Weekend Reading: Motor City Takeover

-Detroit was everywhere in the news this week when it was determined, after several years of wrangling, that the city would be taken over by the state of Michigan. Whether or not the move was necessary, it undoubtedly has political connotations, since it will mean a Republican legislature and governor (Rick Snyder) controls operations for a Democratic city (Detroit went 98% Obama). But some say it’s needed in a place that’s near the top in murder, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty—and one that can’t even clean its parks, electrify its streets, and reign in its feral dogs. I’ve compiled some opinions from the “chattering class”:

1. One from the Detroit Free Press by a writer who actually flip-flopped on the issue, and now favors the takeover
2. A declaration by Forbes that Detroit is America’s “Most Miserable City” (this was actually published last week. Did it embarrass Snyder into action?)
3. A blog piece from The Nation saying the move is political, and antithetical to democracy, since it violates local autonomy
4. Pieces from the NYT , the National Journal, and the Atlantic Cities about the “problems” that have arisen from Detroit’s gentrification
5. A Planetizen piece about Detroit’s plan to shrink itself
6. One in the Wall Street Journal about the city’s disastrous political and business climate, and why the takeover is a welcome change

So, readers, what is the takeover of Detroit: an arbitrary seizure of local autonomy that is motivated by politics? Or something that will bring accountability—and perhaps even prosperity—back to a long-struggling city?

-Thanks once again to the Congress for the New Urbanism for posting a Facebook link to my latest article. The organization was started in 1993 to champion “New Urbanist” designs—a.k.a. street grids, alleyways, and public spaces—for suburban neighborhoods. It is one inspiration behind the “form-based” codes now being written in many municipalities. But since then it has broadened its purview to other urban issues, and is headed by John Norquist, who is famous for pioneering the nation’s first school voucher program as former Milwaukee mayor. CNU’s website has got a flurry of resident bloggers, so check them out when you get a chance…


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