Measure 2

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This article is about the shrinking of Detroit's city boundaries, known to residents and scholars as Measure 2. These events are ICly different from RL though, like many of the TPs and situations on From The Ashes: Detroit by Night they are inspired by actual, RL events. For those curious about the RL reality of Detroit's situation, external links to various news sources and photography projects are provided at the end of this article.

These events and persons' names are used without permission. Our use of Detroit's economic plight, and the name of former Mayor David Bing, are in no way intended to make light of the situation. This game's founder became fascinated with Detroit's situation and the idea of shrinking a city while studying urban planning in pursuit of his master's degree.


In January 2013 the City Clerk certified City of Detroit Public Measure 2: A Referendum To Approve The Relocation of Persons Living In Identified Distressed Neighborhoods And The Disincorporation of Those Neighborhoods. Despite originating from within the City Planning Office (and thus the Mayor's office) as the 'Detroit Downsizing Plan,' this event is known as Measure 2 for short as the public referendum is seen as the turning point in public opinion.

Narrowly passing with 52.1% of the popular vote, the referendum was a repeat of a City Council measure to the same effect that drew intense public skepticism but withstood subsequent legal challenges on the grounds that the use of the takings powers were appropriate (see '6th Circuit Decision' below). Rather than continue to execute the plan, Mayor David Bing instructed the City Clerk to hold a public referendum before the relocation would proceed. Despite the public approval of the measure, the relocation along with the State of Michigan seizing control of the City in the wake of it's financial troubles, is credited with ending the political career of Mayor Bing who did not seek re-election in 2013.

Lead Up

The plans to downsize Detroit began to enter the discussion as early as 2009, gaining media attention by 2010 when problems with the proposition began to emerge. In 2012 a block-by-block survey of Detroit's neighborhoods was completed and recommendations for which neighborhoods to abandon and which neighborhoods to preserve was issued by the City's Planning Office. The recommendations immediately drew outrage and protests, predominately from proponents of Detroit's East Side being retained. The plan called for the East Side to be fairly gutted. West Side and Jefferson Corridor neighborhoods would not escape unscathed but many of those neighborhoods were import routes from the city core, to fairly intact neighborhoods along the outskirts of Detroit.

2012 Elections

Recognizing the potential for Measure 2 to create a political backlash, Mayor Bing ordered the City Clerk to include the measure on the 2012 ballot as a voter's referendum to ride along with the state and federal elections that same year. The campaigns around the Measure were intense, deeply negative, and divisive for the City. Those who supported the measure were portrayed as unamerican cowards, carpetbaggers, Chicken Littles, and (of course) Nazis - likening the relocations to concentration camps was an especially popular tactic for 'anti-2' ads and demonstrations. Those who opposed the measure, meanwhile, were portrayed as ignorant cowards, ostriches, rednecks, anarchist mobs, and in a series of particularly high-production value ads: Nero playing his fiddle.

In 2013, after several recounts, the City Clerk's office certified that Measure 2 had passed with 52.1% of the popular vote. Despite there being (barely) public support for Measure 2, enforcement and execution proved to be fraught with every imaginable difficulty. Holdouts refused a series of escalating buyout offers which included all-expenses paid professional moving to the resident's choice of housing stock in one of the areas of the city that were being retained. Critics of the Measure would point to the fact that the popular vote could not possibly have been won by the individuals effected by the relocations as, by definition, they were clustered in small pockets of a handful individuals each. Exit polling done by a number of institutions suggested that the vote fell along lines of class and location - that all individuals in the abandoned districts voted against the measure, while wealthy individuals (many of whom lived in the areas of the city being favored by the retention of key neighborhoods) voted uniformly for the measure. By this point, the State of Michigan had siezed control of Detroit from the Mayor's office and City Council and pressed forward with the relocations.

6th Circuit Decision

The first forced relocations happened in East Detroit, around the St. Aubin and Mack Avenue intersection. The City of Detroit issued an Eminent Domain claim against nine families in that area, compelling them to sell their homes at twelve times the assessed market value in addition to their choice of housing stock from a catalog of tax foreclosed properties in neighborhoods still being retained. Two families complied with the order and were - almost immediately - beset by violent repraisals from their neighbors. Detroit and Michigan State Police were assigned to the area, around the clock, to keep the peace. The remaining seven families, supported by a coalition of non-profits including the ACLU, brought suit in Michigan State Court, seeking a stay on Measure 2. In July of 2013 The State Court granted a preliminary injunction of the relocations, but allowed the City to proceed with it's closure of public utilities including water and sewer service.

This outcome was not satisfactory to either party and both sides filed cross appeals to the 6th Circuit court of Appeals which agreed to fast-track the case on the grounds that cutting utilities was 'forced relocation in deed, if not in word.' Both sides filed for summary judgement.

The decision, Piper v. Orr, was handed down in October. Measure 2, the opinion went on to affirm, was a proper use of the takings power under the doctrine of Eminent Domain.

"Whenever the court is called upon to review an exercise of the Takings Clause, it is almost certain to be a study in human tragedy. The City of Detroit is faced with a sort of Sophie's Choice: either they relieve themselves of the financial burden of these neighborhoods, or the whole of the city must be condemned to an irrecoverable cycle of bankruptcy and further decline. This strategy, while dire and regrettable, is nonetheless vital to the survival of Detroit, as a City. We remain unpersuaded by appellant's argument that 'public use' must require the re-development of the parcel for public utility. The high court ruled in Kelo in favor of a private re-development for the purposes of increasing tax revenues for the city. We find the intention of Measure 2 consistent with this doctrine."


The City of Detroit, while the courts worked their way through the issues, did not proceed with relocations as they were (technically) under an injunction from the state courts. They did not sit idle, however. Plans were drawn up to move swiftly. The moment the 6th Circuit's decision was entered, the City launched it's campaign, relocating hundreds of individuals in each of four waves. Those waves began in late 2013, the second wave in 2015, the third wave is finishing now.

External Links

These links represent some of the inspiration for these IC events.

  1. [1] - A photography project recording the decline of Detroit.
  2. [2] - A Detroit News article on the difficulties with Mayor Bing's plans.