System success and people with options

Jane Jacobs is my second favorite economist or economics writer (Herb Simon is #1).  In her thoughts on how an urban neighborhood unslums itself, she has a core insight. 

Unslumming is the process of people who have the option to leave a neighborhood, deciding to stay instead.  This leads to local maitenance investment, it leads to social capital being maintained and enhanced, and it leads to renovation, rehabilitation and new construction. 

The core insight is for systems of extreme complexity (urban neighborhoods are such a system), with multiple stakeholders who engage in constant communication, quasi-coordinated actions that can create or consume social and community surplus, a healthy system will see a significant number of people who have options to leave deciding to stay.  Good community development policy creates system of enablement for people to choose to stay — it can be the process of reducing barriers to credit (CRA for instance), it can be rerouting a bus line so that residential and employment centers are convientenly linked, it can be the fostering of neighborhood community organizations so that local collective actions problems can be solved.  There are a lot of policy decisions that can enable people who want to stay but could reasonably leave  to stay in a neighborhood.  Sometimes this philosophy can be taken to the extreme (hi Richard Florida and his obsession on attracting the “Creative Class” marginally attached to space individuals) but it is a critical insight.

And then I read that Detroit is considering increasing the pupil to teacher ratio from 38 students per teacher to 43.

Already at an unmanageable target of 38 per classroom in grades 6 through 12, Emergency Manager Jack Martin’s fiscal year 2015 budget allows class sizes in those grades to expand to 43.

 This is a policy designed to drive out both teachers with options and students whose parents have options.  This makes working conditions for teachers worse.  It makes the educational experience for students worse.  Teachers who are not tied to Detroit Public Schools for either pension or healthcare reasons (and the proliferation of 401(K) and 403(b) retirement plans means there are few teachers with golden handcuffs) should be looking for employment in districts where there is a reasonable probability of actually being able to teach instead of babysit.  Detroit will see a barbell distribution of teacher experience and competence.  There will still be teachers who are hanging on for retirement with fully vested pensions, and they’ll be rookies who just need a job.  The middle core of highly experienced and effective teachers will flee, leaving mostly incompetents who know they can’t find equivilant or close to equivilant work elsewhere.

Parents with choices who have chosen to stay in DPS should be the core of any reconstruction program.  Instead more of those parents and their kids will leave the system as the marginal choice between stay and go just got pushed to GO.  That is either fleeing to the suburbs, or going to Catholic schools, or charters or something else.

It is almost like the emergency manager wants to enable and accelerate a death spiral….

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159 replies
  1. 1
    dmsilev says:

    And while emergency management was to bring “business world efficiency” to the public sector, spending on central administration has actually received a growing slice of the pie. In all, the proportion of general fund spending earmarked for general administration (which includes only central administrative costs, and not business office and school-level administrative costs) is now 64 percent above the proportion allocated in fiscal year 2008, the last year DPS administration did not support an EM’s management team.

    As far as I can tell, shifting money from the front lines into central administration _is_ “business world efficiency” by modern corporate standards.

  2. 2
    EconWatcher says:

    43 students per teacher? That’s just choosing to write those kids off, as if their chance for a future means nothing. Nothing at all.

  3. 3
    Joel Hanes says:

    It is almost like the emergency manager wants to enable and accelerate a death spiral…

    It worked out pretty well for the GOP in New Orleans — a formerly solidly-Democratic big city with a large black population is now a less-black, much-less-Democratic, smaller city. (You may remember that W put Rove in charge of “recovery”.)

  4. 4
    StringOnAStick says:

    My FIL and BIL just moved away from an expensive suburb of Detroit for job reasons, but it has amazed me for years how the expensive suburbs are doing so very, very well, while the city that originally laid the golden eggs is being strangled. I just don’t get it.

  5. 5
    RaflW says:

    Welcome to the New South. It’s way up north in rust & snow country.

  6. 6
    David in NY says:

    If that’s in grade school it would make teaching totally impossible. My sister, who taught in the lower grades, said you can’t even keep control of a class with 28 or more kids. The fine private school to which my kids went for the lower grades, had 22 kids per class and 2 teachers (one just an out-of-college helper).

    If that’s in high school it doesn’t mean 43 kids per teacher. It means more like 200 (or more) kids — that many papers to grade, that many tests to grade, etc. And 43 kids in a class is pretty hard to control as well.

    How do they expect to hire teachers?

  7. 7
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @EconWatcher: Take your pick: “They do it in Japan.” or “They do it in Korea.” I’ve heard them both.

  8. 8
    burnspbesq says:

    Detroit is incapable of sustaining its infrastructure and public services through local revenue sources, and the voters in the rest of Michigan have made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in subsidizing Detroit. So whaddaya gon’ do?

    Cities die. The human cost is enormous. But in democratic societies, a majority of voters can decide that they’re no longer willing to (as they see it) throw good money after bad, and they can make that decision stick. If you think Detroit is worth saving (in some dramatically shrunken form that accurately reflects the reduced amount of job-sustaining and tax-base-maintaining economic activity going on there), job 1 is convincing the people of Benton Harbor, Iron Mountain, and Ishpeming (who have problems of their own) that it’s worth doing.

    It’s a Bruce Springsteen song come to ugly life.

  9. 9
    David in NY says:

    @StringOnAStick: Talk to the Supreme Court and the politicians about it. All attempts to merge the school systems for integration or to fund across city lines have been entirely stymied. See Milliken v. Bradley, for example.

    As a country we just abandon our cities to die. I remember driving down the main street of Gary, Indiana, about 20 years ago and thinking it looked like a city hit by a neutron bomb in 1964 or so. The old buildings were still there but nothing much in them, hardly anyone on the street. It was appalling and nobody gave a damn.

  10. 10
    RaflW says:

    @David in NY: How do they expect to hire teachers?

    They don’t. They are killing the schools so that a private, for profit can swoop in and ‘save’ the Detroit schools. My speculation, anyway. (Or is that market idolatry?)

    The horrible thing about GOP grift is, they actually believe they can do better. Time after time they are proved wrong, but facts are subordinate to market ideology.

  11. 11
    Cervantes says:

    Jane Jacobs is my second favorite economist or economics writer (Herb Simon is #1). In her thoughts on how an urban neighborhood unslums itself, she has a core insight.

    Jane was not an economist. She was a journalist with no college degree or any formal training in urban planning or architecture. (Eventually she turned down even honorary degrees.) An expert at city living, what roused her to fury — and activism — was Robert Moses and his plan to destroy, among other things, her Greenwich Village neighborhood. Despite being arrested and jailed more than once, she won, defeating both Moses locally and Richard Nixon’s “urban renewal” programs nationally. As a community organizer, she was up there with Saul Alinsky and Jane Addams.

    (She was defeated after much struggle, however, by Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war in Vietnam, and moved to Canada to protect her young sons from it. I don’t blame her.)

    PS: I remember Herb Simon fondly, too.

  12. 12
    Scamp Dog says:

    Who’s your favorite living economics writer (both Jacobs and Simon having shuffled off this mortal coil)? Mine is Brad DeLong, who worked in the Clinton administration and now teaches at UC Berkeley. He also reads Balloon Juice, front paging some DougJ posts among other things.

  13. 13
    The Other Chuck says:

    @Scamp Dog: Robert Reich is up there. And of course, K-Thug.

  14. 14

    @Scamp Dog: Brad De Long is too neo-liberal for my taste. I like Krugman. I also like the blog Calculated Risk.

    ETA: De Long is a Larry Summers protege after all.

  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
    the Conster says:

    We’re in the contracting phase of late stage capitalism now that wealth is able to shirk taxation with impunity, so expect more of this, especially when the water starts running out in the west. This is part of Kunstler’s Long Emergency.

    Have a nice day!

  18. 18
    piratedan says:

    since we’re touching upon economics, I have to put in a shout out to the blog angry bear

    http://angrybearblog.com/

    good food for thought blog

  19. 19
    burnspbesq says:

    Economist’s View is a great resource.

  20. 20
    Kay says:

    A little context that was missing from the Detroit water debate:

    The official rationale for the water shut-downs—the Detroit Water Department’s need to recoup millions collapses on inspection.
    Detroit’s high-end golf club, the Red Wing’s hockey arena, the Ford football stadium, and more than half of the city’s commercial and industrial users are also owing—a sum totalling $30 million. But no contractors have showed up on their doorstep.

  21. 21
    Original Lee says:

    @burnspbesq: Benton Harbor is way different than Detroit, though. It’s just big enough to be a city and small enough to experiment on, so that’s what’s been happening since the 1960s. Every new governor comes in with A Plan That Will Fix Benton Harbor, but they never allocate enough money to replace what they’ve torn down, and the Plan is usually half-baked wishful thinking anyway. So it ends up being sort of like repaving a highway, where if you don’t do it right the first time, you end up patching and patching and patching and it gets harder and more expensive to dig down to the original substrate and rebuild the foundation properly. Some of the problems they have there are half-patched leftovers from 40 years ago, but nobody wants to deal with *them* any more, they only want to talk about the new shiny s0ci0l0gy or urban planning theory. The nepotism and featherbedding that are the alleged causes of the city going broke are direct outgrowths of being f*cked over every four years.

  22. 22
    SatanicPanic says:

    @the Conster: I was listening to Kunstler’s podcast for a while, but he kept saying things like “I’m allergic to conspiracies… but now let me share my conspiracy with you” and I had to finally conclude that the guy is a crank. Also, New Urbanism has some nice ideas, but the more I read their stuff, the more they come off as a bunch of NIMBYist white people.

  23. 23
    Kay says:

    And here’s a Detroit public school teacher.

    I read elsewhere that in the school year just past, Detroit Public Schools had power interruptions 30 days out of what I imagine is a 180 day year. The electricity went off. Are they conspiracy theorists if they believe they are being set up to fail? I don’t think so. I think it’s a rational conclusion.

  24. 24
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @piratedan: Noah Smith’s Noahpinion, too.

    He’s teaching finance at SUNY Stony Brook, but trained as a physicist, and spent significant time in Japan. Hard to categorize.

    Also Steve Randy Waldman’s Interfluidity. His “Depression Is a Choice” post is an all-time classic.

  25. 25
    SatanicPanic says:

    @burnspbesq: I agree that it’s probably a lost cause, but what do you do with the people too poor to move?

  26. 26
    Bostondreams says:

    Forty three to a classroom. oh my god. as a public school teacher for more than a decade, with a love of my profession, I would hate it, but I would quit. That is just insane.

  27. 27
    Kay says:

    So this is where they notify people that the schools are closed because the power went out.

    Seems rational to me that they believe that this might be true:

    It is almost like the emergency manager wants to enable and accelerate a death spiral….

  28. 28
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Cities die. The human cost is enormous. But in democratic societies, a majority of voters can decide that they’re no longer willing to (as they see it) throw good money after bad, and they can make that decision stick.

    The American city is often a curious thing, whittled down to a municipal core by white flight “metro” residents who structure their lives (not consciously, but actively) around ensuring that as little of their tax liability goes towards Those People, because fuck ’em.

    The radical approach would be to reincorporate the tri-county area of metro Detroit into a single municipal entity. Or cede it to Canada. Not this shock doctrine shit.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Detroit is the county seat for Wayne County. Yep, having the county seat go away certainly isn’t going to cause any problems. I’m sure that Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills are just dying to have the county jails and courthouses move to their localities.

    Or, hey, who needs a county seat at all, right? Who needs county-level services, or any kind of governance at the county level? I’m sure those rich suburbs will love going to the state capitol any time they need highway repairs or funding for their community college.

  30. 30
    Trollhattan says:

    @Kay:
    Wow.

    How long before the Detroit water department is raffled off to a private-sector water purveyor, preferably an overseas one? It worked great for these guys.

  31. 31
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    It is almost like the emergency manager wants to enable and accelerate a death spiral….

    No “almost” about it; that’s exactly the plan.

  32. 32
    Cervantes says:

    Kay, here’s Pierce:

    I do not know what to make of the Netroots Nation hootenanny that just passed. I met some nice people, heard some interesting discussions (the great Nina Taylor of Ohio presided over a barnburner about voter suppression), watched Joe be Biden, watched Senator Professor Warren get treated like the pope on parade, and heard Reverend William Barber bring the thunder. But the edge and the urgency simply were not there. It seemed more like a jobs fair for the professional left than anything else. The interesting panels on actual issues were passing rare; there was an appalling lack of attention paid to environmental concerns.

  33. 33

    @Davis X. Machina: Noah’s writing style resembles that of many of the Slate contrarians. Noah is not a physicist, he has an undergraduate degree in Physics his PhD is in economics.

  34. 34
    Barry says:

    @burnspbesq: “Cities die. The human cost is enormous. But in democratic societies, a majority of voters can decide that they’re no longer willing to (as they see it) throw good money after bad, and they can make that decision stick.”

    You know what? This doesn’t apply when the elites want to spend our money on something. In general, they make their decision stick.

  35. 35
    Linnaeus says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Detroit has some major problems to deal with, to put it mildly, and it will take years to deal with them. That won’t be easy and Detroit will be a different city than it was (which is true for a lot of places, I suppose) as this process continues.

    But “Detroit” isn’t just Detroit. It’s a metro area of 4.5 million people or so. All of that isn’t just going to go away.

  36. 36
    Barry says:

    @RaflW: “The horrible thing about GOP grift is, they actually believe they can do better. Time after time they are proved wrong, but facts are subordinate to market ideology. ”

    No, by now it’s quite clear what the results are. The thing is that the GOP*wants* those results. The poor and minorities get worse education, the middle class gets to write them off, the religious groups get money, and the elites make mucho buckos.

  37. 37
    Kay says:

    @Cervantes:

    There is a “jobs fair for the professional Left” aspect, so that part is true in my experience. But it’s also true of any political convention or labor gathering I’ve ever been to.

    I actually thought they had a really nice focus on “bottom up” organizing, but those are the events I go to so I would have that perspective.

    It’s tough for me, because I think people should get paid for the work they do, and that includes organizers, etc. I hate to have this whole slew of people dismissed because they get paid, so are therefore “the professional Left”. I met an Our Walmart spokesperson who is paid. I don’t know. He can’t get paid? He’s not going to be able to be a spokesperson then because he has to eat.

    I want Pierce and Kevin Drum to get paid. Are they the professional Left?

    the great Nina Taylor of Ohio

    Also, her name is Nina Turner :)

  38. 38
    Cervantes says:

    @Barry: Right. The notion that a majority of voters controls the purse-strings in this country is … unproven.

  39. 39
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Kay: Your source is bullshit, because there’s something the author decided not to tell you. All of the businesses he cites as being behind on their water bill have one thing in common: they’re all owned by the city of Detroit. That’s the “business owner” that the water department is having a hard time shutting off.

    Edit: Also, the reason that the Joe Louis and Ford Field bills are unpaid isn’t because anyone is getting stiffed. It’s because there is a dispute as to how much is owed. Both cases are currently in arbitration.

  40. 40
    Cervantes says:

    @Kay: Yes, I saw that he had her name wrong.

    If only he’d used my trick — picture her singing “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” — he wouldn’t have made the mistake.

  41. 41
    Kay says:

    @Cervantes:

    I also didn’t think Reverend Barber “brought the thunder” :)

    He made this complex argument about the third reconstruction that I will have to think about, research, or something. Reverend Barber has a whole theory. I think he’s great but it wasn’t “red meat for the base”. Reverend Barber doesn’t believe in “a base” :)

  42. 42
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    Well, why doesn’t the water department collect from the user then? Are they paid up in user fees? Do they have user fees? I know a lot of sports facilities are taxpayer subsidized. Is that true here? I think “bullshit” is too easy. I think you’d have to know more about who pays what.

  43. 43
    Kay says:

    @Cervantes:

    She is something else though. They all know it in Ohio. My husband was hugely impressed with her and he spoke to her for about 5 minutes.

  44. 44
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Kay: Again, the city itself is the owner and who pays the bills. In some cases there is an intermediate entity that runs the facility. This is true of Joe Louis and Ford Field but as I added, those are not cases of someone just not paying the bill; they’re in arbitration over the bill. The golf course is run directly by the city. As you may know, the city is having trouble paying many of its bills.

    Edit: More to the point, any source that omits the fact of who actually owns those facilities is, indeed, bullshit. It’s an important piece of the puzzle and if they don’t think you ought to know that, don’t trust them.

  45. 45
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    Also, the reason that the Joe Louis and Ford Field bills are unpaid isn’t because anyone is getting stiffed. It’s because there is a dispute as to how much is owed. Both cases are currently in arbitration.

    Right, but they’re sophisticated parties and they are negotiating. Can the individuals bargain?

    The mayor apologized, essentially. He said it was handled poorly and they will meet with the activists. The bk judge also said they need to offer payment terms. I read they had offered “30% paid” but maybe that’s too high.

  46. 46
    Cervantes says:

    @Kay: Yes, and do you have any insight into her campaign? How is it going?

  47. 47
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    I still think you’d have to look at who pays what to whom because I don’t have to tell you the implication in The Nation piece, and that could still be valid. Is Detroit subsidizing private business interests? They wouldn’t be alone in that, and that is a subject that should be up for debate.

    I myself don’t think cities should be subsidizing sports arenas, but plenty of them do.

  48. 48
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Kay:

    Right, but they’re sophisticated parties and they are negotiating. Can the individuals bargain?

    That’s a bit different from “collapses on inspection” and “no contractors showing up on their doorstep” don’t you think? And, yes, individuals can dispute their bills.

  49. 49

    @StringOnAStick:

    I just don’t get it.

    Suburbs are built on the urban tax base. Think of it, you’re tipping up an entire city – roads, utilities, fire, police, city management, etc all before you have any tax base at all. That money comes from the city that people will flee from. The more people flee, the more suburb demand, and the more taxes are siphoned off.

    Meanwhile, the city maintenance screeches to a halt, eventually making the flight from the city unavoidable as infrastructure crumbles. Most cities eventually find a way to turn that cycle around, but Detroit hasn’t in part because the state, rather than try and help turn it around, are complicit in its demise. That a state would deliberate destroy its urban centers is criminal.

  50. 50
    Kay says:

    @Cervantes:

    The calls I get are from FitzGerald’s campaign. That shouldn’t matter though, because Ohio Democrats are actually pretty good at working together in “coordinated campaigns”. Chris Redfern is a good manager. There’s always this dynamic of the AA candidate bringing out the AA vote in Ohio that they don’t shy away from. It’s a constant. It’s mutually beneficial for both the white Dem and the AA Dem. An example in 2012 was Obama and Sherrod Brown. We worked together on those two, because Sherrod needs huge turnout in urban areas, and Obama drives turnout in urban areas.

    It’s very transactional and not very “inspiring”, I’m afraid, but it’s also true. White Democratic candidates in this state cannot win without AA voters and AA candidates cannot win without white voters. It is in their interest to work together and so they do.

  51. 51
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Kay:

    Is Detroit subsidizing private business interests? They wouldn’t be alone in that, and that is a subject that should be up for debate.

    I myself don’t think cities should be subsidizing sports arenas, but plenty of them do.

    I don’t either but like it or not the city of Detroit has signed contracts with the building tenants. In dealing with the water bills they don’t have the option of just going to the tenant and demanding more money. In the context on what to do about water bills and the performance of the people running the city right now this is completely irrelevant. Those contracts were signed long before they were put in charge.

    Any columnist who wants you to be forming an opinion as to how heinous the whole thing is because these bills are unpaid is bullshitting you.

  52. 52
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    I think they should have written that there is 30 million outstanding in commercial accounts, whether it is in arbitration or not.

  53. 53
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    But that is part of the story. Part of the story is the residential accounts and part of the story is the commercial accounts.

  54. 54
    srv says:

    Ron Paul Truth!

    Former Congressman Ron Paul defended the Russian government on Sunday and slammed Western leaders for spreading “propaganda” after a Malaysian Airlines plane was allegedly shot down by Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine.

    “Western politicians and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the disaster. It had to be Russia; it had to be Putin, they said,” the former presidential candidate wrote. “While western media outlets rush to repeat government propaganda on the event, there are a few things they will not report.”

    One of those unreported things, Paul claimed in his weekly “Texas Straight Talk” column, was the United States’ own responsibility for destabilizing the region. Ukraine is currently embroiled in violent conflict between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists.

  55. 55
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    . . . but Detroit hasn’t in part because the state, rather than try and help turn it around, are complicit in its demise.

    What’s happened to Detroit is much, much more complicated than that. A part of it is that the city was tied into one industry and a very small number of large companies to a much greater extent than just about anywhere else. Even Pitsburgh and the steel industry doesn’t compare. One consequence of that is that Detroit had essentially no banking system outside of the car companies; even the nominally independent banks sprang up around and were totally dependent upon the business from the Big 3. Cleveland and Pittsburgh weren’t in this position; they had some decent sized banks, like National City, that survived the collapse of the local industry and could help fund whatever would come next.

    It’s also the case that a lot of things that the state did to try to help Detroit along the way only compounded the problem in the long term. There was an overwhelming tendency during the 1970s and 80s for everyone to pretend that it could just be patched up rather than radically restructured. I’m not saying that what you describe didn’t happen, but there was a lot of other goings on that made Detroit ground zero for urban problems.

    I know a lot of this because my father was hired by the state and the UAW back in 1984 to do a series of studies about how to move forward. He did the studies. They paid him. And then those studies disappeared never to be heard from again.

  56. 56
    FridayNext says:

    @Kay:

    Speaking of Detroit subsidizing sports stadiums, I read this just an hour ago and thought about all those families with no water:

    Red Wings Generously Agree To Accept Huge Sums Of Money From Public

    Not only is the city footing a good portion of the bill for construction (and possibly getting dicked out of jobs for residents), they’re going to lose revenue when the Wings move into the new arena. Under Olympia’s current deal with the city for Joe Louis, where the Wings have played since 1979, the city receives roughly $7 million annually in revenue from suite sales (7 percent), food and beverage concessions (10 percent), souvenir sales (5 percent), and ticket proceeds (10 percent). But under the new arena deal, they won’t have to share any of the revenues with the city. And Olympia will get all the fees from naming rights, which can rack up millions annually.

    That’s the only story on this I have read so far, so caveat emptor, but this is not out of the ordinary for what other cities have had extorted from them.

  57. 57
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    I think “contract!” is as unpersuasive as it was in the financial crisis with the banker bonuses. I don’t think Mayor Duggan is a dummy, which is why he agreed to meet with them. If this is going to work, it’s going to have to be shared sacrifice. If they perceive that it’s all giant classes for public schools and water shut-offs, he will fail before he starts. He ran on city services, did he not? “I’m not an ideologue, I want you to stay here and prosper”? He volunteered for this job. It’s really hard.

  58. 58
    Trollhattan says:

    @srv:
    Holy crap, our Hodor! is really Ron Paul?

    Did not see that coming.

  59. 59
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Kay: And you don’t think that it needed any more explanation than that? You think that it was just fine that the author left his readers with the impression that the water department was letting corporate customers of soft rather than explaining that the delinquent accounts in question were with the city, not private corporations?

    @Kay: And you’re perfectly okay with the author blasting the current administration for contracts signed previous to their taking control?

    If that’s true, then you’re the bullshit artist. Yes, this is all a part of the story but you are endorsing deliberate omission of important information about it. You want context, but only just enough context to allow you to demagogue the issue and not enough to actually let people know what the situation is.

  60. 60
    burnspbesq says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    I agree that it’s probably a lost cause, but what do you do with the people too poor to move?

    Hell if I know. We don’t do forced resettlement. Support them until they die, I guess.

  61. 61
    Kay says:

    @FridayNext:

    I can’t even rationally discuss this because I am not a sports fan. I have no “skin in the game” as they say.

    My husband loves sports (in particular, Tigers baseball) and enough people love sports that I don’t question the appeal, but come on. Give me a break. Enough with worshipping these people.

  62. 62
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    I’m not “endorsing” anything. I said you added additional information, but honestly? Not much. The next question would be who pays for what and where did the 30 million go that didn’t go to the water authority. I don’t think you have this open and shut case, which is all I said. I said “bullshit” was too conclusory.

  63. 63
    dedc79 says:

    The LIfe and Death of Great American Cities is a book that systematically changed the way i look at the world. It’s not without flaws, but if you haven’t read it, I promise you it is well worth your time.

  64. 64
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    Duggan has a really tough job, a job he volunteered for and wanted. He should get used to this. He has to make trade-offs, I’m sure, and those trade-offs better seem fair, or just like President Obama with the banker bonuses, he will get hurt politically and that will affect his ability to do his job.

  65. 65
    xenos says:

    @SatanicPanic: Kunstler is basically another iteration of Lileks. All that nostalgia comes from a pretty ugly place, in the end, and it shows in the stromfronters who populate his comment pages, like flies lured by the scent of feces.

  66. 66
    Kay says:

    @FridayNext:

    This may not be fair, but in my state I think our state legislators are outgunned when dealing with sophisticated parties. I don’t think they make good deals for the public. I sometimes think I want to hire an advocate that is as sophisticated as the private advocates who negotiate”public-private partnerships” and government contractor deals. Frankly, I think we get ripped off.

  67. 67
    someofparts says:

    I’m lucky enough to have grown up in a great urban neighborhood full of people who could move but don’t. Knowing the history here, I see a lot of things mentioned in the post as factors just as you suggested. The ties born of civil right activism created it. Being well populated with attorneys and other activist professionals has provided a pool of effective political competence that has kept unwelcome development at bay and created a neighborhood credit union in response to red-lining, back in the day.

    Although sometimes lately I wonder about the differences between loft dwellers and bungalow dwellers, as I watch the millenials begin moving in. Loft culture feels like a break with bungalow culture instead of a continuation of it on any level. Houses with porches and yards are interesting and friendly for pedestrians. Lofts feel more like barricaded castles, which is not only unwelcoming, but also isolating for pedestrians. When I walk the dog around the neighborhood, past both kinds of housing, it feels like I’m literally seeing the architectural expressions of the difference between community-minded activists in old houses with porches and fortress-minded libertarians luxuriating in secret palaces that look like industrial derelicts from the street.

    All the news out of Detroit lately is the saddest. The destruction of that city sure looks deliberate to me.

  68. 68
    RSR says:

    This is almost exactly the same in Philadelphia. If no more money is found, boom, 43 kids in the classroom. (Or a school year that ends in January, when we run out of money,) Many Catholic schools have already been outsourced to a NGO. Charters and related fraud are flourishing, but not getting better results. (Charters are probably safer, from a crime and violence standpoint, but the leaves those on the outside in virtual prison schools.)

    http://thenotebook.org/blog/14.....ndent-hite

    Of course, Hite can and should be regarded as an outside hitman. Maybe even he is feeling pangs of guilt–that this course upon which he helped lead the Philadelphia public schools has gone too far–but he had no qualms scuttling important parts of the school district’s operations, with the blessing of the state run School Reform Commission.

    The state has been in charge for well over ten years now, and has nothing but diminishing returns to show for it. Again, this may be a feature, not a bug, in their plan. Privatizing and/or handing over vast portions of the pension system to Wall St and blowing up a huge public employee union are features of both New Dem ‘Fast Eddie’ Rendell, and current governor and resident asshat Tom Corbett.

  69. 69
    Cervantes says:

    @dedc79: Death and Life, not vice versa.

    But yes, a great book by any name, I agree.

  70. 70
    SatanicPanic says:

    @xenos: Yeah, I was listening to his podcast once and he had a guy on lamenting how Latinos were reconquering the west or some such nonsense and that was kind of the last straw.

    I can kind of relate to how people want to have pretty neighborhoods and don’t want them to change once they move in. I also think that’s not realistic and contributes to higher cost of living.

  71. 71
    Amir Khalid says:

    @srv:
    Ah. So the talking points have finally been ut together and sent out by email. I guess we’ll soon be hearing again from our man in Portland.

  72. 72

    OT but just read that legal blogger Dan Markel has died. Thought some of the front-pagers here might be familiar with him.

  73. 73
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Detroit is the county seat for Wayne County. Yep, having the county seat go away certainly isn’t going to cause any problems. I’m sure that Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills are just dying to have the county jails and courthouses move to their localities.

    First, Bloomfield is in Oakland County, several miles away. Second, even if Detroit is much smaller there is no reason to believe that a county without any money would spend the money to move its offices to Grosse Pointe.

  74. 74
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    Second, even if Detroit is much smaller there is no reason to believe that a county without any money would spend the money to move its offices to Grosse Pointe.

    I think you missed the point that I was responding to — where does the county business move to if Detroit dies? Not just gets smaller, but actually ceases to exist as a city, which is what the person I was responding to was saying would be no big deal.

    Which of the surrounding suburbs is going to take on the responsibility of being the new county seat if Detroit is dissolved as a city?

  75. 75
    Cervantes says:

    @Amir Khalid: To be frank, Putin’s behavior has been not much worse or dishonest than ours was when that Iranian airliner was shot down — and in that case we did it ourselves with no plausible deniability whatsoever, and when our crew and captain got home, we gave them medals.

    I’m no fan of Ron Paul but I do remember things.

  76. 76
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s inconsequential. The bricks and mortar will still be there regardless of what the title is of the community in which they reside – and no one is going to spend the money they don’t have to move the offices to new bricks and mortar.

  77. 77
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Cervantes: Classic tu quoque fallacy. The blameworthiness of the United States for a completely different action has nothing to do with Putin’s blameworthiness for this action.

  78. 78
    Cervantes says:

    @Bobby Thomson: Don’t be ridiculous. Did you think I was trying to exonerate Putin and his thugs?

    Read what Ron Paul said and read what I wrote, and maybe you’ll see the connection.

  79. 79
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    It isn’t just Lefties, either:

    The shutoff has also prompted a rebuke from Steven Rhodes, the judge hearing the city’s municipal bankruptcy case.
    “Your shutoff program has created a lot of anger in the city and a lot of hardship and bad publicity the city does not need,” Rhodes told the department’s deputy director, Darryl Latimer, on Tuesday.
    Rhodes wants the department back in court next week to discuss alternatives to the shutoffs.

  80. 80
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    Really? The county seat ceasing to exist is inconsequential? Where are the taxes going to come from to pay for those buildings if there’s no city around them anymore?

    Or are you refuting Burns’s claim that Detroit will cease to exist as a city?

  81. 81
    dedc79 says:

    @Cervantes: Whoops, thanks for catching that. Maybe it was my pessimism asserting itself without my even realizing it.

  82. 82

    @SatanicPanic: You are right, I briefly perused his blog, he is a white supremacist Malthusian bigot.

  83. 83
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Mnemosyne: Detroit ceasing to exist as a city doesn’t mean that a neutron bomb comes through and kills everyone. It means, at most, that there is a county-level reorganization so that existing Detroit gets absorbed into something else, like Romulus. It’s just a name change. County offices will be paid for by county-level taxes and whatever the county can get out of Lansing. Shrinking numbers of people in the county means a lower tax base but also means there are fewer services to be provided.

    tl; dr: Detroit has been shrinking for the last several decades and will continue to shrink. It’s quite a ways from ghost town status, though, and if it ever reached that state Wayne County wouldn’t have much of a population anyway.

  84. 84
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Cervantes:

    Did you think I was trying to exonerate Putin and his thugs?

    There was no other point to your comment.

  85. 85
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    Well, then, let’s just let the ongoing bankruptcy “reorganization” continue to drain funds away from Detroit since it’s no big deal in the long run. The surrounding suburbs are gambling that Detroit’s disappearance won’t affect them at all, so you’re probably right.

  86. 86
    Cervantes says:

    @Bobby Thomson: You did not see the point? Here’s Ron Paul (quoted from above):

    “Western politicians and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the disaster. It had to be Russia; it had to be Putin, they said,” the former presidential candidate wrote. “While western media outlets rush to repeat government propaganda on the event, there are a few things they will not report.”

    Now go back to when we shot down the Iranian airliner and look at (1) what the US government said about it, and (2) media coverage thereof.

    Putin’s sordid little propaganda operation is far outclassed by ours.

    Now, you can, again, read all that as an attempt to exonerate Putin — but to read it that way, twice, would be stupid.

  87. 87
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Amir Khalid: I think they would be better off changing the subject to times when our drones destroyed wedding parties and sticking out their tongues at everyone.

  88. 88
    Suffern ACE says:

    Don’t know where to post this, but it kind of relates to urban renewal, redevelopment and healthcare, so I guess a Mathew thread is as good as any. As Brooklyn has grown wealthier, it’s healthcare system has grown worse.

    In many ways, Brooklyn (and queens for that matter) have rural hospital systems. I think what blocks a solution is that the three giants in Manhattan (mt. sinai, Cornell and nyu) as well as Sloan Kettering would block an initiative to put a crown jewel there, but the story is interesting.

  89. 89
    NonyNony says:

    @Kay:

    This may not be fair, but in my state I think our state legislators are outgunned when dealing with sophisticated parties.

    I think that’s completely fair, Kay. Our state legislators in Ohio are not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, and they have no incentive to surround themselves with an infrastructure to support them in getting better. Their incentive is to suck up to as many rich people as possible so that when they get term-limited out of a job they have a cushy landing spot to parachute into.

    At least before term limits the Assembly and Senate had incentive to fight for a good deal sometimes. Now their incentive is to sell out big and hope that the people they sell out to remember when the time comes to get a job.

  90. 90
    Trollhattan says:

    @Cervantes:
    Can you perhaps help us by parsing that Ron Paul statement and finding one fact or for than matter, anything of value in it? I cannot.

  91. 91
    Barry says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): “I don’t either but like it or not the city of Detroit has signed contracts with the building tenants. ”

    Look who’s BS-ing now. The City went through bankruptcy, and lots of contracts were ripped up.

  92. 92
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    And, yes, I’m frustrated. I don’t live in Michigan and never have, but I have friends who work for Detroit public schools and for the city of Detroit and it’s fucking maddening to have people like Burns talk about the city going away as being no big deal.

  93. 93
    Tommy says:

    When I read comments here it is painful. My state is better then most in dealing with shit. My little town, well it rocks. Every public building in my town is wired directly with fiber (TARP money). We are looking to offer FREE Internet access to everybody. We just built a $60M high school. Another $18M for a new primary school last year. When the co-op we get our power from told us we needed to upgrade our infrastructure we did. Over the course of about eight months we drove a lot of poles into the ground and pulled wire. Many places in town have power lines that look like they are from the future.

    Oh and while all this was going on we built a lot of parks. It is hard for me to walk, and I walk a lot, in any direction more then a few block and not find a “green space,” although we call them parks here :). My town is only about 12,000 people. Rural. Not rich in the least. These things are possible ……

  94. 94
    Cervantes says:

    @Trollhattan: You’ll have to do some of that work yourself.

    Ron Paul’s statement can’t be obtained above or through Yahoo until they fix their link to it, but it can be read here. You can read the whole thing yourself; here’s his last paragraph:

    Of course it is entirely possible that the Obama administration and the US media has it right this time, and Russia or the separatists in eastern Ukraine either purposely or inadvertently shot down this aircraft. The real point is, it’s very difficult to get accurate information so everybody engages in propaganda. At this point it would be unwise to say the Russians did it, the Ukrainian government did it, or the rebels did it. Is it so hard to simply demand a real investigation?

    And based on that and recollections of previous “incidents,” my point was that “Putin’s sordid little propaganda operation is far outclassed by ours.”

    Is there “anything of value” in Paul’s statement, or my gloss on it? You’ll have to decide.

  95. 95
    Citizen Alan says:

    Personally, I’m curious as to how much taxpayer money has to go to pay for 24/7 bodyguards to protect the City Manager (now there’s an Orwellian term in this context) from the people whose lives he’s casually wrecking.

  96. 96
    burnspbesq says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    which is what the person I was responding to was saying would be no big deal.

    You do love “responding” to straw men of your own creation, don’t you?

  97. 97
    raven says:

    @Tommy: Illinois has “Park Districts” that are taxing bodies separate from the rest of the municipal government. It’s one reason park and recreation programs in your state are better off than others. When they are part of the municipal budget and you have to cut something what do you cut, cops, fire or recreation. Fucking teabaggers dream in most places.

  98. 98
    burnspbesq says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Burns’s claim that Detroit will cease to exist as a city?

    That “claim” is a Fig Newton of your imagination.

  99. 99
    Amir Khalid says:

    Kind of off-topic, kind of on-topic:
    Mission Statement, Weird Al’s final video off his new album features a RSA-style animated whiteboard presentation and pointy-haired boss talk set to Crosby Stills & Nash style music.

  100. 100
    Mnemosyne says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Dude. Do you not remember what you posted?

    Detroit is incapable of sustaining its infrastructure and public services through local revenue sources, and the voters in the rest of Michigan have made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in subsidizing Detroit. So whaddaya gon’ do?

    Ho-hum, cities die, too bad, so sad.

  101. 101
    Kay says:

    @NonyNony:

    I don’t know that I would do any better, but I wish I believed that they weren’t kind of wowed and impressed with Big Players and vulnerable to that, where they can’t contradict a CEO or whatever.

    I think we went too far in the “public-private partnership” direction. Sometimes it should be adversarial. You also get into that situation you see in Ohio, where they’re making these very friendly deals with the entities they are supposed to be regulating. I’ve seen it in Ohio with large agricultural businesses and environmental concerns. Sometimes government isn’t about maximizing profits for these people. Sometimes government should unapologetically be the bad guy. That’s a regulator’s role, partly. Business isn’t supposed to love them. They can’t all be best friends.

  102. 102
    Tommy says:

    @Citizen Alan: I guess if you are mayor of NYC or Chicago you might need bodyguards. Lots of messed up people out there. But honestly I feel like if you run something, anything, and you need a bodyguard you are doing something wrong.

  103. 103
    Cervantes says:

    @Tommy:

    But honestly I feel like if you run something, anything, and you need a bodyguard you are doing something wrong.

    How do you feel about the US Secret Service?

  104. 104
    Roger Moore says:

    @Cervantes:

    The real point is, it’s very difficult to get accurate information so everybody engages in propaganda.

    Notably including Ron Paul.

    ETA: An impartial inquiry might also be easier if the rebels weren’t so busy destroying the evidence and trying to scare away anyone who might carry one out.

  105. 105
    Tommy says:

    @Mnemosyne: I recall living in the heart of DC. I did what was called the “reverse commute” (yes it had a name). I drove from DC to the burbs, Tyson Corner in NOVA (that would be Northern Virginia) to work. Of course most folks drove from the burbs in NOVA and Maryland to DC to work. I often noted, hearing them hate on the city, that if it wasn’t for the city they wouldn’t have a job. They’d just be living in Fairfax County with NO job. What always stunned me was how so few people seemed to get what I was talking about. I always found this very, very sad.

  106. 106
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Cervantes: KKKrazy Ron’s statement is an unambiguous attempt to defend Russia and Putin, and that it is how everyone has interpreted it. You adopted his statement. I think everyone can draw their own conclusions.

  107. 107
    Cervantes says:

    @Roger Moore: As I said above, I’m no fan of his.

  108. 108
    Tommy says:

    @Cervantes: I think they rock. If needed a body guard I’d take them. The POTUS is different then most other positions in this nation. He needs protection.

  109. 109
    Suzanne says:

    One thing I want to throw in there is that it’s important to remember that urban life is increasingly too expensive for many, and suburbs have grown and are growing because American urban centers have done a shitty job of maintaining affordability for anyone other than DINKs and hipsters. Housing types available in urban areas are increasingly limited for families with kids, seniors, the disabled, or multigenerational households. The suburbs are thriving because zoning rules are more favorable to homes that are better suited to those people. White flight does not explain the ludicrous increase in price/square foot of urban areas in the last ten years. San Francisco has the lowest number of kids per capita because most parents can’t afford to support them there. In most of urban America, prices are higher per SF than in surrounding areas by a large margin. This explains “drive till you qualify”. I have seen predictions that suburbs will become America’s favelas, because gentrification is driving middle-class people out of cities. So before we blame white people for the death of cities, keep that in mind.

  110. 110
    Cervantes says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    You adopted his statement.

    I did what?

    I think everyone can draw their own conclusions.

    Yes, I am sure that’s so.

  111. 111
    Trollhattan says:

    @Cervantes:
    My takeaway is now-Citizen Paul doesn’t understand the difference between speculation and propoganda. This does not surprise me.

  112. 112
    Tommy says:

    @Bobby Thomson: I tend to agree with Charles Pierce. If you listen to a Paul they make sense for about five minutes and .00001 seconds. He calls it a “rule.” But after that time they go so far off the rails you feel bad you even listened for that 5.00001.

  113. 113
    satby says:

    @StringOnAStick: What don’t you get? The city is full of blacks with a significant minority of Arabs now. Two hated groups at the mercy of the white folks running the state, all of whom have no love lost for black folks and Arabs. You can bet your last dollar on the fact that the emergency manager is SUPPOSED to be accelerating the death spiral of that city. The white bread town near me almost filed for bankruptcy, but no emergency manager was ever even considered, because that town was white.
    There’s a lot of reasons I call it the Mississippi of the north.

  114. 114
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Tommy: yes. Despite evidence to the contrary, them there rural places ain’t chock fulla nuts and it’s them der city places like noo York and chicaggy where the sociopathic nuts are.

  115. 115
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Suzanne:

    In general I see what you’re saying, but if you look at “white flight” in the dictionary, Detroit is the picture. It really is the most classic and blatant case of it and it’s been ongoing for decades.

  116. 116
    Tommy says:

    @Suzanne: I don’t disagree with anything you said. In fact I think it is worse then you outlined. When I moved to DC in the early 90s I wanted to live in the city. I grew up in small rural towns (where I now live I might add). I wanted to live in the city!

    I never lived in a “nice” place. I couldn’t afford it. I often had addresses when I’d give it out to co-workers they wouldn’t want to come to my house. Comments like, “wait you are living in SE.”

    I recall the first house I bought was on 3rd street NE a block from H. To be honest it was not a great area of the town, even if only 3 blocks from Union Station. I was the only “white” dude on the block. The 80+ year old women that lived next to me shun me. Would never say a complete sentence to me and often spit after I walked by.

    I didn’t understand.

    Now I do. That house I bought back in 1997 is now worth three times what I paid for it. Her house was bought by this wonderful gay couple not long after I moved in. The gentrification of that area of town is done now and I don’t think she was wrong in assuming I kind of started it.

  117. 117
    Cervantes says:

    @Trollhattan:

    My takeaway is now-Citizen Paul doesn’t understand the difference between speculation and propoganda. This does not surprise me.

    Propaganda often takes the form of speculation. It sometimes takes the form of a question, perhaps as in Paul’s “Is it so hard to simply demand a real investigation?” Remember, he published this just yesterday, at which point did we still really have no idea what happened to MH17?

    Yet, if you recall what Bill Crowe and others had the temerity to say on that 4th of July in 1988, and if you recall how their statements were treated in the media, I think you’d agree: Putin is but an apprentice.

    Or put another way, if Putin can shape the conversation so that it’s feasible for him to give the killers medals — and not just medals but the highest decorations in the land — then I will take another look.

  118. 118
    Cervantes says:

    @Tommy: Minutes and seconds are not decimal units.

  119. 119
    Chyron HR says:

    Who knows what happened to MH17? Maybe Obama is right when he claims the separatists who admit they shot it down are the ones who shot it down. Maybe Putin is right when he claims that the the U.S. shot it down to make him look bad. Maybe it was eaten by Langoliers.

    Clearly, any speculation is vile western propaganda, because of the medals and Bill Crowe also, too.

  120. 120
    Cervantes says:

    @Chyron HR: Daft as always, I see.

    Don’t ever change.

  121. 121
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Suzanne: White flight is sort of responsible for the high price in living. If people had been building out the cities instead of just leaving, there would be more units available. Also, if they hadn’t so severely limited multi-family zoning (for racist reasons), there would be more units available. And now you have people who lived in the city going “you can’t build, it will ruin the fabric of the city” or something, and so we’re stuck.

    I don’t think suburbs will be like favelas, because they’ll never be that densely populated. They’ll just be run down and crappy.

  122. 122
    Roger Moore says:

    @Suzanne:

    One thing I want to throw in there is that it’s important to remember that urban life is increasingly too expensive for many, and suburbs have grown and are growing because American urban centers have done a shitty job of maintaining affordability for anyone other than DINKs and hipsters.

    The cities where prices are going through the roof are not generally the ones that are filing for bankruptcy; they get plenty of property tax revenue to keep things running. There’s also a huge difference between the urban core, where the prices tend to go through the roof, and the city as a whole. There are plenty of cities that have outrageous prices for the downtown area but plenty of more family friendly areas that are still within the city proper and aren’t too far from the city center.

  123. 123
    satby says:

    @Suzanne: Girl, please! White flight and real estate redlining were key contributors to white flight, leaving areas open for developers to come in and tear down entire areas to put up gentrified housing way out of reach of the former residents in those areas.

  124. 124
    Suzanne says:

    @Mnemosyne: White flight is certainly a factor, but not the only one by a long shot. Urban life is increasingly out of reach for people. Detroit obviously has a lot of other factors at play, but it is a simplification of things to assert that white flight is the sole or even main culprit in the problems of American urban areas.

  125. 125
    satby says:

    @satby: OK, I meant to say “block busting and redlining were key…..”

  126. 126
    SatanicPanic says:

    @satby: I think you’re mixing up some terms there. Gentrification is pushing out old residents. Kind of the opposite of white flight and redlining wouldn’t apply because you’d have white people trying to buy in a redlined area. I know gentrification is a controversial topic, but until we’re in a position to get additional public housing (which is not likely anytime soon), I don’t know if there’s much we can do about it. I’m not entirely convinced that the process driving gentrification is a bad thing.

  127. 127
    satby says:

    @Suzanne: I almost totally disagree. Once the base of whites had abandoned big chuncks of urban areas for the suburbs, the attempts to restrict metropolitan taxes from supporting urban services started. The design of schools being supported by local property taxes instead of region or state wide was easier to pass because suburbanites (predominently white) didn’t want to pay for anything that would benefit predominently minority areas. Public everything (schools, libraries, transportation, you name it) has suffered because of the IGMFU attitude of the suburban and ex-urban areas of cities.

  128. 128
    Suzanne says:

    @satby: All that is true. What is also true, especially over the last 10-15 years, is that developers in urban areas are building two-bedroom condos and rental units at the exclusion of row houses, townhouses, and detached single-family homes due to density and parking requirements. This has created a shortage of those housing types, affecting both minorities and middle- and lower-class whites, who are increasingly driven to the suburbs, where homes are much more affordable per square foot. This has huge potential to fuck us over from a climate change perspective.

  129. 129
    Cervantes says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    I’m not entirely convinced that the process driving gentrification is a bad thing.

    You mean in a vacuum by itself or in reality? In the latter case, where do those displaced (and by definition, poorer) residents go?

  130. 130
    gelfling545 says:

    “And you’re perfectly okay with the author blasting the current administration for contracts signed previous to their taking control?”

    It’s not as if other contracts haven’t been torn up in this debacle. If city employees’ contracts can be thrown in the shredder by the bankruptcy proceedings, what makes other contracts sacred?

  131. 131
    thelonius says:

    “It is almost like the emergency manager wants to enable and accelerate a death spiral….”
    ummm, actually, he does

  132. 132
    Suzanne says:

    @satby: If what you were saying was the whole story, living in urban centers would be cheaper than the suburbs. But that is not the case in most American cities.

  133. 133
    satby says:

    @Suzanne: And who do you think pushed through all those zoning restrictions to keep lower income (they mean minorities) out of areas? By the way, Chicago is lousy with new townhouse and row house developments, including where the vertical Stateway Gardens slums were. And those are more expensive than 2 bedroom condos or rentals.

  134. 134
    Someguy says:

    Maybe some parents have the welfare of their kids in mind, rather than the overall health of the DPS and of the urban areas in which they live. I guess if they really *cared* about the well being of others, they’d keep the kids in school with 50 student classrooms, and trade in their future economic well-being of those kids for the good of the DPS and to preserve the community. Selfish fuckers…

    As for what happens to the suburbs when you start taxing the suburbs to re-build Detroit – an interesting proposition given the several million jobs that have disappeared from the area – I don’t think you can count on those people staying in the area to continue to pay taxes. There’s the little matter of the enormous corruption of the Detroit government. They wouldn’t like it if saints were running the town but the existing political machine? Good luck on that.

  135. 135
    Suzanne says:

    @satby: On the whole, nationwide, construction of small condos and rentals are on the rise in urban areas, whereas row houses and townhouses are on the decline. This is because condos can be stacked and density and therefore profit can be maximized.

    Those zoning restrictions, whether or not they were passed with racist intent, were passed to line the pockets of developers and are fucking over everyone who isn’t the 5%. White people are not fleeing cities in droves solely because they don’t like black people. Fewer and fewer people of any color can afford it.

  136. 136
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Cervantes: In reality. Making a neighborhood nicer is mostly a good thing. Rising property values and rising density are good. In reality not everyone gets displaced, and some people will sell their houses for much greater sums than they would have in other circumstances. More units eventually means lower rent. Where are these people supposed to go? I’d start by rezoning residential neighborhoods for more units.

    The problem right now is that there are not enough units in major cities. If the answer is “don’t allow new units” then I don’t know how the problem will ever be solved.

  137. 137
    Roger Moore says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    I know gentrification is a controversial topic, but until we’re in a position to get additional public housing (which is not likely anytime soon), I don’t know if there’s much we can do about it. I’m not entirely convinced that the process driving gentrification is a bad thing.

    The effect of gentrification depends a lot on whether the people in the neighborhood are primarily owners or renters. It can be very beneficial to owners, who see increased property value and usually decreased crime and improved neighborhood amenities. The only big downside is that property taxes go up with values, which may be enough to force people out if they were on the edge financially before. Even in that case, the owners get a windfall from the increased value of their property to soften the blow of being forced to move.

    The big problem is when it’s mostly renters, so the main beneficiaries are landlords, and the people who live their wind up being forced out with no compensation at all. That can get really ugly, and is the main reason for things like rent control.

  138. 138
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Suzanne: “White people are not fleeing cities in droves solely because they don’t like black people. Fewer and fewer people of any color can afford it.”- this kind of sounds like Yogi Berra’s “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

  139. 139
    Joel Hanes says:

    You know, the readers of the internet could make a big difference in Detroit, right now, at modest cost.

    Just as people pay for others bridge tolls and layaway at Christmas, we could build a fund to pay the arrears water bills of people in Detroit. A couple hundred dollars would save a family.

    If the Democratic Party had any sense at all, they’d be organizing and funding such a project.

  140. 140
    Cervantes says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    Making a neighborhood nicer is mostly a good thing. Rising property values and rising density are good. In reality not everyone gets displaced, and some people will sell their houses for much greater sums than they would have in other circumstances. More units eventually means lower rent. Where are these people supposed to go? I’d start by rezoning residential neighborhoods for more units.

    Yes, but I was thinking of what Roger Moore just pointed out:

    The big problem is when it’s mostly renters, so the main beneficiaries are landlords, and the people who live their wind up being forced out with no compensation at all. That can get really ugly, and is the main reason for things like rent control.

    In Cambridge (Massachusetts), we had entire neighborhoods consisting of rental properties. They weren’t pretty but people lived there, happily enough. The neighborhoods were real neighborhoods. What (most) landlords did in the late ’80s was to gradually improve their properties while concomitantly increasing the rent (to pay for the renovations) — thus slowly pushing people out who could not pay more in rent — and then when the properties were finally “nice enough,” they were sold out from under whichever tenants still remained.

  141. 141
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Roger Moore: Sure, but if the process continues, developers will build more units, and rent will come down. The problem is that we’re so underbuilt for renters and so many want to rent, we’re way behind. I’m on the fence about rent control. I’m not sure it benefits enough people to justify the degree it deters people from building. Then again, the place that complains most about it- San Francisco have rules that make it nearly impossible to build regardless of rent control. People manipulate the rules there too. If I had a magic wand, I’d eliminate zoning for anything but industrial and gas stations, add to public housing stock, add public transit, outlaw HOAs and eliminate rules on setbacks and parking and just let the invisible hand of the market bring prices down. But that’s unlikely to happen.

  142. 142
    Suzanne says:

    @SatanicPanic: Urban areas are increasingly filled by the rich, and are becoming more segregated in terms of family type. I read an interesting quote about New York recently, in which the writer noted how the city is almost entirely filled with people of one of three types: the rich, the relatively few poor who are able to stay in the limited amounts of public housing (which still can cost more than living in a suburb), and young “creative class” people subsidized by their parents. Obviously, the problem is more severe there than in most cities, but the trend is hardly unique to New York.

  143. 143
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Suzanne: Yes, but urban density is going up. Which is good. We need denser cities.

  144. 144
    Suzanne says:

    @SatanicPanic: True, density is good. But we don’t have enough density to bring prices down yet. We need more market- and below-market-rate development in cities, of a variety of housing types.

  145. 145
    satby says:

    @Suzanne:

    White people are not fleeing cities in droves solely because they don’t like black people. Fewer and fewer people of any color can afford it.

    I know you’ve just finished architecture exams (I think) and that you’re coming at this disagreement from an urban planning perspective. But I lived through the racial steering, block busting, and waves of white flight during the 60s and whites were absolutely fleeing because they didn’t like and didn’t want to live around blacks. They moved to lily white suburbs and taught their kids (generally my age group) not to want to live around blacks too. I still meet up with people who used to live in my old ‘hood, and are surprised to hear that my family stayed, and then I married and raised my own family there. The usual statement? “I didn’t think there were any white people left there.”

    My neighborhood fought back and integrated fairly well during those days (the Beverly area on the South Side of Chicago), with a few bumps here and there. But for over 50 years now it’s been integrated and is now on the 3rd and 4th generations raising families there. But it took work and a certain amount of reverse racial steering (showing whites houses in heavily black areas and vice versa). All because most whites are not willing to live in areas that make them feel like a minority themselves. And a lot of our current urban policies are driven by that same racism.

    Edited to add: what Cervantes said too, about rental units.

  146. 146
    PIGL says:

    @SatanicPanic: He is a crank. He had one or two important insights, but other than that he is a hippy punching, zionist crank who hasn’t had a new idea in 15 years. Fuck him sideways with a gigantic, petrified hedgehog

  147. 147
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Suzanne: Absolutely. We have to start somewhere though

  148. 148
    Roger Moore says:

    @gelfling545:

    If city employees’ contracts can be thrown in the shredder by the bankruptcy proceedings, what makes other contracts sacred?

    They’re made with rich people. The same as employment contracts are valid sacred when they’re made with executives but not when made with unions.

  149. 149
    Suzanne says:

    @satby: I think we’re also talking about different time periods. I am really talking about roughly 2000 and forward, while you are talking about roughly 1940-1990. There is no question that racism was a huge factor in urban policy. However, the growing cost of urban living is also a huge problem, as suburbs strain our infrastructure and shit all over our climate, and yet are the best that most people can afford. I just don’t think white flight is the only demon we have to wrestle with here. Complicated things are complicated.

  150. 150
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Suzanne: gentrification is a myth. Very few places have been made unaffordable. In fact, with a 40% decline in residency, there may be more housing technically than before. It’s just vacant.

  151. 151
    Kay says:

    @gelfling545:

    They filed a petition in bankruptcy court today based on the unequal treatment of residential use water debtors and commercial use water debtors.

    They also got a 14 day reprieve on the water shut-offs.

  152. 152
    Roger Moore says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    Sure, but if the process continues, developers will build more units, and rent will come down. The problem is that we’re so underbuilt for renters and so many want to rent, we’re way behind.

    In a lot of cases there are zoning restrictions that stand in the way. We place strict limitations on the number of units per area, which effectively restricts the maximum density and means you can’t get more people in. Even if there aren’t zoning regulations in the way, you still have the basic problem that people are attracted to the neighborhood as it is. Increasing the density so more people can enjoy it undermines the very thing that made it attractive in the first place.

  153. 153
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Roger Moore: Hence my opinion that zoning for anything besides hazardous materials is stupid. I don’t know if I buy it that increased density will undermine people’s desire to live somewhere, at least, I don’t know how often modern cities actually reach that level. Manhattan and Shibuya are pretty damn dense, but no one has trouble renting out units in those places. I suspect people are attracted to amenities more than they care about how high the buildings are (something those New Urbanists are always harping on).

  154. 154
    Roger Moore says:

    @SatanicPanic:
    I think it varies a lot by neighborhood. There are some people who are really deeply committed to the idea of a single family home with a yard, and they are willing to go to impressive lengths to enjoy that lifestyle. A lot of residential zoning was created to guarantee those neighborhoods of single family houses would stay that way. My impression is that one of the key areas for gentrification has been neighborhoods of single family houses within easy range of downtown. A lot of those neighborhoods started out as middle or even upper-middle class but went into decline during the age of white flight. When they recover, they can move rapidly from poor to very rich because they combine great location with the allure of single-family residences.

  155. 155
    Suzanne says:

    @Suffern ACE: That does not explain the data, which shown that prices in urban areas are climbing faster than suburban counterparts per square foot. Areas they refer to as “hyper-urban”, or very dense, climbed even faster.

  156. 156
    satby says:

    @Suzanne: A: I specifically said the 1960s and the effects that last until today, and
    B: except for in the sought after areas of Chicago, most of the housing stock was pretty cheap in the lesser neighborhoods, certainly cheaper than most of the suburbs. But again, the cheaper places to live are considered undesirable because they are heavily minority, with the usual lack of investment in infrastructure and services, housing stock, and good schools that people want if they have choices.
    I’m not sure what you’re basing your “cities are too expensive for most people” statement on, unless it’s mostly NYC and CA.

  157. 157
    Suzanne says:

    @satby: my assertion is based on increasing numbers of renters being cost-burdened. States with large urban populations have more citizens devoting more of their income to housing.

  158. 158
    Suzanne says:

    @Suzanne: Wasn’t able to finish commenting.

    There’s also that the fastest-growing cities tend to be the least dense/most suburban in character. And here’s a profile of why it happens.

    Cost of housing has been rising relative to income for decades, this is not news. Suburbs are cheaper per square foot of living space. Urban housing prices have climbed faster than suburban housing prices over the last 10-15 years or so. I don’t know the specific ins-and-outs of Chicago, but all of the trends I just listed have been documented in almost every fashion possible in most of the major metros across the country.

  159. 159
    Tripod says:

    White flight causing a doughnut metro is a US dynamic. A centralized playground for the elites that pushes the poor to the periphery is more typical in the global context. Maybe US metros are reverting to the mean.

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