Tag Archives: Detroit

What is the perfect size for a city?

Well it’s bigger than Saskatoon is but it really comes down to how effective your regional governance system is.

Municipal fragmentation has been criticised for decades. In Cities Without Suburbs, his influential 1993 book, former Albuquerque mayor David Rusk argued that Rust Belt cities in the US failed to succeed in part because they were unable to expand, and found themselves hemmed in by a jigsaw puzzle of independent suburbs.

But with cities having become central to national governance in the 21st century, institutions like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank are weighing in, too. Both recently sounded the alarm about the risks of urban fragmentation on a global level, for the developed and the developing world.

“Often, administrative boundaries between municipalities are based on centuries-old borders that do not correspond to contemporary patterns of human settlement and economic activity,” the OECD observed in a recent report. The thinktank argued that governance structures failed to reflect modern realities of metropolitan life into account.

Behind the report’s dry prose lies a real problem. Fragmentation affects a whole range of things, including the economy. The OECD estimates that for regions of equal population, doubling the number of governments reduces productivity by 6%. It recommends reducing this effect with a regional coordinating body, which can also reduce sprawl, increase public transport satisfaction (by 14 percentage points, apparently) and improve air quality.

The World Bank, meanwhile, is worried about the way rapid growth in developing cities has created fragmentation there, too. Metropolises often sprawl well beyond government boundaries: Jakarta, for example, has spread into three separate provinces. The World Bank calls fragmentation “a significant challenge in the East Asia region”.

In the end, it’s a complicated question and answer

And as the Toronto example shows, amalgamation – bringing fragmented government regions together – comes with downsides of its own. Of course, you can put people in the same governmental box, but that won’t necessarily create common ground – instead, it can create a zero-sum, winner-takes-all dynamic.

People in living in cities and those in their suburbs often have different values, priorities and even a different culture. They can be, as was famously said of English and French Canada, “two solitudes”. Urbanites who support regional governance frequently assume that means more power, money and resources for the central city. But as Rob Ford so richly illustrated, that’s not always the case.

Among those who stand to lose from regional government are minorities. In Ferguson, black residents were already under-represented in government relative to their population. But as a voting block they would find their strength heavily diluted in a merged government: Ferguson is more than two-thirds African-American, while St Louis County plus the city of St Louis together are about 70% white.

Unsurprisingly, central cities tend to prefer regional revenue-sharing without giving up political control. Detroit, despite serious financial problems, has viciously fought sharing control over city assets, even where they serve a broader region. Detroit’s convention centre is a good example of the tensions that can arise: it took years to agree renovations to the building, as despite arguing the suburbs should help pay for the building they partly enjoy, the city did not want to cede any control over it.

Resolved, 2015

Hi 2015, it’s nice to meet you.  Since our relationship is rather new and still optimistic, I thought I would make some goals before I kick you to the curb a year from now.

Hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin

As Wendy noted, we have never done our expedition to Grey Owl’s cabin.  It’s a two day walk into the backwoods of Prince Albert National Park.  It should be a lot of fun.

Explore & photograph some great urban locations

I hate to think of Moose Jaw as a great urban location but it does have some great architecture as does Calgary and Winnipeg.  My camera and I need to do some some travelling and exploring.  Let’s not take too long to reflect on the fact that Moose Jaw has some of the best architecture in Saskatchewan.

It's Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

So the plan is to spend a day photographing and exploring Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, and hopefully a couple of days in Calgary.

Make progress on my book

Last year I was sitting in a Saskatoon City Council meeting listening to our finest elected leaders talk about residential snow clearing and then voting on cleaning some of our streets.  At the same time I was following Calgary City Council make plans for taking over the world.

Saskatoon City Council chambers

Since then I have read more about the formation of cities than I care to think of.  Why do some cities turn into Calgary or New York City while others turn into Cleveland, Detroit or Regina?  Why does it feel like we are wasting the boom?  Why do some cities like Saskatoon allow themselves to be defined by low taxes while other cities defined by the quality of life?

Integrate Evernote into my workflow

I have some big plans for Evernote in 2015 but the biggest is incorporating it into my workflow for columns, roundtables, and this blog.


I use it right now and find it invaluable but I know I can more with it in the future.

Enjoy 2015 more than 2014

2014 was okay but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  Here is to more coffees on patios, more late nights on decks, and more fires in the backyard.

Starbucks Patio

Mark posted his New Year’s resolutions here while Wendy posted her’s over on her weblog.

How Detroit went broke

An amazing long form essay by the Detroit Free Press.  The answers may surprise you – and don’t blame Coleman Young.

Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.

Instead, amid a huge exodus of residents, plummeting tax revenues and skyrocketing home abandonment, Detroit’s leaders engaged in a billion-dollar borrowing binge, created new taxes and failed to cut expenses when they needed to. Simultaneously, they gifted workers and retirees with generous bonuses. And under pressure from unions and, sometimes, arbitrators, they failed to cut health care benefits — saddling the city with staggering costs that today threaten the safety and quality of life of people who live here.

The numbers, most from records deeply buried in the public library, lay waste to misconceptions about the roots of Detroit’s economic crisis. For critics who want to blame Mayor Coleman Young for starting this mess, think again. The mayor’s sometimes fiery rhetoric may have contributed to metro Detroit’s racial divide, but he was an astute money manager who recognized, early on, the challenges the city faced and began slashing staff and spending to address them.

And Wall Street types who applauded Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s financial acumen following his 2005 deal to restructure city pension debt should consider this: The numbers prove that his plan devastated the city’s finances and was a key factor that drove Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July.

The State of Michigan also bears some blame. Lansing politicians reduced Detroit’s state-shared revenue by 48% from 1998 to 2012, withholding $172 million from the city, according to state records.

Decades of mismanagement added to Detroit’s fiscal woes. The city notoriously bungled multiple federal aid programs and overpaid outrageously to incentivize projects such as the Chrysler Jefferson North plant. Bureaucracy bogged down even the simplest deals and contracts. In a city that needed urgency, major city functions often seemed rudderless.

When all the numbers are crunched, one fact is crystal clear: Yes, a disaster was looming for Detroit. But there were ample opportunities when decisive action by city leaders might have fended off bankruptcy.

If Mayors Jerome Cavanagh and Roman Gribbs had cut the workforce in the 1960s and early 1970s as the population and property values dropped. If Mayor Dennis Archer hadn’t added more than 1,100 employees in the 1990s when the city was flush but still losing population. If Kilpatrick had shown more fiscal discipline and not launched a borrowing spree to cover operating expenses that continued into Mayor Dave Bing’s tenure. Over five decades, there were many ‘if only’ moments.

“Detroit got into a trap of doing a lot of borrowing for cash flow purposes and then trying to figure out how to push costs (out) as much as possible,” said Bettie Buss, a former city budget staffer who spent years analyzing city finances for the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “That was the whole culture — how do we get what we want and not pay for it until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow?”

Ultimately, Detroit ended up with $18 billion to $20 billion in debt and unfunded pension and health care liabilities. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr as the city’s emergency manager, and Orr filed for Chapter 9 on July 18.

It’s an amazing story and one that many cities could repeat if they can’t make hard financial decisions (Saskatoon loves our debt too).  Nice job by the Detroit Free Press to bring all of this together.  Including this great quote.

“It just makes me ill. Almost cry,” said former Mayor Gribbs, now 87, who served from 1970 to 1974. “You can’t continually borrow money and use it for operating expenses and expect never to have the trouble of paying it back. That’s where you end up going bankrupt.”

Guest Post: Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Your Husband/Boyfriend/Father | 2013 Edition

It’s that time of year again when people start searching the web for Christmas gifts for loved ones.  For the last several years I have published a gift guide of what to get for your husband on JordonCooper.com and this year is no different.  So without further ado (and I know how much we all hate ado), here is my Christmas gift suggestions for your husband/boyfriend/father (and all of the other men in your life).  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments – Wendy.

Sony RX-100 II

Sony RX-100 II compact cameraIf you are looking for the world’s best point and shoot compact camera, here it is; the Sony RX-100 II.

  • It has a huge one inch sensor (which means better low light performance and more vibrant photos)
  • It features an extremely fast F1.8 Carl Zeiss lens which again will mean excellent low light photos and action shots.
  • Connection to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or if you have a new Android powered phone, NFC.
The New York Times called it the best compact camera ever made and it’s a great second camera to the serious photographer or outdoorsman in your life.  It’s small enough to always have with you and yet powerful enough to make sure he will always get a fantastic photo.  If your guy is one that loves the wilderness and is prone to do things like dump a canoe in the river, the camera is small enough to place in a waterproof Pelican 1010 container so even if he isn’t dry, the camera is.

Canon Powershot G16
Canon Powershot G16 CameraOther options to consider for less money is the Canon Powershot G16.  Canon combined a 1 1/17 inch sensor with a DIGIC VI sensor to create a camera that has DSLR type power in a point and shoot body.  The result is a compact, advanced point-and-shoot camera that produces high quality still imagery and full HD 1080p video with notable low-light quality and sensitivity to ISO 12800. The sensor and processor work together to form the Canon HS SYSTEM, which helps to improve the image quality of dimly-lit shots by reducing noise and enhancing the overall clarity. Additionally, the processor offers a range of speed-related assets throughout the camera, including a maximum sustained full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 9.3 fps for over 500 shots as well as a High Speed AF system for maintained sharpness in a variety of shooting conditions.

Samsung WB30F
samsung_wb30f_redIf both of these compact cameras left you with a sticker shock (they did for me), you may want to check out this excellent Samsung WB30F.    It features 16.2MP CCD, 24-240mm (35mm Equiv), Optical Zoom Lens Capture HD 720/30p Video, Wi-Fi Connectivity, Panorama, Smart Auto, Smart Movie and smile detection.  Small enough to carry with you everywhere and a good enough quality to get you the photos you want.

        GoPro Hero 3+

        You have probably seen one of the hundreds of amazing videos that have been posted to the GoPro YouTube Channel or seen one of the many thousands of more videos that have been posted over the last couple of years with these amazing cameras.  While GoPro has competitors, none match the features that GoPro offers or any of the many mounts that GoPro has to secure the camera to your car, head, chest, poles, floatation devices, or bikes with ease.  For $20-$30 you can literally mount a GoPro on anything.

        Go Pro Hero 3+

        The camera itself is a lot fun with a super wide angle view, HD video, slow motion video, and time lapse features that allow you to film your ideas.  Jordon has one and has had a lot of fun over the years with it.  Your guy will as well.  An added bonus is that GoPro has released a free video editor so you can easily edit and upload your adventures.

        Fuji XF1

        Fuji XF1 digital cameraLightweight, durable aluminum body parts and synthetic leather covering enhance the feel of the camera in the hand, with texture that resembles genuine leather.

        The bright f/1.8 lens lets you capture quality pictures not normally possible with a compact camera. Noise is kept to a minimum without boosting sensitivity, while camera-shake and subject motion are prevented due to high shutter speeds. And thanks to the large aperture, you can also create attractive "bokeh" blurred background effects.

        With it’s retro styling, it’s also a camera guaranteed to be noticed even before you take those great photos.

        Moleskine hardcover notebookElectronics is cool but so is writing stuff down with pen and paper and nothing beats a Moleskine notebook and a quality pen to do that with.  You can find really nice Moleskine notebooks in any bookstore but for about half of that, you can find journals at your local Staples or office supply store.

        Bose AE2 audio headphonesBose AE2

        I purchased Jordon a pair of Bose IE2 in ear headphones last year.  He put them in his ears and could not believe the difference between them and the $20 headphones he had used forever.  As he said, "It’s like hearing my music for the first time again".  For Father’s Day, I got him a pair of Bose AE2 headphones that go over the ear and the sound was even better.  It’s easy to dismiss high end headphones as not being worth the money but I can really say that these are.  Both are incredibly comfortable and bring a bit of luxury to your world no matter where you are listening to them at.  Everyone needs a retreat and this does that.  I can’t recommend them enough.

        JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesIf you are looking for a less expensive option, check out JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.

        For over the ear comfort and sound at a great price, check out Sony’s MDR-ZX100 headphones.  We have a couple of pairs around the house and they are much loved and oft used.

        Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuffDetroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff | Jordon grew up with Detroit cable television and for many in our city, they have a close affinity with Detroit.  This is the story of what went wrong and is told from a personal perspective. Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”

        The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006- by Paul Wells | This is the book that every one of our friends is reading or wants for Christmas.  In The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Paul Wells explores just what Harper’s understanding of Canada is, and who he speaks for in the national conversation. He explains Harper not only to Harper supporters but also to readers who can’t believe he is still Canada’s prime minister. In this authoritative, engaging and sometimes deeply critical account of the man, Paul Wells also brings us an illuminating portrait of Canadian democracy: “glorious, a little dented, and free.”

        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock | If the guy you are shopping for is a music lover, you will want to consider this amazing Samsung wireless speaker dock. Incredible sound and rich, warm styling makes the Samsung DA-E750 wireless audio dock the perfect addition to your home. The unique vacuum tube amplifier technology lets you hear music the way it was meant to be heard. Compatible with both Samsung and Apple phones, this device lets you stream music using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology, or load it from a USB memory stick.

        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock

        SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf your husband is a fan of the radio (nothing better than baseball on a summer’s night over the radio), check out the SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio.  Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.

        Plus baseball just sounds better played on one of these radios.

        X-Mini II Portable Capsule SpeakerX-Mini II Portable Capsule Speaker | Jordon gave me one of these last year and I thought it looked cute and didn’t think much more about it but they work fantastic.  The big difference with the X-Mini II speakers is that you can link them together to create better sound as well as more volume.  We take ours with us everywhere and its nice at the cabin or even in a hotel room on a vacation.   There are some other two speaker options as well but you can find the X-Mini’s almost everywhere and they are about the same price.

        1296669-p-MULTIVIEWKenneth Cole Leather Messenger Bag

        Keep your belongings, and yourself, stylishly organized with Kenneth Cole’s lovely messenger bag. Contrast stitching accents its rich leather body, while a short handle and long, adjustable strap keep your carrying options open. The flap closure opens up to reveal a roomy main compartment, complete with a full-length zipper pocket for your smaller necessities. Front gusseted pockets include a cell phone pocket to keep it handy and within reach.

        Soft, Columbian full-grain leather and casual, but polished styling make this messenger the perfect bag for work and everyday. The interior is simple, but versatile enough to carry a laptop, papers, books, etc. There is even a cell phone pocket plus organizer features in the front gusset pockets.

        Boeing Airmail Laptop SleeveBoeing Airmail Laptop Sleeve | Yes I am sure your guy has a laptop bag but he doesn’t have this laptop bag which will standout wherever he goes.  It’s both unique and incredibly manly at the same time while protecting his most precious possession, his Macbook or laptop.

        RCAF Large Kit Bag |  What an amazing piece of Canadiana.  This RCAF kit bag is a great value all by itself but then you add in the design and the coolness factor and you have a great gift for any fan of Canadian or military history.

        Red Canoe Dopp KitRCAF Dopp Kitt | Unlike many women who require a small suitcase for their toiletries, a traveling man needs only a few essentials to be happy. Nevertheless, a man needs a place to stow these items. Enter the Dopp kit.  Now you can get a $5 shaving kit from Wal-Mart but that has no class  What you want is something with personality and I think we can all agree, this dope kit has personality.  Not only will it keep you guy’s stuff organized, it will be something he holds on to for years and years.

        Whiskey Stones

        Whiskey Sipping Stones

        Sipping Stones is the aficionado’s choice for chilling a drink. It eliminates a common problem for all connoisseurs of fine whiskey: it cools your drink perfectly without the dilution from melting ice. Now all your favorite drinks are able to be served the way they were intended to be, perfectly pure and precisely chilled. Sipping Stones are non-porous meaning there is no odor or taste to tarnish your drink. And unlike ice, Sipping Stones provides a smooth chill that does not overwhelm the character of your beverage. Each set of Sipping Stones comes with nine finely crafted cubes made from soapstone, a safe alternative to ice. Sipping Stones is a great gift for anyone who loves the perfectly chilled beverage. Or you can use it as a conversation starter at your next party. Simply keep the Sipping Stones in your freezer until you are ready to chill your next glass of whiskey.

        Finally, how much fun would any guy have playing with an AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter.  It’s easy to fly, records in HD video and if he does crash it (you know he will), there is a large stock of replacement parts.

        AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter

        That being said, the automated features of the AR Drone 2.0 make it almost impossible to crash making it stable platform to fly, do stunts with or film video with.  Take a look at the video below to see how it performs

        Netatmo Urban Weather Station

        Netatmo Urban Weather StationThe Netatmo Weather Station contains a unique set of sensors to monitor your living environment and wirelessly transmits all your data to your Smartphone. The Netatmo App displays your Station’s indoor and outdoor measurements into clear and comprehensive dashboards, graphs and notifications. All of your data is recorded online and made permanently accessible for you, on your Smartphone or PC. Seamlessly measure, track and monitor your Weather and Environment, indoor and outdoor, at any time and from anywhere. The Netatmo App is available for free at the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. With the app you can:

        • Connect multiple Stations to your Smartphone or computer
        • Check the your Stations from any Smartphone or computer
        • Share the info on your favorite social networks

        We spend 80% of our time indoor, resting, playing with the kids or at the office. The Netatmo Station monitors your indoor air quality (CO2 concentration), and reminds you to ventilate, at the right moment. The Netatmo Weather Station allows city dwellers to monitor indoor air quality, get real-time updates on local Air Quality Index report and pick the best moments for outdoor activities.The Netatmo Weather Station also monitors noise pollution and measures home or office acoustic comfort.

        Bushnell 10×42 Binoculars

        Bushnell 10x42 BinocularsBushnell Powerview Roof Prism Binoculars are designed to provide high-quality optics in a versatile and durable format at an affordable price. Constructed with a rugged, shock absorbing rubber armor for a comfortable, non-slip grip and equipped with the roof prism system for increased durability, Powerview Binoculars are suitable for multiple applications from sports to nature viewing. The 10×42 Powerview Binoculars offer powerful 10x magnification with larger, light-gathering 42-millimeter objective lenses that will perform well anywhere you use them–from a bird watching hike to a stadium. Meanwhile the BaK-7 prisms and multi-coated optics provide high-level image resolution and clarity. Additional user friendly details include a center focus knob for easy adjustments, fold down eye cups, and a tripod adaptable base. Bushnell Powerview Binoculars carry a limited lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship for the original owner.

        Purchase at Amazon.com | $69

        Tonx Coffee

        Give the gift of great coffee.  Tonx sources the best beans from exceptional coffee farmers who are as fanatical about tasty coffee as we are. To make the best cup, you have to start with the best ingredients. Tonx has years of experience finding and working with the best farmers in the world.

        They then ship that amazing coffee to your house.  It costs you $19 per 12oz shipment and you have a new shipment coming every two weeks.  That’s right, fresh coffee beans coming to your house every second week.  How awesome is that?

        He Likes Black Coffee MugHe Likes Black Coffee | This is a mug for Jordon.  Over the years I have given some cool (and not so cool) gifts but his eyes light up every time he sees a cool coffee mug.  Of course there are some limitations.  Your guy has to like black coffee but if he does, he will love this gift.

        Art Prints

        Jordon Cooper's prints for sale at Image KindI am biased because Jordon has been selling some amazing photographs of shots he has posted to The Daily but have you considered the gift of art this Christmas?  Image Kind has hundreds of incredible artists selling amazing art on archival quality paper.  Not only are you supporting local artists but you are getting someone you love something that they won’t get at your local big box store.  Check out his Saskatoon, rural, and travel galleries.  You may be surprised at what you will find there.

        Am I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

        Christmas Gift Guides for all of the important people in your lifeYou can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

        We’re Moving to Detroit, and So Should You

        Lowe Campbell Ewald is moving 600 people to Detroit to be a part of the rebirth of the city and I love the video they announce it with.  After you watch the video, I want to know why more cities don’t do stuff like this.  Where is the video making the pitch for Saskatoon and being part of the boom and still shaping the city while you can?

        Detroit is getting an “emergency manager”

        This is startling news considering that much of the news out of Detroit has been good lately.

        I spoke with several people deeply involved in counselling the governor on Detroit, and none doubted that his next move is an emergency manager. Managing the restructuring of the city’s $12 billion of debt and pension liabilities is too complex to be handled through the political process.

        There’s also a rumor that more bad news is coming on the pension shortfall that will make erasing the deficit even more difficult.

        Pieces are falling into place quickly. The Financial Advisory Board will get an update Monday on the work of the three consulting firms hired to handle the restructuring.

        Teams from Conway MacKenzie of Birmingham are embedded in all city departments and are finding broken systems — and savings — in every single one. The advisory board and Ernst & Young are digging deep into the budgets of each department in an attempt to match spending to revenue.

        The goal is to achieve positive cash flow for the first half of the year. By then, the restructuring blueprint being worked up by New York-based Miller-Buckfire & Co will be ready. It will either be used to take the city into bankruptcy or handed to the emergency manager.

        Which one implements the turnaround depends on how cooperative Detroit’s creditors are in shaving the debt. If the manger can convince them to take a significant haircut, the city may avoid bankruptcy.

        10 Empties U.S. Cities

        Anyone home?  Anyone at all?

        One of the unfortunate results of a bad housing market is an increase in vacant homes, which has grown by 43.8 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Homes can be vacant for a number of reasons, but are defined as both rental inventory that are unoccupied and “for rent,” as well as homes that are unoccupied and up for sale. As of the 2010 Census, there were approximately 15 million vacant housing units in the country, with an 11.4 percent gross vacancy rate nationwide.

        Related: Detroit is on the rise again and 100 Abandoned Houses

        The challenges of remaking a city

        With apologies to Eminem, this story about urban reengineering of Detroit shows how hard it is to remake a struggling city.

        Mayor Dave Bing wants to save Detroit by persuading residents to leave their homes for better neighborhoods, but the city has struggled to accomplish the smallest of relocation projects — even when they involve cash incentives.

        Two of the most recent initiatives that required moving residents have dragged on for several years, cost millions of dollars and prompted criticisms that the efforts exacerbated blight and left nearby neighborhoods in limbo.

        In one case, the city has spent $19 million buying land for an industrial park on the east side that has attracted one tenant. In another, an effort to build a safety buffer near Coleman A. Young International Airport has cost at least $28 million and lasted 17 years, even though it was supposed to wrap up in 18 months.

        Critics say the projects should be a warning to Bing, who plans to announce details in the next few months of his Detroit Works Project to possibly consolidate residents into seven to nine neighborhoods. It’s a larger scale than other land-use efforts, but the mayor has little cash to buy properties, won’t condemn land and may instead only offer residents tax-foreclosed homes in nicer neighborhoods.

        The future of Detroit

        City Journal has a good article on the problems and future of Detroit.

        The new mayor’s boldest argument may be that Detroit needs to shrink to revive. Detroit has contracted from 2 million residents to about 900,000; whole areas of the city have virtually emptied. As many as 70,000 homes stand abandoned. On some blocks, many homes have gone unoccupied and untended for so long that summer vegetation completely engulfs them; only the outline of the house suggests something man-made. Detroiters refer to certain city districts as “feral”—that is, having reverted to nature. Yet the city must still provide services to these areas’ few remaining occupants, at great cost.

        Bing hopes to raze entire underpopulated neighborhoods and relocate their few residents to more viable areas of the city. Perhaps as much as one-quarter of Detroit would revert to unoccupied parkland and woods under Bing’s plan. The controversial initiative is a necessary step, the mayor believes, in reducing the size of government and hence regaining control of finances, out of balance after years of mismanagement. The city has an accumulated deficit of $300 million. Even though Bing has already cut about 1,000 positions, the city still employs some 13,000 workers to serve its fewer than 900,000 residents, yielding one of the highest ratios of workers to population among major American cities.

        As I posted earlier today, the school system is still in shambles

        Detroit’s school system is in even worse shape than Newark’s, if that’s possible. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently called it “a national disgrace.” The problems are both financial and academic. Because the political class in Detroit has long viewed the schools as patronage mills, the system didn’t shrink as enrollment fell by half over the last decade. A state-appointed monitor has uncovered approximately 500 employees on the payroll in positions that aren’t budgeted. He’s requiring workers in the system to show up to collect their checks in person because of widespread concerns about “ghost” employees ripping off taxpayers. Detroit also suffers from astonishingly poor academic standards. In last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, Detroit’s students registered the lowest score of any school system in the history of the test, with 69 percent of fourth-graders and 77 percent of eighth-graders scoring below the basic level in math.

        There is some hope

        As for Detroit, it remains a gateway to Canada and the Great Lakes region, and its airport is one of the nation’s busiest. Despite the years of decline, the city boasts what development experts call a “meds and eds” economy—that is, major health-care and research institutions like Henry Ford Hospital and important universities like Wayne State. Detroit also has a rich infrastructure and architectural legacy from its glory days, including numerous art-deco commercial towers. Many of them were abandoned over the years but still stand, such as the hauntingly beautiful old Michigan Central Station and the Book Tower.

        And the upside of the city’s population decline is that affordable office space and homes are plentiful, even in well-occupied portions of the city. “Detroit has the opportunity to make itself attractive to young professionals who work at its universities and are drawn to urban living, and to immigrants, who now make up just 5 percent of the population,” says Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Inc., an economic development group. “Mayor Bing can make a difference by making government more business-friendly.”