 2000 and under the impression of the previous shrinkage one haven’t been able to imagine new uses in a future. In this situation the city of Leipzig has reacted with a new strategy, has invented and introduced new instruments and tools to tackle both, housing vacancies and brownfields. This is seen as one main pre-condition of reurbanization and new growth which the city has experienced in the 2000’s.
This paper will refer to the strategies and instruments implemented to tackle the problems and will evaluate the experiences the city has gathered. It is structured as follows: Firstly, the paper gives a short introduction to shrinkage in Leipzig, its causes, trajectories and impacts. Secondly, it elaborates and evaluates both fields of urban development, housing vacancies and brownfields. Thirdly, it discusses if and how policy and planning solutions – strategies, instruments and tools – could be transferred to other urban contexts like Detroit. For its empirical part, the paper uses empirical evidence from different projects like “Urban Restructuring East”, “Urban forests” “reurban mobile” or “Shrink Smart” which analyzed different fields of urban development in Leipzig (mostly in comparison to other European cities).
Brent D. Ryan is Associate Professor of Urban Design and Public Policy at MIT. His research focuses on emerging urban design paradigms, particularly in postindustrial cities, and design’s engagement with pluralism. His first book Design After Decline: How America rebuilds shrinking cities, was published in 2012. He has worked as an urban designer in New York City, Boston, and Chicago, and has previously taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was also Co-Director of the City Design Center. Ryan holds degrees from Yale University, Columbia University, and MIT.
Julia Sattler has completed her PhD thesis focusing on “Family Secrets: Roots, Memory and Mixed Heritage in the contemporary United States” at TU Dortmund University (Germany) in 2012.
She is the academic director of an international PhD program focusing on “Urban Transformations in the United States” at the University Alliance Ruhr (UAR). In her postdoctoral work she examines the narrative dimensions of urban transformation processes in Detroit, Michigan, and in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. She has worked on multiple urban redevelopment projects in the Ruhr and curated a photographic exhibit focusing on abandoned industrial spaces in summer 2012. Julia Sattler has been a visiting scholar to the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning in 2013.
My postdoctoral research focusing on the Ruhr Valley in Germany and the Detroit region in dialogue is an attempt to work with ideas from both American Studies and Urban Planning productively. I am interested in how responses to urban planning questions are culturally determined, how planning as a practice is intertwined with crucial questions of storytelling and narrative, and in how far urban planning is a narrative about the city itself. Since my study is focused on regions that are—albeit in different ways—undergoing intense processes of urban transformation, I am also focusing on how spatial unevenness is narrated and how its design principles are culturally determined. Finally, my interest is in recognizing how the right to the city is negotiated in the global age.
Processes of urban transformation, and specifically processes of shrinkage and decline, do not only represent a challenge with regard to how to approach them as architects or urban planners, but they also pose narrative challenge: how can we describe at the city after density? What do we do when the city is transforming in ways that we cannot yet name? New ways of “telling the city” need to be found in the face of the loss of heavy industry, work places and population.
In recent years, the narrative of the frontier and the story of the city turning rural have become popular ways of talking about such places as the Ruhr Valley or Detroit in the media. While these stories may be productive in some ways, they all too often neglect that shrinking cities are not devoid of a population, and that these cities bear a complicated legacy due to their industrial pasts: stories of removal, neglect, disparity and discrimination. In order to build a sustainable future, strategies to incorporate these complex pasts need to be found. Poetic and artistic engagements with these places can help recognize their multi-layeredness and their site-specific narratives (that may not always be connected to decline alone). Urban planning in settings like the Ruhr Valley and Detroit may profit from an engagement with these narratives in order to be convincing, and in order to incorporate the people into the future(s) of their cities.
Using examples from these two very different settings, the Ruhr and Detroit, I will briefly outline how narratives of decline are shaped culturally, and how they gain momentum in making planning decisions in the current moment.
Dr. Eric Scorsone is an Extension Specialist and Faculty member for State & Local Government Finance at Michigan State University in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. Dr. Scorsone is a nationally recognized expert in municipal finance and administration. He has been widely cited on state and local government finance issues in Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, NPR, NY Times, China Central TV, BBC, MSNBC, Scotland One, Le Figaro and other media outlets. His specific area of expertise is related to financial emergencies and assessing financial health among public and nonprofit organizations. He has worked with municipalities across the state including Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Saginaw, Inkster, Livingston County, Grand Rapids and municipalities in other states. He was appointed by the Governor to the city of Allen Park Financial Review Team. He has taught at the University of Bologna in Italy and the University of Valencia in Spain. He is also a co-editor of the recent book entitled “Handbook of Local Government Fiscal Health” from Jones Bartlett released in 2012. Prior to coming to Michigan, he served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky. He has also served as an Economist for the Colorado Governor’s Office, as Senior Economist for the City of Aurora, Colorado and Senior Economist for the Michigan Senate in 2010. Dr. Scorsone is from Saginaw, MI and currently resides in DeWitt, MI.
Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Path to a Fiscally Sustainable Detroit
In 2013, the city of Detroit, via Michigan’s Emergency Manager law, filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in a bid to finally overcome decades of fiscal stagnation and crisis. Any number of narratives have been spun regarding the causes of this crisis including reductions in state aid and support, federal cutbacks and suburban subsidies, internal mismanagement and corruption and of course the loss of manufacturing and the auto industry. All of these probably play some role in the Detroit fiscal crisis, but this is not the only time Detroit has faced these problems. For local leadership to be able to fully regain control and ensure fiscal sustainability over the long term, the lessons of the past need to be explored and their lessons learned for a new generation.
fiscal problems stem from practices that had their genesis in the 1940’s and
1950’s. At that time as the city exited from the Great Depression and World War
II, a huge backlog of infrastructure projects existed. In order to fund these
projects, the city began building up a significant debt burden and began
shortchanging the pension system. These problems finally exploded in the 1958
recession. After several years of
infighting, competing reports and court cases, the city adopted the income tax
and closed the gap at least temporarily. Problems emerged again in the late
1970’s and going into the deep recession of the early 1980’s. Again the city was facing a crisis and
looked to a higher income tax to pull itself out of trouble. While in the short
to medium term, these solutions looked reasonable they did cause the city’s
finances to look unsustainable in the long term.
Besides adopting the income tax, several other problematic budgeting practices emerged from these crises. In both crises, the city significantly underestimated the extent of the underfunding of legacy costs including pensions and retiree health care. Further, as its revenues sources became more volatile, the city faltered in its ability to implement sound budget control practices. These entrenched practices finally came to a head as the city entered the 2000’s and deepest recession it had ever faced. In combination, these practices meant that Detroit engaged in disastrous decisions throughout the 2000’s that lead to the bankruptcy filing.
Looking forward, several principles should be learned from the past to ensure a fiscally sustainable Detroit. Detroit must implement and follow strict budget control over both revenues and expenditures. Revenue and spending forecasts should include a significant rainy day or reserves component and excess revenues above forecast should assessed as to whether they are recurrent or a temporarily surplus. A complete overview of the Detroit revenue portfolio needed to determine which taxes and fees are harmful to the Detroit economy and can be lessened and potential substitute sources to make up for lost revenues. Third, post-bankruptcy legacy cost payments must be strictly adhered to and any future benefit negotiations must be undertaken with ability-to-pay in the front of mind. Finally, the city must strengthen the budget department to ensure a strong degree of fiscal control by the executive branch and continue to invest in city council’s ability to oversee operations and fiscal affairs. The 1975 New York City crisis and its aftermath prove that a city can be placed on a fiscally sustainable path if the right reforms are enacted and city’s will see the benefits in improved services, better infrastructure, a strengthened economy and a return to home rule.
June Manning Thomas, Ph.D., FAICP, is Centennial Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, at the University of Michigan. Her books include the co-edited Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows (Sage, 1996); Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, second edition Wayne State University Press, 2013); Planning Progress: Lessons from Shoghi Effendi (Association for Baha’i Studies, 1999); the co-edited, Margaret Dewar and June Thomas, The City after Abandonment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), as well as many articles and book chapters. Her work in progress includes the co-edited, June Thomas and Henco Bekkering, Mapping Detroit: Evolving Land Use Patterns and Connections (Wayne State University Press, forthcoming 2015), and ongoing research on both the aftermath of the foreclosure process in Detroit and the social equity dimensions of urban planning. She is President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, for 2013-2015.
Dr. Heather Ann Thompson is a native Detroiter who has written numerous popular as well as scholarly articles on the history of mass incarceration as well as its current impact. These include pieces for the New York Times, The Atlantic, Dissent, New Labor Forum, as well as the award-winning articles: “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and Transformation in Postwar American History” (Journal of American History) and “Rethinking Working Class Struggle through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of Inmates and Guards (Labor: Working Class Studies of the Americas). Thompson’s recent article in the Atlantic Monthly on how mass incarceration has distorted democracy in America has also just been named a finalist for the best magazine article of 2014 award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. On the policy front Thompson was recently was named to a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel to study the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the U.S. and she serves as well on the boards of several policy organizations including the Prison Policy Initiative while working in an advisory capacity with the Center for Community Change and the Open Society Foundation on issues related to mass incarceration. On the history front Thompson has just completed Blood in the Water: the Attica Prison uprising of 1971 for Pantheon books and is also the author of Whose Detroit: Politics, Labor and Race in a Modern American City as well as the edited collection, Speaking Out: Protest and Activism in the 1960s and 1970s.
Unmaking the Motor City in the Age of Mass Incarceration
What explains all that Detroit came to endure after the hopeful decade of the 1950s? What accounts for today’s miles of abandoned homes and this city’s catastrophically low high school graduation rates? What reasons might there be for the equally cataclysmic rates of childhood poverty and the devastating unemployment figures? If we really want to understand the fate of the Motor City—what happened to this place that used to symbolize the American Dream, and where so many important battles for civil rights and greater racial justice were fought and won—we need to beyond questions of deindustrialization, white flight, and globalization and think much harder than we yet have about what the rise of a massive carceral state and the realities of mass incarceration has meant for this urban local.
Dr. Dale E. Thomson
Director, Master of Public Administration and Public Policy Programs
Director, Institute for Local Government
Associate Professor of Political Science
Dr. Thomson teaches courses in public policy and administration and political science. He also directs the University’s Master of Public Administration and Public Policy Programs and the Institute for Local Government. Dr. Thomson’s research foci include strategic geographic targeting in community development, the role of foundations and NPOs in city policymaking, capacity of community development corporations, and municipal finance.
Dr. Thomson’s prior work includes directing community development research at Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies and serving as a Social Science Analyst with the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For the Good of the City?: Network and Governance Implications of Foundation-Led Revitalization Collaborations in Detroit and Baltimore
As the fiscal and administrative capacities of city governments in legacy cities have diminished and the complexity of revitalization has grown, philanthropic foundations have emerged as prominent participants in many of the public-private collaborations that dominate urban revitalization efforts. In Detroit, their role has moved beyond complementary or supplementary roles to include direct funding government-controlled services or a quasi-governmental role where the foundation takes over many of the leadership responsibilities—planning, development, funding, and coordination—formerly attributed to the city government. Often, foundations have targeted policy change as an integral part of their efforts.
Such collaborations have been praised as being good for cities because they bring private, charitable investment and leadership into cities to meet critical needs for which public sector resources are simply inadequate. Yet business-based public-private partnerships were also initially lauded, and as experience with them has grown, challenges of creating and sustaining them and the negative consequences they often create for democratic control and equity have been identified. The philanthropic orientation of foundations makes their engagement in government collaborations substantively different from that of for-profit businesses, while their control over critical resources and the domination of their boards by corporate executives creates similarities to business participants. Since such collaborations have been hailed for their ability to overcome limitations inherent in government-driven interventions, it is critical to examine administrative dimensions of these collaborations to assess such claims.
Foundation-led collaborations in Detroit epitomize the depths of the Detroit city government’s fiscal crisis, the absence of an enduring corporate-centered governing regime to drive local policy, and the evolution of the strategies adopted by foundations to aid stabilization and revitalization of a city so desperately in need of assistance. While Detroit’s story is unique in the scale and scope of foundation involvement, such stories have unfolded in many other legacy cities. These stories offer significant lessons regarding the nature of local governance, the potential for foundation-driven interventions to spawn revitalization, and the complex dynamics of managing the collaborative networks that are essential to implementing and sustaining a foundation-driven approach. This paper explores these lessons by recounting the stories of foundation-led revitalization initiatives in Detroit, MI and Baltimore, MD.
Dr. Monica M. White is an assistant professor of
Environmental Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research
investigates communities of color and grassroots organizations that are engaged
in the development of sustainable, community food systems as a strategy to
respond to issues of hunger and food inaccessibility. Her publications include,
"D-Town Farm: How African American Resistance to Food Insecurity is
Transforming Detroit," published in Environmental Practice and
“Sisters of the Soil: Urban Gardening as Resistance in Detroit,” published in
Race/Ethnicity: Multicultural Global Contexts.
Freedom Farmers: Urban Agriculture, Resistance and the Transformation of Detroit
The city of Detroit represents a vital context for understanding how grassroots, citizen-based movements transform the political and economic environment of apostindustrial city. With
available land and difficulty accessing healthy food for the city’s most vulnerable populations, residents are returning to a rich agriculturaltradition. This presentation investigates the history of community/urban gardening as a strategy to increase access to healthy and affordable food. The
result of their work is a visible example of community-based transformation, where abandoned city spaces become mechanisms of food delivery and improved access to healthy food through the processes of self-determination, empowerment, and cooperative economics.
Avis C. Vidal is Professor of Urban Planning at Wayne State University. Her research analyzes alternative approaches to strengthening low-income neighborhoods. She is best known for her work on community development corporations (CDCs), but she has explored a wide variety of place-based approaches, including Empowerment Zones and university-community partnerships. Her current research examines the Detroit Corridor Initiative, which seeks to foster economic revival in targeted areas of Detroit, with an emphasis on the Live Midtown program. She was the founding director of the Community Development Research Center at the New School for Social Research, served on the Legislative and Urban Policy Staff at HUD, and taught for six years on the faculty of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.