One of the reasons "neighborhoods" don't seem to have as much influence as previously on civic/political matters is that the resident-mix isn't what it used to be. And it isn't necessary to hark back to the days when Royal Oak's population was at 90,000-plus, rather than today's 50,000-plus, to make the point.
Just looking at the student-count in our schools tells the story. In 1975, there were over 20,000 students in the district. Neighborhoods were still made up largely of families. Today, we have 5,000-plus students and the resident-mix is made up mostly of seniors, singles, gays/lesbians, and childless couples. So, much respected and much ridiculed "family values" are now broken up into a cluster of "special interest" groups, among which it is difficult to generate a neighborhood mindset.
The phenomenon was already noticeable during former City Manager Tom Hoover's service. I used to sit in on monthly meetings he had arranged for spokespersons, mostly women, for the 30-or-so active neighborhood associations. Attendance at those gatherings, each of which was attended also by a department head, steadily decreased until one day at the M&M Senior Center only Hoover, then-financial manager Don Johnson and I were present. The program was discontinued.
Today, everything from retail shopping to partisan politics reflects those changes in demographics, which pleases some and worries others. The net effect on neighborhoods has been to weaken their previous dominance in the civic/political arena.
Carrying the anti-millage argument to extremes
Disappointment and irritation over CITCOM's ethics issue are starting to affect residents' mood re the proposed millage. For one thing, there is a measurably diminishing reluctance to openly oppose the millage. For another, there is a measurably increasing tendency to personalize the anti-stance, by blaming this or that elected or appointed official and by citing the need to somehow "get out from under" the city's existing pension obligations
The most extreme position so far is, "Don't approve the millage. Let the city go broke. Then an emergency manager can ignore our incompetent leaders and make the necessary changes."
Frank Versagi is the editor of Versagi Voice.