Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit’s mayor, described the U.S. Census Bureau as the “most incompetent division of the federal government.” As it turns out, he is at the wrong end of any criticism about his city. Detroit, throughout many of its neighborhoods, is a pile of rubble. Wealthy interests have resurrected small parts of downtown but are a small part of the city’s 143 square miles. (These American cities are spending billions to build new homes.)
Dugan’s city is still among America’s metropolitan areas that have been unable to lift themselves out of poverty. A large portion of the population has fled the city, along with countless businesses. He has almost nothing to draw them back.
Duggan thinks the new Census Bureau count that took his city from the 27th largest in the country to the 29th largest is off by a few thousand, but hardly more. Even if he is right, he commented, “I want our folks counted, and we’re going to fight till every Detroiter gets counted.” Detroit is a city that has lost hundreds of thousands of people over recent decades. Maybe Detroit has 625,000 residents. Or perhaps more or less. The fact is that Detroit is not smaller than Memphis, Louisville and Portland. None of these was ever a big city.
Duggan cannot be blamed to the extent that he is almost helpless. Square mile after square mile of the city cannot be reclaimed. Houses in these areas have been bulldozed. If more money was available, the bulldozing would probably continue. I have driven through these neighborhoods, and what has happened to them is tragic.
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Detroit’s real estate market is also in a shambles. Among the 20 cities measured by the S&P Case Shiller real estate index, Detroit’s home prices have risen the least since 2000. Only Cleveland comes close.
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Detroit often sits near the bottom of the lists of cities by quality of life. There are enough of these lists circulating that, by themselves, they will keep people from relocating to Detroit.
Duggan ought to move on from ranting about things that mean very little when his city continues to disintegrate. The only “clown show” is in the office of a man who has done very little for Detroit.
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