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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Opinionifying: Small is Good

From my vast experience of playing Sim City, I can tell you that if you let the fucking city get too big and don't give the people enough services, they are going to kick your fat ass right out of the Mayoral chair. Plus, you have to listen to all the City employees bitch you out most unsympathetically and whine about all the stuff they need, even as your city bursts into flames or the nuclear power suffers a meltdown or the greedy little bastids populating your city riot because you won't give them new or more stuff.

So when this article caught my eye, I totally agreed. Then I did a double-take. I mean, it makes sense. How could it ever happen? We don't have enough sensible people in the whole fucking country to fill one fucking town.

So then I agreed again and read it some more, and you should too. Because I really really like the idea of rustbelt cities (which are falling apart anyway) being small conglomerations of housing, business, and services surrounded by open space. Could we see wildlife coming back? Meadows?

See, this is what happened. Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County (where Flint, Michigan is located) met Barack Obama on the campaign trail, and discussed a revolutionary idea with him: Razing entire districts in shrinking cities, and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city (Flint, ed.)must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.


Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis
As Kildee points out, these cities are shrinking anyway. The big employers for these areas were the car companies, who have mostly gone out of business. Young people are moving away for better opportunities, like the opportunity to eat regularly, and all.

Kildee sez:
"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."


The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighbourhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee.

"Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow," he said.

Prairie Wildlife Illustration by Kandis Elliott, Defenders of Wildlife

Mr Kildee acknowledged that some fellow Americans considered his solution "defeatist" but he insisted it was "no more defeatist than pruning an overgrown tree so it can bear fruit again".
Wot you t'ink? I like the idea. It could never happen where I live, though. This city just keeps growing. Unfortunately. However, the exurbs and suburbs nearby are shrinking as overleveraged people sell or fall into foreclosure and move back to the city, so that's a good thing. Kinda.

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At 10:07 PM, Blogger McBlogget said...

Hmmm... OK seems reasonable even if a little bass-ackwards. We've had huge unplanned or stupidly planned growth (suburban sprawl eating up farmland, private outdoor pools in the desert), now we're going to have planned shrinkage.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Well, these cities sprang up at a time when urban planning was an unknown concept, man. I know, Arizona sucks ass big time, and hopefully something similar will happen there as the pools are drained and abandoned and turned into wildlife corridors or something, but there's something about the movement of the population now that's pretty interesting. Planned shrinkage is really a great idea. Biodiversity, dammit!

At 4:53 PM, Blogger poe said...

I like it PC. I'm from the Detroit area, and we need to do something - the city is dying. And a wonderful city it was. Lots to think about on this topic. For instance, how do we shrink cities without further segregating groups of people?

I am going to look into this further. You always have the most interesting topics, PC, and you are one helluva good writer.

On a more personal note, I hope you are finally feeling better and getting around more. Peace.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Hi, POE, so nice to see you. Thanks for the heartening comment. Now you've got me thinking about a thousand different ramifications of this idea.

I am feeling much better than I was a year ago, and I actually spent most of yesterday weeding my (hideously overgrown) garden!

At 1:25 PM, Blogger sgtg said...

nice to hear you're out in the garden!

At 9:15 PM, Blogger daveawayfromhome said...

It sounds like a great idea. It'd be great if it saved significant architecture while creating lovely greenspaces between small communities. Too bad it'll go the way of most urban planning, i.e., based on who owns what pieces of real estate and has the connections to make a profit at taxpayer expense.
Which doesnt mean it should be done anyway.


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