Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Urban Farming Articles and Thoughts

There was an Urban Farming event hosted by Crain's today. I didn't get to go, but I'm hoping that I get some feedback from someone who did go. Sounds from a couple articles that things got a little bit heated.

My take, as Al Fields (City of Detroit) speaks to in the article, we should explore all types of land uses, and Hantz talked to diverse ownership models: private, common, nonprofit. And we must recognize that all economic development and property enhancement is a positive thing at this point in Detroit. Why shouldn't we diversify how we commoditize abandonment in Detroit to generate more tax revenue for the city and the state (expanded services for residents), and generate disposable income for those who get jobs?

It requires a diverse set of ownership models, and a master plan for maximizing the benefit to residents who invest in their community. We should explore enhancing the position of neighborhood nonprofits as direct subunits of government, and give them tools and direct incentives to execute a plan that is developed in common with city planners.

The master plan will drive organic development that maximizes accessibility to goods and services. In other words, Detroit (and Metro Detroit) has a huge opportunity to plan itself right so that the cost of accessing goods and services for our residents is decreased (leaving more money for enrichment).

Again, its all about plugging people into a system that they see direct value back from. As long as the system is audited against fraud, and there is strong communication and network building, everyone - citizens, nonprofits, and residents- should be able to plug into the redevelopment and ownership of Detroit and realize direct economic benefits. It takes a master plan so that people know where to invest, what they own, and put their money and energy into taking ownership of our community.

Great cities were not created by a single person - they are a collective expression of the will of their people who chose to locate around and support one another. Individual + Family + Community = City, and the citizens of Detroit can recreate the city together. Private investment (in the case of Hantz farms) is a positive variable in the equation.

A few more articles on urban farming:

Policy side thoughts:

Side thought 1: Could neighborhood nonprofits and citizens be incentivized in some way that would result in a tax increment returned directly to the community (a defined geographic area, perhaps to pay for say mowing the law, recycling)? (inverse property tax break). What could be done in real time that has positive community benefit and results in direct monetary reimbursement?

Side thought 2: Governments and nonprofits need to share common informational and accounting tools and build networks for real time communication (see nonprofits). The city of Detroit should work with the private sector to build a Detroit-customized nonprofit ecommerce system that will also serve as an informational network for nonprofits. Peoplemovers may be it if it can take on a true tool for government ecommerce. Trust is key, and auditing is crucial.

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