Jack Ryan: The Census and the Macomb Election

This is a column that includes how the census statistics will affect the upcoming Macomb election. This is a dry topic for a lot of people, so here’s the big news, to begin with:

It is very likely that when Macomb’s general election is over in June, the next city council will have six black elected officials and one white mayor.

Here you are. If the details don’t interest you, move on, with my blessing, to another part of the paper. I understand.

For anyone still with me: I could be wrong in this prediction, but demographics say otherwise.

The 2020 census estimated Macomb’s population at 12,413. This includes 8,797 blacks (69%) and 2,931 whites (23%). The remaining population of 1,062 is assumed to be of other races, such as Hispanics, or mixed races.

Truthfully, I thought the black population would be higher. For comparison, it was 66% at the 2010 census, while whites made up 31% of the city’s population a decade ago. I suspect that the Census Bureau’s addition of mixed-race designation in 2020 made a difference.

When you apply the new census numbers to city policies, you end up with one ward with 68% of the black population and three others ranging from 79% to 87%.

Only dormitory 1, West Macomb, is predominantly white, with that proportion being only 56%.

This means that four of the five wings, along with the mayor and the mayor at large, have a built-in advantage for black candidates. There may be turmoil inherent in one of those six elections, but it’s a hill too big for any white candidate to climb.

If six of the seven elected officials were black, it would be the opposite of what it was like on City Council when I arrived at Macomb in 1983.

At the time, Theodore Bullock was the only black selector. At that time, there were three wings, while the other three elect ran free.

I checked newspaper archives and Macomb’s census history to get a better picture of the transformation in the city’s population.

In 1990, Macomb’s population was 46% black, but by 2000, that number had risen to 58%.

The 1990s is the time when white flying started in droves. I remember being baffled by real estate ads at the time promoting the homes as being located in the North Pike School District.

Another factor is that in 1996 the city annexed lands to the north, south and west. He added nearly 2,000 people to the population.

A 1992 story stated that 57% of the population of the annexed areas were black. I think it was even higher because the annexation included Burtown just south of Presley Boulevard.

Either way, the population was 58% black in 2000, 66% in 2010 and 69% now.

You can only hear the grumbling of those who are gone: Macomb is finished. There are certainly challenges, and it will be up to the new board of directors to respond to them.

A few years ago, I wrote that the poor condition of city streets was Macomb’s biggest problem. The current palette has reappeared on many of them.

A year ago, I said that the biggest problem is that there are a lot of abandoned houses. That’s still a problem – those empty homes have to be demolished, a lot of our usable housing is outdated and badly in need of renovation. But what are the incentives to invest in such improvements?

Now, however, Macomb faces a new problem #1: gun violence, especially by young people. It killed or wounded far too many people, but it also provided one more reason – blacks and whites – to leave. City and law enforcement officials should simply deal with this.

My wife and I still live in Macomb. Nice neighborhood. The house where our three children grew up. They still enjoy coming back for visits.

But I heard the sound of gunfire at night. I see dilapidated homes all over town. I worry about what lies ahead.

The next council faces major challenges. Voters should ask the candidates how they will deal with these problems.

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