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Primary 2012

This primary signals many changes for Detroit. The first being, the city effectively lost a congressional seat to Oakland County. The Congressional Black Caucus also lost a legislator when Gary Peters was elected to the new 14th district.

The 14th district, one of the state’s largest Democratic districts, was represented by John Conyers since the 1960s.

RoseMary Robinson and John Olumba beat back the corporate media-endorsed candidates and pulled out victories. These state representatives will be more important than ever as Detroit’s policy will increasingly be set in Lansing.

Olumba has already proved himself to be a bold leader, unlike his opponent, standing up against his colleagues in Lansing when he opposed immediate effect of Public Act 4. He also was the only Detroit legislator to call for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano to step down amid corruption charges.

We, however, were disheartened by the final results in the Monique Baker McCormick vs. Burton Leland race. The upset would have been a great victory for that district.

Lastly, the DIA millage passed — barely getting through Macomb County voters. Celebrate by taking your family for a free visit, then gear up for Election Day Nov. 6.

Land grab

As we struggle with a changing city — population loss, disinvestment and gentrification — it is instructive to consider both Malik Yakini’s column “Land and Power” and Eric T. Campbell’s front page story on lower east side neighborhoods increasingly supporting Hantz Farm’s proposals. Two different approaches to an evolving relationship with the city’s land.

When Hollywood director James Cameron (“Avatar”) bought 1,011 hectares or 2,498 acres in New Zealand, containing a fresh water lake, vineyard and farmland, local people reacted with fear and anger. One woman talked about access being blocked from a lake where her family grew up. People discussed undue control of local resources.

Their fears are similar to those of many Detroiters.

And as Yakini reminds us, we must all ask: How much land should be sold to any single developer or consortium of developers?

What happens? What are the consequences? It seems as if Hantz Farms has worked with the community and garnered their support, but the questions still remain.

Detroiters are usually dismissed as hysterical, paranoid or conspiracy theorists, so often perceived as the blockers of “relentless positive action,” but the facts are real. Most Detroiters believe they are losing ground because plans are devised to make use of Detroit from Belle Isle to Hantz Farms in boardrooms and closed meetings. Then they are brought to the people for a buy-in when times are hard. Revenue for the city has fallen, the need for resources is real. But we must all acknowledge that this is a different and imperfect process compared to the people themselves discussing and working toward new use for Detroit’s land.

Land-grab fears are not imaginary. They are real and justified.

This is not a problem unique to Detroit or New Zealand. And in an age when wealth is increasingly consolidated in fewer hands, we must not only ask the question, but consider and respond to it: How much land should be sold to any single developer? We must also ask, consider and respond to the questions: What rights of ownership do the people of that land have? What is the responsibility of the buyers to those people?

As Yakini writes: “This is a time for bold, innovative thinking that is informed by history and guided by values that work for the betterment of humanity.”

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