Talking About Cities, with Aaron Renn

“You go to some of these places [Midwestern cities], the question they ask when they meet you is ‘where did you go to high school’?… The fact that where you went to high school is a social marker places you in a community. You go to Washington DC and nobody cares where you went to high school… In New York, they ask ‘where are you from?’ because it is assumed that you are not from here. Some of these places in the Midwest… need more outsiders to come in because outsiders are the natural constituency of the new.” _____Aaron Renn

AaronRennAaron Renn, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, speaks to Sami J. Karam about US cities. What makes the large coastal cities so successful? What are the prospects for mid-sized and smaller cities in the Rust Belt? What is the current state of play for mass transit? What role does immigration play in the development of cities?

Among the cities discussed, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Francisco, Charlotte, Minneapolis-St Paul, Nashville, Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Madison, Iowa City, Rochester (MN), Singapore, Paris.

Topics include:

  • 0:00 Introduction of Aaron Renn
  • 1:15 What makes the large coastal cities so successful at creating wealth?
  • 8:30 Can a large city become dominant in a new sector? (e.g., New York in tech)
  • 13:00 How would you categorize non-coastal cities in terms of their prospects?
  • 16:30 Why some cities are struggling while others are restructuring successfully
  • 20:55 Will some smaller cities turn into ghost towns within twenty years?
  • 26:35 What is going on with Detroit’s recovery?
  • 30:40 The role of new immigrants in the development of a city
  • 36:50 Immigration policy in Canada and Australia compared to the US and UK
  • 43:50 What is the future for mass transit?
  • 48:00 The lack of city to city benchmarking in infrastructure costing and execution
  • 53:40 Is there anything going on in high-speed rail, other than in California?
  • 59:40 The decline of trust in institutions and the problem of cronyism.


CBS: State Senator Proposes Dissolving City Of Detroit


LANSING (CBS Detroit) – It would no doubt be controversial, but the idea of dissolving the fiscally struggling city of Detroit and absorbing it into Wayne County is being tossed around in Lansing.

WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports some state Republicans are talking about giving the city the option to vote itself into bankruptcy. And mid-Michigan Senator Rick Jones said all options should be considered — including dissolving the city. READ MORE.

Video: ‘Detropia’ Official Trailer

From DETROPIA’s website, by Caroline Libresco:

Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century— the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.

DETROPIA Trailer from Loki Films on Vimeo.

Michigan is Losing Population Ground — Naturally

Detroit face unique demographic challenges and Michigan was the only state to show a net population decline in the decade ending in 2010.


In the period from 2000 through 2010, amid the economic upheaval that shook Michigan to its foundations, people in the state were remarkably consistent at one thing: dying.

Annual deaths for that 11-year period averaged 86,746 — with a range of just several thousand year to year in a state of about 10 million people. Meantime, births were declining almost every year over that same span, from 136,048 in 2000 down to 114,717 by 2010.

The result, according to a new analysis by Data Driven Detroit, was a 47% drop in Michigan’s natural population change from 2000-10. In 2000, births exceeded deaths by 49,060; by 2010, the margin was just 26,659. READ MORE.

Detroit’s aging population on collision course with nursing home shortage

The population of Detroit fell by 25% in the decade to 2010, an unprecedented development for a large American city which has created new challenges for its remaining residents.  ROCHELLE RILEY writes in the Detroit Free Press:

Marylyn Thurmond had been a registered nurse at Detroit Receiving Hospital for 13 years when she was diagnosed with arthritis. She has had both hips replaced. Six weeks ago, she was diagnosed with lupus. She also suffers from hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart failure.

Marylyn Thurmond is 57 years old.

Novella Walker-Page was a registered nurse at Hutzel Hospital in high-risk labor and delivery for 26 years before becoming a home care nurse and then a contract nurse for the Detroit Public Schools. One day, she fell from the bus that took her around for student care. During that same doctor’s visit, she learned that she had sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. She also suffers from hypertension, high cholesterol and atopic dermatitis, a skin condition.

Walker-Page, who cares for her 95-year-old mother at her northwest Detroit home, is 60. She doesn’t think she’ll live as long as her mother or her grandmother, who died at 116.

Thurmond and Walker-Page are among a fast-growing part of Detroit’s population — the new elderly, people who are 50-59 years old but more like 60-74 in terms of their health. Neither, for now, wants or needs nursing home care. But as that need is growing among their age group, their chances of finding it are in decline. READ MORE.