Friday, April 15, 2011

UNITED STATES - Saving Detroit

Imagine that everyone living in San Jose, California (over 150 000), abandon all of a sudden the city. Vanished. Extinct in the wild. Leaving behind office buildings and factories. This is what happened in Detroit, if one believes the 2010 census figures published recently. The city, which now boasts 1.8 million inhabitants in 1950 and has been the country's economic engine for much of the twentieth century, home to more than 714,000 souls, or a loss of about 1, 1 million.

Just for the last decade, the population decline was 25%. No other major American city has experienced such a hemorrhage. It's not as if the population had declined at the national level. On the contrary, it increases. But not in Detroit. His closest competitor in terms of "emigration" is Chicago, a five-hour drive west, which began from about 964 000 people since 1950 but still retains about 2.7 million, down 25% the peak of 3.62 million in 1950.

In Detroit, the exodus has reached unbelievable proportions: the city has lost 60% of its population over the period of his greatness. It is now less populated than Charlotte, North Carolina, or Fort Worth, Texas. More people have left Detroit than there are residents today in San Francisco.

The phenomenon has many consequences for the city as for the country. The census figures for Detroit (and Chicago) are well below expectations of local authorities and earlier estimates of census offices. Counting last year or 2000 might therefore be wrong, setting a benchmark false. The municipality intends to challenge those statistics.

Mayor David Bing, has announced its intention to find the missing 40 000 people who would wear the official population at 750,000, a threshold for some to qualify for federal aid. Two issues have an impact nationally. First, with Detroit are we confronted with the remnants of the industrial past of the United States or a bad omen announcing what will be the urban future of this country? Secondly, what should we do? This is not just Detroit.

If such exodus occurred in San Francisco, San Diego, Denver or Dallas, there would have been an outcry, voices were raised demanding a hue and cry any intervention. But we deal with Detroit as a car accident: they're horrified, and then we forget. The root causes of desertification Detroit resident in the strategy followed by the Big Three automakers [GM, Ford and Chrysler].

In the 1950s, the Big Three began with determination to spread their activities across the country to bring the production of local markets, a policy that also allows them to reduce labor costs by investing in places where unions are less powerful than in the industrial capital of Michigan.

Their departure was accelerated after new federal policies were in the 1970s and 1980s in particular, forcing municipalities and states to compete for jobs, with blows of tax breaks and other benefits designed to retain or to attract investment. Companies are doing big winners at the expense of the city.

Racism also plays an important role. The exodus of whites has exploded in the years 1950 and 1960, after the courts had invalidated federal and local measures leading to segregation in housing. It was then the turn of the middle classes, both White and Black, to flee the crime, endemic in the inner city and heavily affected by unemployment, who wins the rest of the city.

Notably, the suburbs have their black population increase, young families seeking security, stability and better schools. As they go, the enormous socioeconomic problems become increasingly intractable. Detroit projects a reverse image of what should be a modern American city. While most cities suffer from some "bad" neighborhoods, the city of Michigan, she has few "good" and those are deteriorating rapidly with the exodus of the middle class.

The inhabitants of working age are faced with chronic unemployment and a moribund industrial economy. The city suffers from decades of racial conflict and the failure of the authorities in key areas, from education to the fight against crime. One in three, three times the rest of the country lived below the poverty line in 2007 - before the economic crisis and the deployment of rescue plans to exit the car manufacturers from bankruptcy - which is Detroit's poorest large U.S.

cities. The income per capita was 15,310 dollars in 2009 [10 800 euros during today], cons 27,041 dollars [19,070] over the national level. Raising a child is mobilizing an entire village, as the saying goes. But there must be a whole country is mobilizing to save a city. So what do we do in Detroit?

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