Sprawl, inequity, and balkanization in metropolitan detroit: towards metropolitan system balance
In 1999, a few months after I moved to Michigan to work on my dissertation, I was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Detroit to provide an analysis of the challenges and opportunities related to sustainable development in the Detroit Metropolitan Region. I was asked therein to focus especially on the problems of suburban sprawl, central urban distress, and socioeconomic and racial inequity which had come so clearly to characterize the region. Following is the final version of the report that I presented the Archdiocesan Commission on Metropolitan Sprawl and Inequity. Significantly, while the Commission included a number of representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations from the area, regional policy leaders also contributed in active and substantial ways to the discourse. I believe that the Archbishop of Detroit, with his Staff, showed enormous wisdom and foresight in taking the lead in this matter, as the efforts which resulted were some of the most promising of so many of the earlier attempts by leaders of the region to comprehend and to address the challenge that we would now call metropolitan sustainability, as these problems are comprehensive of the economic, social, racial, cultural, and environmental health of the Region and its people. This was enormously compelling and important work for me at the time, which I found all the more exciting given the fact that the Archbishop recognized in it at once so many and serious connections between the welfare of the region and its people, and the prospects of the Church as a healthy and growing institution, but also the critical obligation which the Archdiocese had to exercise its special position as an organization which, by its very nature, must transcend the proliferating diversity of identities, interests, organizations, and structures which have driven the region's dysfunctions of division, opposition, and inequity. Unfortunately, the Archdiocese was not immune to the pressures of an increasingly distressed region, and soon found itself unable to sustain the efforts which it had initiated. I believe, however, that the work of the Archdiocese, thought cut short, did in fact contribute something significant and lasting to the increasing awareness in the region and in the State of Michigan as a whole that the challenges of central urban decline and suburban sprawl, along with all of the inequities of race, class, and space which attend them, belong to the region and to the State as a whole, and that neither the region nor the State can ever truly be proud, healthy, or whole until the systemic imbalances of the region are addressed, and the wounds of its people are healed.
An Analysis of Sprawl, Spatial Inequity, and the Context of Reform in the Detroit Region: A Report Commissioned by the Archdiocese of Detroit. June 1999: