Communities taking census in stride

Most local communities lost population over the last 10 years, according to U.S. Census data released Tuesday, but officials aren’t expecting major changes as a result.

“It was expected,” Trenton Mayor Gerald Brown said of his city’s decline from 19,584 in 2000 to 18,853 in 2010. “It’s just the way things are happening in Michigan right now. Most communities are experiencing some sort of drop.”

Dearborn was the only local exception to that trend, going from 97,775 in 2000 to 98,153 in 2010, an increase of 0.5 percent.

“We’re only about 4,000 less than Flint,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said.“We’re holding our own in terms of population. I feel good about what it says about Dearborn.”

Figures in other area communities over the last 10 years were as follows: Dearborn Heights, 58,264 in 2000 to 57,774 in 2010, a decline of just under 1 percent; Allen Park 29,448 to 28,210 (-4.2 percent); Lincoln Park, 40,008 to 38,144 (-4.7 percent); Melvindale, 10,735 to 10,715 (-0.2 percent); Riverview 13,272 to 12,486 (-5.9 percent); Southgate, 30,136 to 30,047 (-0.3 percent); Taylor 65,868 to 63,131 (-4.2 percent); Trenton 19,584 to 18,853 (-0.19 percent); and Wyandotte 28,006 to 25,883 (-7.6 percent).

“It’s a good thing that Dearborn continues to be appealing,” city spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said. “It’s a positive statement about our city.”

She said U.S. Congressional districts could be redrawn as result of the overall results in the area.

“The expectation was that we would lose a congressional member,” she said.

Officials in Wyandotte didn’t foresee such a precipitous decrease.

“It’s alarming losing 2,100 people over 10 years,” Mayor Joseph Peterson said. “It’s economics, people losing their jobs. In no way does it have anything to do with the quality of life we have here.”

Peterson said he knew the census numbers would show a population decrease, but did not know it would be so large.

“I did not expect those types of numbers, but the way things are today, it’s common sense to expect the unexpected,” he said.

Negative effects from the decrease could include less funds from state revenue sharing, which in turn could translate into budget cuts for the city, Peterson said, but it is too soon to know specific details.

He said the city already is on the right track to regaining its population through various programs, including the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is working to remodel 44 houses for sale to low-income families.

“We will rebound,” Peterson said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I’ll do everything in my power. If it takes 24 hours a day, I’m going to take 24 hours a day to bring it back.”

In Dearborn Heights, Mayor Daniel Paletko said the numbers there were not surprising. “The budgetary effects will not be significantly affected,” he said. “We’re more than holding our own.”

He’s not looking for big drops in state revenue sharing or federal funds because the population decline was not large.

Paletko said some of his city’s population loss was mitigated by new residents from Detroit, which lost a quarter of its population to fall to just over 700,000, the lowest point in a century.

“It may affect how much money is in the pot for the other communities,” Paletko said of Detroit’s decline.

He also said the redrawing of congressional district lines may combine another district within the city, and that neighboring communities could be affected as well.

The decline in Lincoln Park was less than regional authorities projected, City Manager Steve Duchane said, but that city officials were expecting the 2010 figure to be closer to 39,000.

“Overall, we did better than we thought,” he said.

Duchane said officials are concerned about the emerging minorities portion of the census, which figured in about a 9 percent rate of house vacancies and may have missed people who recently moved into some of those houses by counting them as residents of other cities.

Melvindale’s and Trenton’s decreases represent two of the lowest Downriver.

Melvindale Mayor Valerie Cadez said she was encouraged that the census numbers seem to show a population stabilization in the city when other Michigan cities are seeing an “exodus” of residents.

“I like the fact that we’re floating,” Cadez said. “We’re staying above water.”

Cadez said the numbers seem to show that new residents are moving in and buying many of the foreclosed houses. She said she does not anticipate any negative effects stemming from the slight decline.

“I would be really surprised,” she said.

“We’ve had a lot more U-Hauls leaving this state than some states,” Trenton’s Brown said of the overall trend of decline. “That’s just the rule of thumb.”

He said any loss of state shared revenue in his city would be “negligible.”

“Financially, that kind of drop (0.19 percent) is not going to hurt us,” Brown said. “We’re going to lose for other reasons.”

Those include cuts in overall shared revenue currently being proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder that still await legislative action.

Brown said that for the coming fiscal year, that could mean a maximum of 60 percent of last year’s revenue “only if we fit the governor’s criteria.”

He believes the city will do so easily because of budget moves that have been going on for years.

“We’ve been sharing services and part of coalitions with other communities since 1969,” Brown said, also citing union concessions and staff reductions in recent years.

“You’re preaching to the choir when you’re talking about Trenton.”

Like leaders in other communities, however, Brown is concerned about how deep the revenue sharing cuts will be.

“I understand where (Snyder’s) going with this, but we’ve got to run a show. We can’t go retro.”

(Daniel Heraty, Andrea Poteet and Tom Tigani contributed to this report.)