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Cities you love, cities you marry.

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Mar. 23rd, 2011 | 01:44 pm

An essay for urbanites.

Last Saturday I found myself in Flint again for my capstone project, this time to distribute flyers to every household in the neighborhood about a public input session to ensure the house renovation reflects what its neighbors want. Our group spoke to a few folks on porches and through windows that weekend morning, and got an overall positive reception. But among about three hundred households, these interactions were few and far between. It was extraordinarily quiet as I went from door to door, except my timid footsteps on the many many creaky porches and crumbling stoops. I know too that these are mostly occupied structures, though lots of them look like they've been left untended for years (of course, that's probably true when it comes to house maintenance but mostly due to a lack of means). In the meantime, Michigan's census data was released and shows that Flint lost about 22,000 residents over the last decade. I don't think all of this was due to people moving away either, partially because the surrounding county also lost population, but mostly because the average age is quite high and many have just been deaths due to old age.

Of course, there are still about 100,000 people in Flint, and maybe 700 in this neighborhood. The experience of being in Flint and bringing about a positive outcome while not being a resident has got me thinking about what it means to live and love a place like Flint. When the house you grew up is gone, your high school is closed and either gone or sitting in place falling apart, how do you feel about your city? How do you show a commitment to the place you love when it is physically crumbling, unstable, emptying out? I don't know yet, and I only hope that outcomes of this work will include a tangible improvement in the neighborhood's building stock, and foot traffic that gives the neighborhood some badly needed life.

Meanwhile in my former city of eight years, a mass event to profess locals' love of Durham, NC was also held last Saturday. Marry Durham was part street festival and part public proclamation that Durham is a city with many people that love living, working, and playing there.


1,200 or so Durhamites take the plunge.


Now, I do find an event like this a little corny. But because Durham is so close to the larger, faster-growing, and slicker-looking Raleigh, it often is derided as more crime-ridden and less pleasant. I spent enough time living there to say that this is bull (although of course both cities experience crime), and that Durham is better at being racially integrated and knowing good food than our next door neighbor, among many other benefits. Other Durhamites have of course long known of the false perceptions and creatively worked against them, including a long-time Durham, Love Yourself! campaign. So if Marry Durham was another opportunity to do that, I see why and I think it's cute. Flint is not growing, as Durham is, and has a variety of other issues that make it difficult to celebrate living there. But if I could find a way to gather 1,200 Flint residents in any occasion, including that of professing the commitment to their hometown that I know is there, I would jump at the chance.


Wool E. Bull gets in on the action.

Photos courtesy of the Durham CVB and are reproduced under a Creative Commons BY-ND-NC 3.0 License.
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Comments {5}

dendren

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from: dendren
date: Mar. 23rd, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
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I just saw something the other night about many cities losing residents in dramatic numbers. I remember Detroit was one that blew me away... didn't realize it was happening in Flint also.

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Mar. 23rd, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
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In a way Flint's situation is worse because all they have to keep people in the city are two universities and the remaining GM plants, and a much smaller town could support that. Detroit has lots of manufacturing and universities, plus it has lots of state and federal gov't workers, and is a trucking and food processing center so there's always going to be some economic base there (sorry so long, sigh).

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mark

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from: kishenehn
date: Mar. 23rd, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
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I really wish you'd take the City Manager's job out here where I live.

(Of course, we'd have to figure out a way to get rid of the current city manager first, but hey ... :-)

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Mar. 23rd, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
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Hah, there's always a way to do that. Sadly Montana is not currently in my geographic focus for jobs. ;)

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mark

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from: kishenehn
date: Mar. 24th, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
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I would have been amazed if it were. :-p

Hopefully you're not excluding the entire American west, though!

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