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February 2012

D3 at Code for America’s Property and Technology Conference

D3 Technical Manager Gregory Parrish. (Click for original image.)

Data Driven Detroit would like to thank Code for America for hosting Saturday’s Property & Technology  conference. The conference featured  lightning talks and breakout sessions, giving attendees the opportunity to learn from each other about how to improve Detroit through the application of technology.

The conference’s lightning talk topics included:

• Mapping & Property-based Tools in Cities, by Code for America’s Alicia Rouault
• Loveland Technologies Tools, by Loveland Technologies’ Jerry Paffendorf
• Governments & Property Information, by the City of Detroit’s Buildings, Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department’s Karla Henderson
• Data in Detroit, by Data Driven Detroit’s Gregory Parrish
• Code for America Brigade, by Code for America’s Matt Hampel
• Michigan Community Resources & Data, by MCR’s Danielle Lewinski

Afterwards, attendees broke out into small discussion groups on several topics: Vacancy, Civic Engagement Methods, Real Estate and Speculation, and Mobilizing the Tech Community around Civic Issues.

The conference was well-attended by members of D3’s tech and civic communities, including several D3 staff members.

Kurt in Bridge Magazine on Wayne State Graduation Rates

Source: Bridge Magazine

Bridge Magazine has just published an article on the graduation rates for Wayne State University, which are particularly low for students of color. D3’s own Kurt Metzger, a contributor to Bridge Magazine, is quoted in the article:

“Detroit can’t grow by importing a bunch of college grads and saying we don’t give a damn about what happens to city residents,” said Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit. “You have to be able to (get degrees into the hands) of the minority population of Detroit.” … Wayne State was giving kids a chance to go to college, but not offering the kind of support needed to get them a degree, said Metzger, who worked at Wayne State until 2005. “Those who didn’t get beat down enough in high school, got beaten down in college,” Metzger said. “You can’t throw open the doors and let everyone in without providing the resources to make students successful.”

Florida State also has a program that begins working with local minority students as early as sixth grade, offering after-school and summer programs geared toward preparing kids for college. That’s an idea that appeals to Metzger, who believes some of the blame for Wayne State’s low black graduation rate must be given to Detroit Public Schools. “Wayne State needs to get connected much earlier,” Metzger said. “It needs to be working with DPS in an all-encompassing effort, a cradle-to-career effort.”

Michigan Births Take Another Hit

g_ask_kurt_bustThe long awaited release of final birth numbers for 2010 show that Michigan experienced another year of decreasing births – a trend that, with a few minor variations, has been in effect for the last 20 years.  The decrease from 2009 to 2010 was 2.2 percent, as births fell from 117,309 to 114,717.  Overall, annual births in Michigan have fallen 25.1 percent since 1990 and 15.7 percent since 2000.  If one were to look at 3-year averages, as is often done to account for year to year variations, the 2007-09 vs. 2008-10 change jumps to 2.9 percent, while the 1990-92 vs. 2008-10 change drops to 20.9 percent.

Figure 1 shows the total births in the State from 1990 to 2010.


Figure 1.  Total Births in Michigan by Year, 1990 – 2010








Total births fell in almost all urban counties in the State.  Saginaw experienced the largest year to year loss at 5.4 percent and was followed by Muskegon (-4.9%), Kent (-3.4%), Calhoun (-3.3%), Genesee (-3.0%), Oakland (-2.2%), Macomb (-2.0%), Wayne (-1.8%) and Ingham (-0.4%).  Four metropolitan core counties bucked the trend by experiencing no change or birth increases.  These were Berrien (0.0%), Washtenaw (1.0%), Jackson (1.7%) and Kalamazoo (1.7%).  The later might indeed be a result of the Kalamazoo Promise.  When one looks at 3-year averages, all the counties experienced an actual drop between the 2007-09 and 2008-10 periods.

Figure 2 provides a view of births in the tri-county area over the last 20 years.

 Figure 2.  Total Births in Macomb, Oakland, Out-Wayne and Detroit by Year, 1990 – 2010

While all four areas show a decreasing trend over the period, particularly since the middle of the last decade, the degree of loss differs a great deal.  Comparing 3-year averages for the periods 1990-92 and 2008-10, we find the following:

Macomb County        -8.2%

Oakland County        -19.1%

Out-Wayne County    -16.7%

Detroit City             -50.9%

Macomb County has experienced the smallest decrease, but a decrease nonetheless, in spite of its large overall population increase over the last two decades.  Oakland County experienced almost no growth over the last decade, due to outmigration and a significant drop in births.  Out-Wayne County’s drop has not been as great as Oakland’s, due to a younger population overall, due in great part to immigration, and growth in the western and southern suburbs.  And finally there is Detroit which has seen its birth totals drop by half as many young families left the city and the birth rate decreased.

Birth trends are an important component of population change for any geographic area.  When births are decreasing there is little chance that the overall population will be growing. In addition, school systems cannot afford to maintain their infrastructure in light of decreasing enrollment on the horizon.

We can take some solace in the fact that the 2009-10 decrease was somewhat less than the two prior years.  If recent economic trends continue their positive movement; if the Governor’s efforts to attract immigrants begins to show success; and if our metropolitan regions can begin to develop shared visions that emphasize strong central cities, Michigan will begin to attract the young, educated workforce that will both reinvent Michigan and begin to lay down roots that will result in a birth rebound.

TV Spots, Part 7: WARM Training Center

Data Driven Detroit has collaborated with Detroit Public Television to produce a series of shorts highlighting the data surrounding local institutions. Check out this spot about the WARM Training Center.

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If you watch WTVS, you might see these spots between 6 PM and 11 PM. Check out the rest of this series here.


The Planning Perspective on Detroit’s Decline

by Louis Bach, Communications


The Urbanophile has an interesting piece by urban planner and Detroit native Pete Saunders on poor urban planning’s contribution to the decline of Detroit. He offers nine patterns related to planning and land use that exacerbated the social, economic, and political reason’s for the city’s fall.

Some of the patterns sound familiar, like the absence of regional transit or the at-large election of City Council members. Others may be quite novel (at least to non-planners like me), like the temporal mismatch between Detroit’s population growth and its land annexation:

Bear in mind that Detroit’s population exploded from 205,000 in 1890 to almost 1 million by 1920, but not much new territory was added to the city during that time. In fact, between 1892 and 1905, the city did not annex any new land, all while rapid growth was happening. With the [Detroit Terminal Railroad] now wrapped around the city with a wall of industrial land, city leaders began looking for new lands to annex to support the expanding population…

The industrial wall and annexation policy had four impacts on Detroit. First, it created the push for suburbanization in Detroit, as residents sought to move away from the noisy, smelly and smoky factories that dotted the landscape. Secondly, the pressure to rapidly meet the pent-up housing demand in the ‘40s and ‘50s led to the vast spread of homes that today lack contemporary appeal. Thirdly, once industrial decline occurred it contributed mightily to the blight of the city as factories became abandoned – that’s largely how the city got its famed “ruins”. A pattern was established – industrial abandonment begat adjacent residential abandonment, which begat commercial abandonment, and begat even more residential abandonment. I would argue that the vast majority of vacant, “return-to-prairie” lands in Detroit are within a two-mile radius of the DTR. And lastly, the sheer amount of industrial land, with all associated cleanup concerns, made the decommission and consolidation of industrial land for other uses extremely difficult. Not that Detroit demonstrated the will to do so. There likely was a period during the ‘70s and ‘80s when the city could have effectively redeveloped industrial land to other uses, but again Detroit doubled down on the prospect of industrial jobs.