Detroit: Schools, urban farms, and a conversation

I’ve been meaning to post several Detroit-related items this week:

First, earlier this week, the Detroit papers reported that the city’s public schools are in serious trouble – even more serious trouble than usual.

“After months of financial projections, independent audits and declarations of financial emergency, the state-appointed financial manager for Detroit Public Schools submitted a report to the state today that paints a historically dire problem,” the Free Press reported.

It gets worse – “DPS will have to cut thousands of jobs and close as many as 50 schools over the next two years because the district has accumulated a $305-million deficit. And it should have seen the problem coming months ago, said Robert Bobb, the financial manager. The crisis could lead to more cries for mayoral control of the school system, a solution advocated by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.”

It’s a pretty depressing state of affairs. The health of cities is completely intertwined with the health of their public schools systems, plain and simple. And everything I read about the Detroit Public Schools (and many other urban school systems) paints such a terrible picture it is hard to imagine anything ever getting better. I know that’s a bad attitude to have; obviously the schools didn’t get this way overnight. But it’s still so overwhelming to think about.

So after that depressing item, here is something more hopeful:

A Detroit businessman has put forth a proposal that would “convert hundreds, even thousands, of vacant parcels in the city into urban agriculture,” the Free Press reports.

“Detroit already is home to hundreds of smaller community gardens. But Hantz’s proposal is the first to envision large-scale commercial farming.”

The article goes on to detail how foreclosed city, county, and state-owned properties could be used. Not everyone is in favor of this. One community-garden advocate pointed out that smaller gardens to a lot to bring communities together, as opposed to a large, commercial operation. But it’s an intriguing idea, and I hope we haven’t heard the last of it!

Thanks to Rust Wire reader Claudia Raleigh for bringing this item to my attention!

Finally, I want to plug an event that is happening in Detroit on Wednesday evening.

The magazine Next American City is hosting a conversation about the economy and how Detroit is working to reposition itself. It is part of the magazine’s Great Minds Great Cities Urban Nexus series.

It’s open to the public if anyone is interested in going. I can’t make it, so if any of you Rust Wire readers in Detroit want to go and report back what happens, it would be much appreciated! For more details on the when, where, and who, click here:


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Filed under Green Jobs, Urban Farming

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