Detroit mayor wants to relocate poor citizens; Trail of Tears to follow?
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has started down a dangerous policy road. He says he ”absolutely” intends to relocate residents from ailing neighborhoods in an aim to downsize and better service the city.
“If we don’t do it, you know this whole city is going to go down. I’m hopeful people will understand that,” Bing said in a radio interview this week. “If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation.”
Already, comparisons to the U.S. government policy of American Indian relocation have popped up.
“Sounds like reservations to me; it sounds like telling people to move,”community activist Ron Scott said in a recent news report. “The citizens of the city of Detroit who built this city, the working class, didn’t create this situation. You are diminishing the constitutional options people have by contending you have a crisis.”
Just a reminder to anyone looking in from Detroit: forced relocation of tribal citizens is now considered a failed U.S. policy. At the time, for decades even, the solution seemed like a good one — the only one — to many policy makers.
But the policy ended up robbing sovereign citizens of their traditional homes and sacred land. Poverty, broken spirits, alcoholism, and many other social ills resulted.
American policy makers ultimately changed their minds because what seemed like sound policy at the time ended up creating a bigger mess in the long run. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars have been spent to try to account for the aftereffects of relocation. And hundreds of millions more will likely be needed for years to come.
Some in Detroit can already imagine a plan where community members are forcibly removed, only to see businesses and other developments take their place.
But voters don’t like that idea very much, having voted in 2006 to ban the government’s ability to take property for economic development.
Still, Bing is venturing forward — with the strong support of many well-meaning policy makers and analysts.
All the good intentions in the world aside, the question needs to be asked: is this the right solution in the long run? Or a short term politically-minded fix to a much bigger problem? What new problems could be created? And where will Bing be if and when they show up?