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Welcome to 2011. . . A New Era in Landscape

By George Schmok

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2011!

Since we are entering into 2011, coming out of the great recession, it is time to look forward at how land planning and your skills will be utilized in the years ahead.

Of particular note is a news item on page 99 of this issue about Detroit. Coupled with the mainstream news that, per the latest census, people are leaving the populous northern cities and moving to the wide open sunbelt states of the South, it appears the predictions that people are leaving the city for the suburbs is coming to fruition.

Apparently the mayor of Detroit is telling his citizens that if they continue to live on the fringes of the city they will no longer reap the full benefits of the tax payments they make to the city. Instead he is directing them to move to core downtown areas or face political and service isolation.

The reason is that so many people have left the city that it can no longer service the 139 square miles of annexed territory. Could it possibly be that so much of the tax money sent to the city pays for pensions and entitlements that, with the recession, it just can't keep on supplying those weighty utilities and protection services to those who like to live in their traditional family homes?

Funny, but it always seems that the first things cities cut (or at least threaten to cut) are police, fire, water and sewage services, but never the salaries, pensions and entitlement programs. Well, that could be changing . . .

First of all, American cities, especially the bigger cities, are overburdened with bogus spending programs and people are just beginning to see the folly of paying into that system. Historically, bigger cities have annexed smaller cities in their growth paths, claiming the efficiencies of centralizing services. In reality, many of these land grabs are designed to enhance the budget more than the service package.

So, what will happen to the people who live on the fringes of the city and don't want to move downtown? The mayor says they will lose services. I suspect the city will lose its territory and smaller collectives will re-annex their territory and begin supplying their own services. This is a trend that could become the new reality of the green movement. Not huddling the masses but instead localizing the services.

If I'm a policeman in Detroit, am I looking forward to a more dense population, or would I rather live and work in the suburbs? If I live on the outskirts of town, but closer to the sewage treatment facility, do I leave my comfortable home or do I get together with my neighbors and annex the plant and then sell the services to the neighboring city?

A few years ago National Geographic wrote about the efficiencies and profitability of decentralized electrical grids. They put forth the case that many smaller generating plants are more efficient and 'Green' than big mega plants. The Navy has adopted that same approach to propelling aircraft carriers. Instead of two big screws at the back, dozens of propellers spread across the bottom of the ship provide more efficient, reliable power and allows them to better adjust to demand.

As landscape architects and land planners, it is time for you to look at the new tools of sustainability and new realities of design and planning. Companies are leaving the tax burdens of the inner cities and finding sustainable terrain to build their plants and offices. As they move from the cities the work force will follow and development will spread out to accommodate them.

India is the most populated country in world, or soon will be. Other than metropolitan Mumbai (13.8 million), Delhi (12.5 million) and a handful of cities with 3-5 million populations, the vast majority of the population is spread throughout the country.

Unfortunately they haven't figured out the ways and means of delivering sanitized services, but that doesn't mean WE can't. In fact with a growing population, increasingly dense cities will ultimately become unsustainable. You are in a position to influence that transition. I can't wait to see what this new decade will bring . . .

God Bless and Happy New Year!

George Schmok, Publisher



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December 10, 2019, 6:55 pm PDT

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