Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ferndale's population decline is not cool

"Michigan .. enjoyed the dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation to see its population decline in the past decade.."

So starts a December 22 article from the Christan Science Monitor. Ferndale should be glad the national media isn't taking a closer look at its numbers as it might blemish its "cool city" press clippings.

Or worse, Ferndale's population decline may change the meaning of "cool" city to "frigid", and that won't attract the twenty-somethings.

In actual numbers, Michigan lost 54,804 people in 10 years. If the regional trend was actually 3.6% growth, then Michigan had to lose 412,588 to both nullify birth rates and remove actual numbers of real people.

Meanwhile, Ferndale lost 963 persons since 2000. As a percentage of its population, Ferndale lost 4.3% of its population to Michigan's 0.55%. In other words, Ferndale lost population at 7.8 times the rate of Michigan as a whole. If Ferndale should have grown 3.6% then it actually lost the equivalent of 1699 residents--nearly 170 people/year, or 7.69% attrition.

That's cool?

Contrary to former Mayor Covey's "it's no big deal" comment about Ferndale's population decline, the loss is actually an alarm, but perhaps too-high pitched to be noticed by politicians more attuned to gay rights, medical marijuana, downtown nightlife, and new parking decks than noise ordinances, or how the school district is lowering Ferndale's attractiveness with perennial sub-standard test scores and adult-ed students causing problems in the neighborhoods.

Heck, Ferndale has even lost vocal proponents and active citizens when their children became school-age.

But not to worry, we can still be Facebook Friends with them.

Ferndale's numbers are even more disturbing when it's size is considered relative to the state.

Ferndale lost 1.757% of Michigan's 54804, or 1/54th of the total, even though Ferndale's 3.9 square miles are less than 1/14000th of Michgian's 57324.

How can those numbers be appealing to business? How can those numbers appeal to families?  Htow can those numbers appeal to anyone thinking of the long-term value of a Ferndale purchase if every year there are fewer and fewer people in the city?

In 1990, Ferndale's population was 25,026. Since then Ferndale's lost 16% of its residents, 16% of its shoppers, 16% of its grocery needs, clothing , etc. etc. etc.

But is it really no big deal?

Ferndale's population decline is a big deal. Ferndale's neighborhoods are a big deal. Ferndale has more square-acerage of neighborhood than it does downtown, but the people that live in Ferndale aren't given nearly the attention at council meetings as Downtown Decoration Association, or DDA.  Somehow, the city council measures success more by the vacancy rate downtown than empty houses on our neighborhood streets.

And that's wrong.

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