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Monday, February 20, 2006


I'm currently reading Poletown: Community Betrayed, by Jeanie Wylie. The book documents the 1981 demolition of "Poletown," a neighborhood in Detroit which was obliterated to make room for a Cadillac factory. General Motors had the full backing of Detroit's city government, especially that of then-mayor Coleman Young. Young and GM used a just-passed "quick-take" eminent domain law to acquire and demolish 1,500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and a hospital. The legality of their action was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1981, although in 2004 the court reversed the decision (a bit late for the Poletown residents).

Here's what Poletown looked like before 1981:

Here's a TerraServer image of the Cadillac plant (I rotated the picture with north down to match the general orientation of the photo above, which would have been taken approximately from the lower left of this one).

The freeway just above (south) of the factory in I-94, while the freeway near the right of the picture is I-75. Construction of both freeways destroyed numerous Detroit neighborhoods as well, including parts of Poletown.

I requested the book from the library after the Supreme Court's infamous Kelo decision last summer, which upheld the "right" of government to take private property for private use (if it creates jobs or something). Both Poletown and Kelo were very clear examples of who has the power in this country (corporations), and who doesn't (people).

A good retrospective on Poletown is here.