I have had over 40 years experience in the field of economic development in both rural and environments.
I would be interested in your opinions as to what the engineering approach vs the environmental approach would propose to the present day City of Detroit to initiate a process of recovery. I don't work there but the images of the community as portrayed in the recent broadcast of "60 Minutes" shakes the "what the heck" side of my brain. Makes me wonder who fell asleep at the wheel in Motor City.
While I agree that we can't "engineer success" I also believe that an engineering approach may be part of the solution if we can get engineers to not just approach the "problem" with linear thinking.
At 3,000 square miles, Detroit is larger than many U S Counties. Most of those counties have both rural and urban environments, rely on infrastructure, imagination, an engaged citizenry, and collaboration of the public and private sectors to manage threats and create opportunities. In my humble opinion many public sector managers make a huge mistake looking only at where a community can cut expenses and loose all vision of where could we create more non-tax income. Could it be that part of the solution could come from historical experiences from the 1940's and the early 1800's?
A concept of the WPA program was that there is no room for idle hands and minds. Historically, as America was logged off in the early 1800's, that land lay barren and unwanted but was made available for higher and better uses such as agriculture and commercial/industrial development. Portions of that land were also converted to the National Forests under the Clark-McNarry Act (which Congress ignores to this day) In many rural areas, "poor farms" were established to house the homeless and create a self sustaining commercial model.
With the technology available today, could an approach to Detroit recovery include recycling building materials for road beds, concrete etc, contaminated soils for a bituminous paving mix, create larger cleared parcels for livestock or dairy production, utilize the manure and green-chop waste for methane-based or bio-mass energy production, fertilizer and bio-tech productions? A workforce development component could be added for value added agriculture, meat production and processing, growing feed, etc. with the City pulling revenue from various income streams. Urban types are not real familiar with the contributions that are made to a local economy with a 3,000 head dairy operation that sits on 40 acres or less.
"If we only do, what we have always done, the results will seldom vary"
Just a thought