The long-awaited 2010 Census counts were released yesterday for the State of Michigan and all its subdivisions – down to the block level. Now the redistricting process for US. Congress, State House and Senate, and County Commissioners can begin.
While we have known since December that Michigan was the only state in the union to lose population over the decade, the real question on everyone’s mind locally was….”What will happen to the population of Detroit?” While not as active as March Madness betting, there were a number of “pools” out there (no money involved, I assure you), “at least among those of us who do this stuff for a living.” While I am not sure who came closest without going over, I know if was not yours truly.
As we all know by now, Detroit’s population for 2010 is 713,777. This registers as a loss of over 237,000 residents in 10 years – a 25% drop, second only to New Orleans. While the Mayor says he wants to challenge the figure, past experience tells me this is a waste of time and energy. Let’s accept the facts and work to tell the other side of the story.
Samantha Howell, 32, is quoted in the New York Times today (and it becomes the quote f the day). “Yes, the city feels empty physically, empty of people, empty of ambition, drive. It feels empty.” This is indeed the message that reinforces the articles we have read rather regularly since Time Magazine came out with its cover story “The Tragedy of Detroit.”
With all this as a backdrop, let us raise up the other side of the story. I spoke yesterday at the Book Cadillac as part of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities conference. This is a national gathering of philanthropic representatives who are interested in issues of cities. In talking with Laura Trudeau from the Kresge Foundation prior to the conference, I discovered that registration for the conference was up 30% because of Detroit. The inquiries that we receive at Data Driven Detroit come from across the country and beyond. The Federal government is planning to provide technical assistance to Detroit across a variety of departments.
Of most importance and promise are the efforts that are currently underway in the city. The Detroit Works Project (DWP) is geared toward creating a Detroit that works for everyone. While dogged by a number of issues, there is great hope for this work going forward. The work of CDAD (Community Development Advocates of Detroit) to create a strong community development network for the city and to understand neighborhoods, through a neighborhood typology, shows great promise. D3 is proud to be working with CDAD and two local planning efforts, LEAP on the eastside and UNI in the Southwest, to truly engage community residents in visioning a brighter future. We hope that this effort can help to inform the city’s process.
Philanthropy has truly stepped up to the plate to bring money and best practices to the city. The efforts are too numerous to describe, but let me just name a few. The New Economy Initiative is supporting business accelerators across the region – TechTown in Detroit – and helping to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship. Hudson-Webber’s 15 x 15 plan is working with anchor institutions (Henry Ford, WSU and DMC/Vanguard) to promote living, buying and employing locally. This effort will serve to bring new residents to the greater downtown area, spur more joint purchasing from existing Detroit businesses, while fostering the creation of new businesses in the neighborhood, and develop programs that will allow existing neighborhood residents to find jobs. The Skillman Foundation continues its work in 6 Detroit neighborhoods to create success for children, while the Community Foundation develops extensive plans for the Near East side and supports greenways across the city. The Kresge Foundation, and Living Cities, are dedicated to supporting and expanding the arts and cultural base of the city, while bringing dollars and best practices to help support Midtown’s growth and redevelop the Northend. Finally, Excellent Schools Detroit will soon be rolled out. Sparing the details, suffice it to say that the goal is to provide an excellent school for every Detroit child and give each parent the tools he/she needs to make more informed educational decisions for his/her child(ren).
While the numbers are down, Detroit is definitely not out. Let this be a clarion call to increase our efforts at making Detroit a city that provides a high quality of life for all. We are blessed with people who truly care. I have the good fortune of working with them every day – both across my staff and in meetings throughout the city and region.
In the end it is not the number of people who occupy the city, but the quality of life we create. Let us go forth and herald our accomplishments and work harder to make our dreams for the city become reality.