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Shrinking Cities Movement Enters Debate in Flint Mayoral Campaign « The Washington Independent

Our sister site, The Michigan Messenger, points out that the shrinking cities movement – an urban development approach that has drawn national attention to Flint, Mich. — is becoming an issue in the local mayoral race.

The movement calls for communities to cordon off mostly vacant areas, cut them off from city services and let the land return to nature. It’s headed by Genesee County Land Bank Chairman Dan Kildee, who has drawn national attention for his efforts. As TWI noted recently, Kildee has been asked by the Obama administration and by a group of charities to explore the shrinking cities approach for other communities beyond Flint.

But urban ideas that play well on the national stage don’t always have the same reception closer to home, the Messenger says.

Businessman Dayne Walling and former state representative and current Genesee County Commissioner Brenda Clack, both Democrats, are facing off against one another in an August election. Both candidates recently expressed some doubts about the movement — and pressed for more details. Walling, for example, noted that there are thousands of houses that need to be torn down, “but we need to make sure that residents have every opportunity to weigh in on the process. Every neighborhood needs a unique solution.”

From the Messenger:

Clack called the shrinkage push a “political bullet,” adding that she is worried about residents who are low income or senior citizens living in properties that the land bank might have its eyes on being left out of a place to live.

“I don’t believe in removing people,” she said. “In some areas there are one or two abandoned homes on a block that need to be torn down, but we don’t even have the money to tear them down.”

Clack said that the shrinkage idea would “not be a top priority” for her if she was elected mayor.

“You re-pattern the city, you don’t shrink it,” she said.

Both candidates said they were concerned over the current lack of specifics regarding the shrinkage push.

“It’s partly controversial because not that much is known about it,” Walling said. “Right now it seems more like a catch phrase, not a plan.”

Former Flint Interim Mayor Michael Brown had jumpstarted the shrinking cities idea by suggesting in March that the city should cut off service to abandoned areas as a way to deal with blight.

Now that the shrinking cities idea is a movement, it could be something that sounds like a great idea — unless it happens to be your neighborhood that’s on the chopping block.

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