Gerrymeandering Through The New 14th Congressional District: A Photo Essay
August 6th, 2012, 6:54 AM
Democratic primary voters in the new 14th Congressional District will choose between Congressman Gary Peters and Hansen Clark, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, and other marginal candidates on Tuesday. John Hauler is running unopposed in the GOP primary. However, what makes this race so interesting is the peculiar design of the new district.
Congressional districts, drawn every ten years following the Census, are supposed to be compact, contiguous, and uniform in population. The 14th may be uniform in population and technically contiguous, but no reasonable person could conclude this is a compact district. If anything, it looks like someone plotted out the four surrounding Congressional districts and lumped the remainder into a leftover district. Beginning at the Detroit/River Rouge border, the 14th winds through downtown, into Grosse Pointe, and goes up Eight Mile on the Detroit side before going north into Oakland County where it covers Oak Park, Southfield, Farmington, Bloomfield, Pontiac and few other smaller communities I'm forgetting here.
We know the district looks ridiculous on a map and we know it's produced an inter-party race between politicians as disperate as Detroit's Clarke, Southfield's Lawrence, and West Bloomfield's Peters, but just what does it look like from the ground? We traveled from one end of the district to another to paint a picture of just what one of the candidates on Tuesday's ballot will represent in Congress.
Zug Island sits near the southwest edge of the district. Whomever is elected in the 14th should think twice about ever holding a photo op here. The Border Patrol will likely hassle the cameramen and photographers. Apparently, as I learned last week, Border Patrol officers notice if you are standing on the West Jefferson sidewalk and photographing things in plain view. Then they will run an ID check. Liberty!
A bicyclist shares the road with a tanker truck on West Jefferson.
Southwest Detroit can be a study of contrasts. Heavy industry and stable neighborhoods, homes like this sit across from a vacant (if maintained) lot. St. Anne's can be seen in the background.
Much of downtown as well as Belle Isle, from where this picture was taken, also sit in the 14th.
Clarke and Peters campaign signs sprout among the weeds on Mack Ave.
The Morningside neighborhood on the east side. The house on the left is occupied and well-maintained. The house on the right is vacant, seemingly stripped, and left wide open.
The Village in Grosse Pointe is about a mile or two from the houses in the picture above. It seems like a million miles away.
Bicycling on the Grosse Pointe Farms section of Jefferson, officially known as Lakeshore Drive, is significantly more pleasant than W. Jefferson in southwest Detroit.
As the district goes west, winding back through Detroit, it passes the Coliseum strip club on Eight Mile. When this joint opened they put big ads in the alt weeklies highlighting their helicopter pad. How many Congressional districts have strip clubs with helicopter pads? Michigan's 14th is in that elite club.
The playground at the corner of Eight Mile and Cardoni suggests this community doesn't care who wins Tuesday's primary--legislators won't protect them.
Whoever put up that sign in the picture above isn't kidding around. These houses are just around the corner.
Southfield's suburban prairie, also known as front lawns.
Seventeen pieces of flair, dubious for-profit degree mills, and a suburban office tower. Welcome to Southfield.
Here's a fun little wrinkle to the 14th District story: Farmington Hills, which basically surrounds the City of Farmington, is in the 14th but Farmington (see inset) is part of the 13th. The top photo is of a 14th District/Farmington Hills gas station. It was taken in front of Greene's Hamburgers in Farmington/13th District. The photo below of Farmington/13th's Greene's Hamburgers was taken while standing in front of the 14th/Farmington Hills gas station. Remember Farmington is basically surrounded by Farmington Hills.
Pine Lake in West Bloomfield. We are a long, long way from Zug Island here.
Pontiac. And we've reached the end of the 14th District, bookended by dubious landmarks Zug Island and the Phoenix Center--a parking garage built on top of the city's main arteries and next to a giant surface lot. How did this thing not turn Pontiac into the proverbial shining city on a hill?
So there you go, for the next decade this random lot of communities tenuously connected for the sake of political expediency will be a Congressional district. Lansing, don't ever quit being you.