Blast from the past: the Suburbia County proposal of the 1970s

March 28, 2014
By

Suburbia County

Remember Suburbia County? We admit, we were entirely unaware of this short-lived pitch from the 1970s to break off the western portion of Wayne County and form a new county — literally — called “Suburbia.”

A kind reader passed along the above map which details the proposed secession, an idea spawned by, it appears, then State Rep. Thomas Brown, a Democrat from Westland. Based on the map above, the plan would slice off everything besides Detroit and the Grosse Pointes. Thanks to a quick Google News search and a ProQuest database query, we were able to locate a couple stories from the time to explain what the hell was going on.

Wayne County was having serious budget problems in the late 1970s, and by October 1979, had run out of cash, according to a story from The New York Times. Then-Gov. William Milliken’s proposed solution was to reorganize the county under a structure that had a single top executive, but the county’s “36 independently elected commissioners and department heads do not want their political bailiwicks tampered with,” the Times reported at the time. Without cash, and soon to be missing payroll, one county commissioner decided to throw his support behind the idea of secession. Because, of course.

By February 1980, a bill to make this suburban dream a reality was on the state House floor, The Associated Press reported at the time. But the idea of “isolating Detroit and forming a government of sprawling suburbs [was] shipped back to committee where it [would] almost certainly die.”

(Courtesy of Google News)

(Courtesy of Google News)

Brown’s thought process was to name the county “Suburbia” because it…would represent sprawling suburbs seemingly looking to ditch Detroit. This came from the guy who touted the fact his city took its name stems from a shopping mall. Impressive.

We’re quite thankful this short-lived plan was left to rot in legislative purgatory.

  • Kaylee

    Suburbia? Wow. Glad it didn’t go through.

  • Joe

    It did go through DE FACTO (FACT). De Jure it did not happen (LAW).

  • nobodyknose

    Are you suggesting that Wayne county has been run efficiently since then? Not sure if this would hav been better, but it couldn’t have been worse than what was kept in place.

  • Brian Mccann

    hey how about my town Northville twp. just kinda goes off to Oakland or Washtenaw counties…. no big deal,,, just kinda start payin them and using their services …mmmmk? lol

  • Jimmy Đoom

    But the idea was “Totally Rejected”…

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Brown’s thought process was to name the county “Suburbia” because
    it…would represent sprawling suburbs seemingly looking to ditch Detroit.
    This came from the guy who touted the fact his city took its name stems
    from a shopping mall. Impressive.

    -The staff here is horrible. It would be suburbia because it is the strict definition of suburban, its right outside a major urban center at the time. Whats wrong with that? Are we to assume you hated the idea of isolation detroit from the coffers of the county, and its bad … because of some reason you failed to mention? Please share why it would be bad?

    Detroit is named after the river, le détroit du lac Érié, meaning the strait of Lake Erie. Not that anyone cares, its cool today … because its old and full of black people? Again, please share why its a fine name, but naming a town westland, or a mall westland, or both is bad? Is southfield a bad name for a town? How about eastland mall, is that a bad name for a mall?

    This makes perfect sense in a number of ways, that if detroit wanted to dominate wayne county politics, so much so that others felt that had no voice, and were just their to chip in money, to then be spent in detroit, well secession is the obvious solution. Detroit would have total control as GP communities would then leave to become part of macomb county.

    Whats not to like, detroit gets total control, the other places get a voice, everyones happy right?

    Ohh did the staff mean its bad because others would not be paying detroits bills, and failure of detroit would have been 20 years sooner, and solely on their hands?

    I think thats what you meant to say.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Yeah the name is so important. Jobs, industry, or well run government do not matter. Just a trendy name.

  • Miles VanMeter

    Yikes.

  • Kaylee

    I wasn’t talking about the government. Suburbia sounds ridiculous & it sounds like they were trying to segregate Detroit from the suburbs. Besides, this was in the 70s — how is it “trendy”? Most cities, counties, towns, etc, are not named some weird non-word, but named in honor of someone or something.

  • Kaylee

    I’m not entirely understanding your point. Who named their town after a mall? Who thinks Detroit is a cool name? What does Detroit being named Detroit have to do with black people? I’m kind of curious about your argument.