Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 Poletown: 25 years after Previous Next
Top of pageBottom of page

Detroitnerd
Member
Username: Detroitnerd

Post Number: 561
Registered: 07-2004
Posted From: 209.69.221.253
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 1:07 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Didn't see the media marking the anniversary, until I saw this:

http://counterpunch.org/mckenn a03092006.html

Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of General Motors' Notorious Eminent Domain Battle in Michigan

We All Live in Poletown Now

By BRIAN McKENNA

"You wanna run all the people out
This what you're all about
Treat poor people just like trash
Turn around and make big cash"

Open Letter (to a Landlord) by Living Color

Twenty five years ago this March 4th, Poletown Michigan made CBS national news as the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to consider whether or not Detroit could demolish a vibrant multi-cultural neighborhood to build a General Motors Cadillac plant.

Under pressure from GM, the City of Detroit had declared in 1981 that it could take private property and transfer it to a profit making corporation under the U.S. Constitution's 5th Amendment, which said that land should be taken for "public use." Traditionally the eminent domain clause had been interpreted to mean using sovereign power to build a public good like a road, a library or school, not a Fortune 500 corporation. Poletown residents fought back fiercely, but the MI Supreme Court gave Detroit/GM the green light.

Lost were 4,200 people, 1,500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and a hospital. Father Joseph Karasiewicz, the 59 year old pastor of Poletown's Immaculate Conception Church, was removed from power by the Catholic Archdiocese for resisting the bulldozers. He died suddenly of a heart attack a few months after his church was demolished. Many parishioners believed it was due to all the stress.

Today citizen homeowner fights are taking place all over the country. In places like Norwood, Ohio (contesting a shopping complex), Long Beach, New Jersey (contesting condominiums) and in Rivera Beach, Florida where a mostly black, blue collar community of 6,000 is fighting an eminent domain attempt to destroy their homes to build a yachting and upper-scale residential complex.

Welcome to Poletown USA, where no one's home is protected from capital's destructive winds.

Taken for a Ride

In a mammoth reversal of fortunes, General Motors has sunk near the edges of bankruptcy. In November 2005, GM announced 30,000 layoffs across North America as its market share continued to plummet. In January, Ford Motor Company announced another 30,000 jobs. On the chopping block is its Wixom assembly plant in suburban Detroit. Media portrayed workers crying and in despair. It's an eerie replay of Flint Michigan (which lost 30,000 in the 1980s after GM abandoned the city), much of Michigan is reeling from its own shock and awe.

As GM goes so does the local economy. Detroit's Wayne County ended January with 3,364 homes in active foreclosure, the highest of any U.S. county by more than 1,000, according to Foreclosure.com of Boca Raton, Florida. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, at 6.7%, Michigan has doubled its foreclosures over the past two years. In the country as a whole there were three million foreclosures over the past five years.

Detroit may be the bellwether for many regions of the country as the U.S. gallops towards a tipping point.

But with bad news in the offing, Detroit and the nation's corporate culture decided to do the only reasonable thing. . . . throw a party!
Top of pageBottom of page

Supersport
Member
Username: Supersport

Post Number: 9931
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 64.118.137.228
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 1:11 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

What a party it was too!
Top of pageBottom of page

Gogo
Member
Username: Gogo

Post Number: 1324
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 198.208.159.19
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 1:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

And people still call C.A.Y a mayor of the people.
Top of pageBottom of page

Royce
Member
Username: Royce

Post Number: 1505
Registered: 07-2004
Posted From: 70.227.207.76
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 10:15 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It's a shame that so much land was taken to build the GM plant and only 14 acres of the 650 acres, according to the article, are actually used for the plant. I passed by there today and said to myself, "How much bigger is the actual plant than Dodge Main?"

Driving along the I-94 service drive, you can barely see the plant. It's so far from the service drive, which got me thinking about how the old Chrysler Jefferson plant was situated right up to the street, and you could see all of the workers coming and going during a shift change.

I grew up in this area and remember Dodge Main. My older brother had a summer job there and my father and I would drop him off and pick him up. An uncle of mine used to be a guard there. I also remember St. Joseph's Hospital and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. A grade school buddy of mine had a cousin that lived on Grand Boulevard in a house that sat just north of I-94.

All of those structures were bulldozed to make room for the GM Poletown plant, yet how much could have been saved if they weren't going to use all of the land? Yeah, it's too late now. I know that when they built the Jefferson North plant they bulldozed far fewer structures. However, when I pass the plant now, I cringe at all of that land fronting Jefferson, with no sign of workers making that shift change.

BTW, I do think if the GM Poletown plant closed, that land would be perfect for a shopping mall. I did some triangulation to determine a central location for a mall that would be between Eastland, Northland, and Fairlane Malls and found that this area would be the best location for a Detroit mall. It's near two major freeways and you have all that land for parking. I know it would never happen but at least if you had a mall there you'd have more activity in the area. Because, as of this moment, that area is so dead.
Top of pageBottom of page

Hornwrecker
Member
Username: Hornwrecker

Post Number: 901
Registered: 04-2005
Posted From: 63.41.8.202
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 10:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Poletown aerial

I seem to remember, when finding photos for the Detroit School thread (now in the Detroit Memories section), that two schools were bulldozed for Poletown.
Top of pageBottom of page

Jimaz
Member
Username: Jimaz

Post Number: 372
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 68.2.191.57
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 10:53 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hornwrecker, that is one particularly beautiful photo! Where did you find that?
Top of pageBottom of page

Hornwrecker
Member
Username: Hornwrecker

Post Number: 903
Registered: 04-2005
Posted From: 63.41.8.202
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 10:58 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think it was at the UoM Bentley Historical Library online, but it's been awhile so I'm not sure.
Top of pageBottom of page

Ray
Member
Username: Ray

Post Number: 638
Registered: 06-2004
Posted From: 68.41.174.244
Posted on Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 11:23 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"Capital's destruction"? What in the hell are you talking about. These takings are the antithesis of private property. I love how the left is totally unburdened by the need to be consistent or intellectually honest. It's the government that takes the property not the market.

If you think life in a market-based economy is tough, go to the library and read up on life in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, Cambodia or virtually any other communist country. No freedom, no hope, material deprivation and more often than not mass murder on a scale of millions.

Go find a Russian emigree over 40 and ask him or her what a picnic life in the USSR was. Ask him or her how much they hate capitalism and free markets.
Top of pageBottom of page

Mikeg
Member
Username: Mikeg

Post Number: 21
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 69.136.155.244
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2006 - 12:26 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

You can't always believe everything you read - that 14 acre claim is bogus.

The GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant (that is its correct name, internally to GM it is called "D-Ham") contains 3.5 million square feet of production area, which is equivalent to 80.3 acres. Looking at the photo above, it is readily apparent that the rest of the parcel is used for other things like the power house, employee parking lots, marshalling areas for loading new cars onto trucks and railcars, plus a squeak and rattle shakedown track.

The old multi-story Dodge Main type of building has been obsolete for about the last 60 years. Most, if not all, new assembly plants built since WWII have been constructed on a single level to facilitate workflow and minimize conveyors and elevators.

I do not agree with the way eminent domain has been and continues to be used and abused by local governments here in MI and elsewhere. However, if the City of Detroit had not been able to quickly assemble that size of a parcel, GM would likely have built that new plant on a "greenfield" site somewhere outside the Detroit city limits (GM did not have the lead time available to procure all of the parcels to create a brownfield site by themselves - the new plant had to be ready in time for a planned new product launch). Since the new plant was intended to produce replacement products for those being made at the obsolete Fleetwood and Clark St. plants, GM would have taken a ton of heat if they went "greenfield" somewhere else.

As it turned out, those two old plants were kept in production for several years after D-Ham opened, due to continued strong demand for the old products produced there.
Top of pageBottom of page

Jjaba
Member
Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3260
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2006 - 12:45 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that a Connecticut eminent domain land grab for a private developer is constitutional.

Long gone is the notion that your house is your castle. When somebody wants your place, even the govt. can conspire with the private developer to get it.

That's right, everybody in the USA lives in Poletown.

jjaba, it's the law.
Top of pageBottom of page

Jjaba
Member
Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 3261
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 67.160.138.107
Posted on Friday, March 10, 2006 - 1:00 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

jjaba recommends the movie called "Poletown" which came out in the heat of the battle. It featured the visits of Ralph Nader in advocacy of the old Poletown neighborhood. Father Joe, his church, and the parishoners are featured.

Of all the advocates, Nader had a personal interest in the GM site after his landmark books on the safety of GM's products.

Ray's comments are quite a ways out of context. jjaba has been to all the countries you mentioned.
To compare those communist countries with the USA is one hell of a stretch. To equate our basic property rights with those countries is way off the mark and has nothing to do with left-right politics. Plenty of very conservative Republican Capitalists would say that the Govt. in collusion with a private company shouldn't receive emminent domain of the homes of others.

Please, for crissakes, walk a mile in the shoes of those "car shop Johns" who had to sell under the gun of King Coleman Young's Administration. It was tyranny at the time for them.

Those folks are still around. Talk to them at the Mall in Sterling Heights. That's where GM put them.

jjaba, A bit of Detroit History.

Add Your Message Here
Posting is currently disabled in this topic. Contact your discussion moderator for more information.