Apportionment committees see little need of keeping large county commissions in wake of population exodus.
Like the proverbial tree in the forest, Michigan’s Senate Democrats are trying to make some noise about the redistricting process. Voters in the 2010 elections gave Republicans a so-called “super majority,” i.e., at least two-thirds of the members, in the state’s Senate. Senate Democrats face an enormous hurdle to get their legislation passed — but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.
Henry Payne, editor of The Michigan View.com writes that, like their white counter-parts before them, middle class African-Americans are fleeing Detroit in big numbers. What do you think?
A decade of economic hardship resulted in a slight loss of population for Calhoun County and area communities.
The number of county residents fell 1.3 percent to 136,146, according to data from the 2010 U.S. Census released Tuesday.
Most communities in the county lost residents. Battle Creek’s population, for example, fell 1.9 percent to 52,347.
“I’m mostly relieved that our city has remained stable,” said Susan Bedsole, Battle Creek’s director of licensing and compliance.
City officials had been worried that a more significant decline would result in reduced federal money for things such as transportation and community development.
Bedsole expects few changes from the census results. The most immediate application will be to determine whether the city’s five wards need redrawn boundaries, which would affect the city election later this year.
Calhoun County’s average yearly loss was about 184 people. County Administrator Kelli Scott said many may have left in recent years when businesses left the area.
“I was surprised that it wasn’t a little bit more of a drop,” Scott said. “This is one statistic that doesn’t really concern me.”
Although nearby Branch and St. Joseph counties experienced similar population declines, most neighboring counties had a 1 to 5 percent increase.
Scott said these counties could suffer unforeseen consequences from their population increases. More residents put greater demand on county services such as public health departments, she said.
For example, Kalamazoo County gained 11,728 residents, a nearly 5 percent increase since 2000. But the county is running out of jail beds and must find funding to build a bigger jail, Scott said.
Although the drop in Calhoun County didn’t worry her, Scott said she is curious how real estate and property values have been affected by the population drop. The county’s revenue draws primarily from property taxes.
The most dramatic change locally was in the village of Burlington, which went from 405 residents a decade ago to just 261 last year, a decline of 35.6 percent.
Burlington Village Council Trustee Dennis Frank said he had noticed a lot of people leaving but wasn’t sure why.
“It’s like, all of the sudden, out of the blue, people are starting to disappear,” Frank said. “But this isn’t a bad community.”
Economist George Erickcek of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo said the area’s slight population decline was good news considering recent economic challenges.
“This is as good as can be expected,” Erickcek said. “We knew that because of the very weak economy that has been plaguing West Michigan — not only for the Great Recession but for the past decade — we knew there was going to be population decrease from jobseekers looking elsewhere.”
Erickcek noted that while Kalamazoo’s population declined, some suburban townships in Kalamazoo County saw increases. The population in Oshtemo Township rose 4,700, a jump Erickcek said could be attributed to the area’s ties to Kalamazoo Public Schools and the Kalamazoo Promise college scholarship.
Despite Calhoun County’s overall loss, some areas saw increases.
The biggest gain was in Leroy Township, where the population rose 14.6 percent.
Township Supervisor Levita Hardish speculated that many people moved to the township and commuted to jobs in nearby cities.
“We have had some development going into the township since 2000,” Hardish said. “I’m not surprised. I’m happy. Leroy Township is a nice place to live.”
New neighborhoods, condos and manufactured housing may have attracted people looking for a suburban environment with low taxes and good schools.
“This is people choosing to live here,” Hardish said. “We are just starting to see commercialized development again. Things are starting to pick up.”
BAY CITY — Spin it how you want, but 2010 Census population numbers could have been worse for Bay City and Bay County.
Bay City Mayor Chris Shannon actually admitted he was expecting worse.
“The census figures clearly show how crucial it is to reinvent Michigan. It is time for all of us to realign our expectations so that they reflect today’s realities. We cannot cling to the old ways of doing business. This is why my administration has aggressively laid out an agenda based on fiscal discipline, meaningful tax reform and regional cooperation.
“These strategies are essential if we are to reverse the negative population trends. We cannot successfully transition to the ‘New Michigan’ if young, talented workers leave our state. By the same token, Michigan will not succeed if Detroit and other major cities don’t succeed. We all must be partners in Michigan’s reinvention.
“I told a group of high school students yesterday the problems we face as a state should have been fixed years ago and that I will not leave them unsolved for future generations to deal with. This data reinforces just how urgent that task is so that our high school and college graduates can find jobs and lead successful, productive lives in Michigan.
“The consequences of accepting the status quo are apparent in these trends. Losing our best and brightest young adults to other states, or failing to rejuvenate our urban areas, are not acceptable options. Fundamental change is needed and we will achieve that by working together with relentless positive action. The challenges posed by these census numbers will be met. We will use these census trends as guideposts as we implement new, collaborate approaches that move our state forward.”
Think of the 2010 census numbers as the “thud” moment for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.
Michigan has been a slow-growth state since the 1970s. Detroit’s population has been dropping for 60 years.
But while the trends may be familiar, the stark numbers for the first decade of the 21st Century are jarring evidence of a city and state hitting bottom. With a thud.
Or so we hope.
Maybe, just maybe, future historians will note that Michigan’s revival began after it was the only state in the union to lose population from 2000-10, a period when Detroit alone lost 25% of its people — and the state’s auto industry employment plunged 50%, from 1,130,000 to 566,000.
Reality can no longer be denied. No sane person can expect a return to the Detroit or Michigan that once were.
Now the imperative is to rebuild, to create something fresh, to quit the bickering and get on with life.
For examples of successful resurgence, look no further than three of Detroit’s sports teams:
• From 1967-82, the pitiful Detroit Red Wings were known as the “Dead Things.” Then Mike Ilitch bought the team in 1982, Steve Yzerman was drafted a year later and the Wings have been one of the NHL’s top teams ever since.
• The Detroit Pistons lost a then-record 21 straight NBA games in 1980, signed Isiah Thomas in 1981 and built the “Bad Boys” team that would win back-to-back titles by decade’s end.
• Baseball’s Detroit Tigers lost an American League-record 119 games in 2003; three years later, they were in the World Series.
Leaders and ingredients
I was struck by the confluence of events Tuesday in downtown Detroit as the census numbers went public.
At Cobo Hall, UAW President Bob King was addressing his union’s first bargaining convention since the auto industry upheaval of 2008-09 pushed Chrysler and General Motors into bankruptcy. The UAW must navigate a tricky new path to serve its rank-and-file members while helping GM, Ford and Chrysler avoid future collapse.
A short walk away, 700 people attended a luncheon meeting of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, where Mayor Dave Bing, auto mogul Roger Penske and others talked brightly of new companies and young workers moving into Detroit and of plans for light rail along Woodward.
It might be a stretch to compare Detroit and Michigan’s challenges to the turnarounds of local sports teams.
But it was no accident that new managers and team leaders (Ilitch, Yzerman, Thomas, Jim Leyland) were pivotal in the sports examples.
And today, Detroit has a new mayor in Bing, Michigan a new governor in Rick Snyder. Ford has revived under Alan Mulally. GM, Chrysler and the UAW all have new leaders, too.
Everybody in Detroit and Michigan heard that thud Tuesday, the unmistakable clunk of hitting bottom. Now if only everybody can quit bickering long enough, let the bounce back begin.