Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mike Duggan releases 10-point plan to rebuild neighborhoods

Mike Detroit - Photo by Detroit Free Press
Mayoral candidate Mike Duggan released a 10-point plan Tuesday evening that outlines his proposed strategy for rebuilding neighborhoods in Detroit. Quite frankly, I like his plan. There is only one thing about it that I would change about it.

Before I discuss the one change that I would make, though, here are the 10-points to Mike Duggan's plan to rebuild the neighborhoods in Detroit.
  1. Establish a single Department of Neighborhoods;
  2. Base the Department of Neighborhoods in seven neighborhood district offices to create true partnerships with neighborhood groups and block clubs;
  3. Seize abandoned houses and drug houses through a nuisance abatement program, similar to the one Mike Duggan started when he served as Prosecutor for Wayne County;
  4. Create positive incentives to move families from sparsely-populated areas into to stronger neighborhoods. This, presumably, would include most of Warrendale as one of the stronger neighborhoods;
  5. In order to rebuild neighborhood business districts, he would seize abandoned storefronts and move in entrepreneurs;
  6. Streamline demolition process and strategically target neighborhoods;
  7. Create much tougher code enforcement;
  8. Require banks to participate in neighborhood redevelopment;
  9. Clean up vacant lots; and
  10. Reform the Detroit Land Bank so we can re-use vacant land.
Mike Duggan's plan for a Department of Neighborhoods sounds a lot like the Neighborhood City Halls that used to exist in Detroit until Mayor Dave Bing eliminated them as part of his budget cuts. Regardless of what one calls them, though, I believe that having such an office in each of the districts is a good idea.

The one thing that I would change about Mike Duggan's plan to rebuild neighborhoods would be to substitute a vigorous deconstruction program instead of streamlined demolition process. In neighborhoods throughout Detroit, there are lots of blighted buildings that I need to removed and Warrendale is no exception to that, as I have pointed out before.

The tragic fact is that Detroit has far more blighted properties than it has resources to deal with them adequately and that, in turn, means that we need to be more innovated in how we respond to blight in our neighborhoods. Moving from a conventional demolition process to a deconstruction model is, in my opinion, a huge part of that innovation.

With a conventional building demolition, a couple of workers and some heavy equipment come to a location, and smash everything. They will then haul what used to be a building away to an ordinary landfill.

In contrast, under a deconstruction model, a half dozen to a dozen workers are on site for a week or more. They take the building down piece by piece, salvaging everything that can be salvaged, and then recycling what is left. The only things that ever go into a landfill are pieces of hazardous waste (e.g., asbestos or lead paint) and those things will go to a special landfill that is designed to accept hazardous materials properly.

Even in places like Detroit, and even after scrappers have already attacked a vacant home numerous times, a deconstruction crew can still salvage thousands of dollars worth of materials from it. Because of that, it is almost always cheaper in the end to deconstruct a blighted property than the $12,000 - $14,000 that the City of Detroit currently pays to have one demolished.

Moreover, because it's ultimately cheaper to deconstruct a blighted property than to demolish it, the City of Detroit would be able to remove more of these dangerous buildings from our neighborhoods through a deconstruction model than it currently can under its old model. I argue that anything that enables us to remove more of these dangerous buildings from our neighborhoods is a good thing and a change worth making.

In addition to that, because deconstruction relies on people more than it does heavy equipment, switching to a deconstruction model for removing dangerous buildings would also mean the creation of thousands of new jobs. This is important in a city like Detroit where so many adults are without jobs and have been without them for quite some time.

Finally, because almost nothing from a deconstructed building goes into a landfill, it is also much better for the environment.

Mike Duggan's plan doesn't specifically call for the use of conventional demolition instead of deconstruction. However, I believe his plan would be much better if it did specifically call for deconstruction.
  • More blighted properties removed from the neighborhoods of Detroit;
  • Thousands of new jobs created for Detroit residents; and
  • Better for the environment with less trash going into a landfill.
It's hard to argue with something that can deliver results like that. I hope Mike Duggan incorporates deconstruction in plans for Detroit.

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