Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Interesting City attitude-Suburban attitude survey in Metro Detroit

Suburbanites at the Detroit Institute of Arts.Photo: John T. Greilick / The Detroit News. Melissa, Max and Madison Summers of Royal Oak visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Even suburbanites who don't avail themselves of Detroit's offerings feel a strong bond to the city, a poll shows.

I was surprised to see in this article from the Detroit News, "Suburban residents back Detroit, but not its mayor: Missteps have cost Kilpatrick support in the places where he usually gets campaign money," that suburban residents actually care about the center city, in part because that's where many people lived at one time or another in the recent past. Part of the suburban attitude is a general attitude of anti-urbanism (which means anti-center city), according to this article, "Vulgaria: The Re-enchantment of the Suburbs," by geographer Paul Knox.

The News article says that "A strong majority of suburban residents feel connected to Detroit, believe they have a stake in the city's revival and would support some kind of state financial aid to help it recover from decades of decline. And they forcefully condemn its current leadership, according to a Detroit News poll. The survey, conducted last week by Mitchell Research among registered voters in Oakland and Macomb counties and Wayne County outside of Detroit, gave Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick an 80 percent disapproval rating.

The poll shows why suburban residents stay plugged in to Detroit politics. More than half of those surveyed said they visit the city regularly and believe its problems drag down the entire region. The implications for Kilpatrick's flagging re-election bid are severe, since suburban residents typically contribute the lion's share of campaign donations that could prove crucial in deciding who will be mayor for the next four years. "I love this city," said survey respondent Sheila Sweeny, 57, of Harper Woods. "I complain about the winters and the summers, but I can't imagine leaving. But what I see happening makes me sad."

It would be interesting to see a similar survey of the Washington region. I am always surprised to meet people around the Metro area who have deep ties to the city, if you work hard enough to uncover them. They tend to be older though (makes sense because much of the migration to the suburbs took place in the 1950s and into the 1960s), and the succeeding generations have a more evident disdain for the city, and work to "quieten" their parents and older relatives on city issues.

Click here for the survey questions and results of Metro Detroit residents, and here for the survey results of City of Detroit residents.

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