This week I attended a Detroit Works Town Hall style meeting on the East Side–
Let’s back up. The Detroit Works Project is Mayor Bing’s plan for the future of Detroit. “Business as usual” is not acceptable in his eyes, and DWP is his administration’s attempt to put everything on a level playing field and move the city forward. As of late, the most outspoken concern is that the plan will involve forced resident relocation as the mayor focuses development and concentration of city services in key neighborhoods in an effort to “right-size” the city. This has been voraciously denied by the administration.
The overall master plan will be drafted in four Phases that involve engaging the community at each step. Phase 1 took place between July and December 2010 and had the Mayor’s office listening and learning, meeting with 5,000 local Detroiters in town hall style meetings all across the city where residents voiced concerns and ideas. From those discussions, the three areas of need the community voiced were the necessity of improving city services immediately, a desire for improved transportation and proper use/development of vacant land.
Phase 2 is currently underway with another 30+ community forums, one of which I attended at the Brenda Scott Academy of Theatre Arts on the East Side this past week. Based on the chaos that came from some of the Phase 1 meetings I had witnessed, I was a little unsure of what to expect. That said, what greeted me was overly pleasant including a door greeting, some literature (beautiful literature by the way, all of it very nicely designed) and bins full of chocolate chip cookies. Really, really, really, soft and delightfully chewy chocolate chip ones (I ate a whopping four of them before even reading said literature).
I took a seat, handled my space-age remote control clicker participation device (at varying times throughout the conversation there are polls to which you respond and the results are shown in real time which is kind of cool, btw) and soaked it all in. The crowd seemed light but was almost a perfect half-and-half mix of male and female (this I know because of real-time surveying results), while attendees were most frequently in the 40 and 50 year old age bracket. People were calm, mostly kept to themselves and focused their attention on the front of the room. What ensued with the presentation is available online for viewing and I would highly encourage you to have a look for yourself. Aside from being visually pleasant, it provides succinct data on where the city is right now, what people have to say about that, and what issues will be targeted in future strategic planning. Really, just look at the damn thing yourself. It will take five minutes and it’s worth it.
Phase 3 (May to August) involves a draft framework plan and six more community forums. Phase 4 (September to December) involves five additional forums and the release of a final strategic plan.
OK. Cut to the chase. Bottom line: Detroit Works Project is important. It is the system by which our Mayor is choosing to re-envision the city and therefore the more perspective we can funnel in to the system the better. With greater community insight, the more reflective and genuinely response-driven the result will be. So this ain’t no fire and brimstone cry, but get out to one of these meetings if only to eat the cookies. The process, flow and interesting data (read: good source of intelligent sounding dinner party figures) I think will probably pleasantly surprise you, and really, the whole space-age remote control real-time survey results are kind of fun. And if you hate all that, then, don’t eat dinner that night and just eat cookies. But really, I think you might be pleased, and just think, when it’s all said and done and Detroit is leading Rust Belt revival you can say you were a part of it. So give it a shot. The city needs you.
Go ahead curious one, check out the Detroit Works Project official website.