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Talkin’ Cities and CDCs: The Followup to Last Week’s Forefront

Last week’s Forefront, on the ever-growing role of community development corporations in carrying out local governmental responsibilities, gained some traction in Detroit and elsewhere. Here’s a roundup of the ensuing discussion so far.

The Avalon Bakery, one of several businesses setting down roots in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood thanks to involvement from a local CDC. Credit: Marvin Shaouni

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Last week, we brought you a Forefront story by Detroit-based writer Anna Clark on the growing influence of non-profit community development corporations (CDCs) in recovering cities such as her own.

As a quick reminder, the crux of the matter is how much power and responsibility private organizations should take on when local governments lack the resources to perform all the functions normally expected of them. (For a much more thorough look at the issue, you should go read the article — it’s free, unlike most Forefront installments.)

Given our surprisingly robust readership in Motor City, the story generated quite a bit of discussion, both in the Detroit area and nationally. For one, a full version of Clark’s story appeared on Salon, which in turn earned an excerpt on the Huffington Post’s Detroit edition.

But more importantly, local media and commentators interested in the issue chimed in with their own perspectives. Several blogs based out of both Detroit and Cleveland — the two cities Clark highlighted as having particularly influential CDCs at the helm of revitalization efforts in certain neighborhoods — took notice, including Curbed Detroit. So did the highly specialized blog Public-Private Passion, which drew a comparison between the questions facing CDCs and one of history’s greatest sketch comedy routines.

Rick Cohen, writing over at the Nonprofit Quarterly, makes a fair critique of the idea that CDCs can or should replace local city governments. However, he implies that Clark took this side and argued for this point in her article, which isn’t the case. In an email to NAC, Clark responds, “My piece was not saying that CDCs should take on the responsibilities of government, but rather that some of them are taking on the responsibilities of government — and then asking: ‘should they?’”

On Monday, Clark appeared on a public radio program in Detroit to discuss and expand upon the questions raised in her article. Click here to listen as she talks it over with actual Detroiters who live in neighborhoods shaped by the work of CDCs.

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Tags: community development corporations

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