It seems urban farming is all the rage these days. Even the Michigan State Fair is touting the idea, despite this likely being the fair’s last year, ending it’s record-holding 161-year run. Genesee Co. Treasurer Dan Kildee has long been a proponent of land banks.
There’s no question that blight in Detroit is a problem. Now Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tom George wants to create a Detroit land bank authority. As you can see, the intent is to shrink the city and, thereby, reduce the area requiring city services. The reclaimed land would turn into urban forest and urban farmland.
A key benefit land bankers see for the country’s declining urban areas is downsizing them. By concentrating remaining populations, the cities can save money by eliminating services to the green space. Things like police, fire, garbage, and snow removal only need to be delivered where people live. And deteriorating infrastructure in the new green space can just be left to return to nature. The problem is, however, the greening of cities means bulldozing neighborhoods.
So, who decides what neighborhoods are vibrant; which ones get to survive? Which ones don’t? Where are the remaining folks forced to relocate to? And who forces them to relocate? Absent some policy of forced relocation, like WWII’s Japanese-American internments, how will land banking’s objectives be met? Neighborhoods exist and thrive because people want them to, not because someone plants them somewhere.
And what if Detroit doesn’t want to be greened? I think Tom George needs broader support in the city than just Motor City Blight Busters. And George needs more than that if he hopes to be a serious contender for governor.