Mad Max Days

The mayor in Flint, Michigan seems to be pondering something that used to seem impossible. The idea is to cut off abandoned neighborhoods from city services. No police, no fire, no services of any kind.

It certainly seems logical from a purely realistic standpoint. As more and more property is left to rot, there simply isn’t enough tax money coming in to provide services to every corner of the city. Might as well concentrate on the areas that still have enough legal residents still paying their taxes.

What do I think of the scheme? The very first thing that comes to my mind when someone tells me of a pie-in-the-sky project is “How are we going to pay for that?”, and this just seems to be the reverse. If the situation has deteriorated to the point that there just isn’t enough of a tax base to pay for basic services in less populated areas, yet the city government still tries to provide those services, then pretty soon the system would collapse and there wouldn’t be anything.

And, before I get a lot of angry comments, I realize that good, honest, hardworking people will suffer for this. People who have followed the rules, paid their taxes, and watched while the good neighborhood where they bought their house decades in the past became a criminal infested blight are going to get the shaft. But they will be screwed anyway if Flint goes bankrupt and everyone inside the city limits is left swinging in the breeze. They are just the one in the lifeboat who drew the short straw.

So far, it seems to be a notion the mayor of Flint has discussed only in passing, but I don’t see the situation improving any time in the future. It will be interesting to see if they have to go through with it.

(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

15 thoughts on “Mad Max Days”

  1. Well, the Mayor of Flint strikes me as an unimaginative idiot.

    Assuming the banks are not paying taxes on the foreclosed property, and squatters or criminals are making free with the abandoned homes, terrorizing the remaining legal residents, then the city of Flint should exercise their powers of eminent domain, seize the proprty as delinquent and/or a public nuisance and raze the empty homes. Without “cover” and empty buildings to hang out in, the dregs of society will move on to other environs, leaving the remaining homeowners in peace.

    Then the now vacant lots can then be auctioned off or sold to anyone willing to build and inhabit new housing as the economy recovers. Or it can be leased to the park district on generous terms. Or returned to agricultural usage. Or whatever. The Mayor’s idea is a path to 4GW in the subduvisions

  2. What is the difference between the mayor’s proposal and Zenpundit’s.

    And agriculture will be the highest and best use for this land.

    The question I have is whether there is a legal mechanism to “un-annex” land from incorporated municipalities back to the county or whether the entire municipality must be unincorporated. I guess we’ll need to consult an Michigan constitutional attorney. Could be the only growth business in Michigan.

  3. Mrs. Davis,

    Under my proposal, the city of Flint would be continuing it’s obligation to it’s remaining homeowners while getting rid of the actual problem – the abandoned homes. Having one actual house on a stretch of road is not a problem, it’s actually the norm in rural areas. Costs and crime are drastically reduced and the land is available for future development.

  4. I agree that the mayor is an unimaginative idiot. However, condemning and razing homes won’t solve the problem and is itself expensive. I suspect that the blight in Flint is mostly the outcome of bad govt policies, probably excessive taxation and zoning, and that the best response might be to 1) declare the area an urban enterprise zone where zoning regulations are relaxed and state and local taxes are substantially reduced for some long period, say 10 or 20 years and 2) increase the police presence there. The tax-drunk local and state pols (e.g., Granholm) are probably too stupid and unimaginative to go for such a proposal, but it would probably work.

  5. I see where you’re coming from ZP. But when you live in unincorporated areas, you get unincorporated services, which are usually far more spartan as we,ll as less costly. Your suggestion would end up with the city having to provide the same city services over a large sparsely populated area. It’s going to be expensive and a financial anchor around the neck of waht part of Flint can be preserved.

    Call me an unimaginative idiot, but I think these areas should be returned to agricultural use and totally de-urbanized. We can do it quickly so that it is done in an orderly fashion or we can let mother nature do it over the next several decades.

  6. Abandoned areas were a staple of 1970’s era science fiction during a time when it looked like most cities where becoming uninhabitable. The fact that were talking about this again shows were reverting to the paralysis that gripped us back then.

    I would point out that boom towns in the America west faced the problem of shrinking after the conditions that drove the boom ended. Towns went from populations of 50,000 to 1,000 in 10 years, sometimes less. Property values collapsed. Fat tax bases evaporated. The great lakes region is going through a slower version of a bust due to its failure to adapt to its loss of its special economic position.

    The way to handle the problem is to aggressively condemn abandoned/unmaintained properties. This prevents the decaying properties from contaminating the healthy ones. Eventually, the outer region should revert to the county.

    Cities can only maintain city level of services if they have a certain minimal population density. Once that minimum is passed trying to maintain city level services will drain every thing.

  7. The situation in Flint results partly from economic trends that the local govt can’t change. However, there are many cities around the country that are also negatively affected by these trends, and yet somehow change as the economy changes, and avoid the extreme blight that afflicts Flint. What makes Flint and Detroit stand out is Michigan’s high-tax, high-regulation economic environment that repels rather than attracts new businesses, and a political culture that refuses to consider cutting tax rates and deregulating. The problem is greatly exacerbated by inadequate policing, because crime destroys property values and therefore makes the situation much worse. It’s like parts of NYC in the 1970s and early 1980s.

    Flint (and Detroit) can come back if the state and local govts decide to make the area more hospitable for business, but so far they haven’t been willing to. (They are willing to run TV ads to try to convince people in other states to do business in Michigan. The ads are a joke because they never mention taxes. They are doubly a joke in states like FL, which must have many ex-Michiganders who left because of the high taxes and bad business climate. How stupid do Michigan pols think people are?)

  8. Jonathan-

    Pols are very stupid.Very stupid people cannot imagine what it is like to not be stupid. Smart people can, with some effort and to a limited extent infer what is like to be stupid. Do you remember what your thinking was like when you were ten years old?

  9. “Abandoned areas were a staple of 1970’s era science fiction during a time when it looked like most cities where becoming uninhabitable.”

    I was wondering when someone would get around to pointing that out.

    The title of this post wasn’t a mistake. Not that I expect the Humongous and his horde of punk-attired low lives to start rampaging through Michigan any time soon.


  10. Detroit/Flint is not a problem. Not to me. I don’t live there.
    Detroit is not a problem to the people that live there, or if it is, it is balanced with some attribute. Other wise they would get in the car and leave.

    The US is full of people that have walked from Guatemala to get here. Boated off from Vietnam. Nigeria.

    They go where ever they want and can. Just like the people of Detroit can, or not, as is there fashion.

    Something is not ‘a problem’, when solutions are a $20 tank of gas away.

    Frankly, I see Detroit as a success. It made a lot of cars and stuff in it’s day, and now it doesn’t. People came, now they leave.

  11. It’s nonsense to say that Detroit is not a problem. At the very least, it’s one more breeding ground for the next massive worldwide plague that will winnow out your family tree like tenpins. We accept public health limitations on our liberty because enough of us know about history or have seen personally what happens when you don’t. The more places that are falling apart, the closer we get to the next disaster.

    Virii and bacteria are never a problem you can just run from.

  12. New Orleans has faced the EXACT same problem as Flint since/because of Katrina. An analysis of events post-Katrina is instructive. At first, “logical” attempts to cope with the the problem of strained city services and a devastated tax-base were proposals just as suggested by Zenpundit and others. But these were resisted as it was the Mayor’s supporters (i.e., the black community) that had been largely affected and didn’t want to abandon
    their neighborhoods. And proposals such as Jonathan suggests were quashed as this was seen as giving tax breaks to “vultures” (and white vultures at that) who would profit/prey off other people’s (black) misery.

    So–nothing was really done and NO struggles on in a state of suspended animation. A classic example of the down-side of non-homogenized multi-culti societies where mutual suspicions thwart all logical attempts at sane financial/economic solutions.

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