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What Becomes of the Poor in Urban America?

February 16th, 2015

The looming question for many urban communities is what becomes of the poor?  Urban centers are reconstructing themselves with New York City as the model of success.  NYC is for those who can afford the cost of living in a vibrant, upscale community.  The oddity of many urban places is the transformation from the old model of industrialized era design.  The transformation of a city like Detroit or even Flint, Michigan shows that transition and transformation does not include former middle class citizens.  The former non-skilled laborers in the auto industry have been replaced by new technology, competing overseas competition and closing of American facilities.  There is debate as to what has taken place and more critical what becomes of those left behind.  Over the past decade the jobs have been eliminated not only for factory workers but middle management in some urban centers.  This reduction of American workers has been complicated with an already lower class wage earners falling even lower on the economic ladder.  Detroit, is the poorest big city in America.  Furthering the challenge Detroit has just bankrupted and now is beginning to reconstruct itself.

The newer solutions to urban cities like Detroit and Flint seems headed towards a smaller city.  The widespread poverty in Detroit has been even more paralyzing with a State of Michigan take over of public schools with an Emergency Manager installed over the past decade.  The take over brings to question the democratic fact of taxpayers, citizenship and control of cities.  The bankruptcy coupled with school take over and high crime makes the brand of Detroit a hard sell.  Yet, the core of a downtown reemergence has been spearheaded by an effort of business leaders that has proven successful thus far.  The State of Michigan has taken over the former city park Belle Isle and again has shown tremendous improvement as a State of Michigan Park.  The downtown area is attached to the midtown partnership of solid business districts, upscale housing, three major sports teams and safe environments with crime levels dropping as much as 34%.  The lower crime rate is led by the strong presence of the urban research university of Wayne State University and a strong professional private security network that includes the Detroit Medical Center.  Anthony Holt, an  Associate Vice President, and Police Chief, explained the relationship in creating a safe haven for the area on and off campus.

“Our effort is bolstered by strong neighborhoods, communications between public safety entities and a well-trained professional police force here at WSU.”

In the area of midtown there are many stores, various shopping and eateries that makes this safe haven a joy for residents daily.  A well-received Whole Foods store has been one of the appreciated perks in this area.  Chief Holt maintains a strong relationship of community and police relationship in preventing crime.  The question about the other parts of the city that are struggling is a concern for Chief Holt.

“We are sure that our communities are doing well and will continue.  The poorer communities is much more complicated.  The employment situation does present a challenge without question”.

In an odd contrast not far from the downtown area it is easy to see the sudden change.  Few stores, mainly fast food strips, depressed and impoverished blocks many times have only a few occupied homes.  A series of school closing with a ghost like neighborhood presence haunts such cities like Detroit and Flint.  The fields of formerly middle class blocks are now abandoned, in distressed conditions with fewer working class families leaves a legacy of past better days.  What becomes of the poor in urban America?  Is the answer a social Darwinism reaction?  There is little concern for the poor.  The truth suggests that poorly educated, unemployed, poverty populations are now corralled and segregated.  This is the breeding ground for social unrest and is not good social policy.