Citizens District Councils have been a basic part of almost every State’s blighted areas Rehabilitation Acts. These Acts were initiated in the 1930′s and 1940′s to clear blight in major cities. Michigan’s Act was enacted in 1945.
The whole notion of a Citizens District Council was one in which local community business people and residents were permitted to voice their feelings about a blight clearance project. Frequently, our local governmental officials will take a position that unless the Citizens District Council supported a project, the project would not move forward. At the same time, the elected officials’ desire to have a project created a Citizens District Council appointed by some local politicians so that the CDC would have individuals already in favor of the project. The end result was that Citizens District Councils never provided the “grassroots” democratic action that was contemplated in the original enactment.
The councils are merely advisory, and staffed by volunteers–CDCs in Detroit haven’t received any public funding since the 1990s. They’re meant to empower citizens in designated “urban renewal zones” by providing them with a direct line to city government, and a voice in how local development progresses.
But last month—in one of his final acts as the city’s fully-empowered emergency manager–Kevyn Orr issued an order abolishing CDCs in Detroit.
CDCs “no longer align with the City’s urban renewal strategy, and, in some cases, present a barrier to the effective and efficient development of blighted areas of the City,” the order reads.
The move came as a surprise to many, and provoked mixed reactions from people involved in community-based development in Detroit.