Detroit's Mayor Bing to Challenge Census Figures

Census: Detroit's population dropped 25 percent from 2000 to 2010.

ByABC News
March 23, 2011, 12:04 PM

March 23, 2011 -- Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he plans on appealing U.S census figures that report the city's population has plunged 25 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Detroit's population dropped from 951,270 to 713,777 over the past decade, according to census numbers released Tuesday.

Bing claims the city has at least 750,000 people, which he says is an important threshold for qualifying for some state and federal financial programs.

The mayor intends to challenge the Census figures and says he doesn't believe the numbers "will stand up." Bing, however, has not said why he believes the Census Bureau may have missed more than 35,000 residents.

"I don't think that it's something that you challenge. What I think is that the city did not put enough effort into getting the count out," said Kurt Metzge, director of Data Driven Detroit. "It's too late to complain. If you do not do the job when you have the opportunity, don't complain about the results. It's an undercount, but that's not the Census Bureau's fault."

The city's precipitous plunge helped Michigan become the only state to suffer an overall population decline during the 10-year period.

"It's a stunning drop in population. Except for New Orleans after Katrina, it's basically the largest drop for a U.S. city in history," said Andrew Beveridge, professor of sociology at Queens College in New York. "I think industrially they have to figure out what to do because there are a bunch of cities that have had population declines, and they all are industrial cities. They have to find an economic base or the decline will continue."

None of the reputable estimations had the city's population as low as the census report, Metzger told ABC News.

"The surprise was not that the city had lost population. The surprise was how much was lost. I figured the population would be 775,000, but the estimates were pretty wild," said Metzger.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says the census numbers are definitely a wake up call.

"The census figures clearly show how crucial it is to reinvent Michigan," Snyder said. "It is time for all of us to realign our expectations so that they reflect today's realities. We cannot cling to the old ways of doing business."

The realities Michigan faces are an auto industry that has dramatically downsized and a major city with approximately 10,000 abandoned buildings and homes.

The desolate landscape of Detroit's abandoned areas now attract people from all over the world. Tourists enter structures illegally and take pictures of the city's decaying buildings, posting those photos and videos online, a practice that has been called "ruin porn."

Many of the buildings have not just been the subject of pictures, but also the target of vandals. They have been scavenged for anything of value and many have had windows broken, while others have been set on fire.

Last year, Bing started a program to demolish 10,000 abandoned or vacant buildings by 2014 as part of his efforts to reduce the size of the city. Plans call for the vacant land to be used for urban farming or to be turned back into countryside.