Dispatch from Detroit 4 | Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport
I had an idea tonight:
— Justin Wedes (@justinwedes) August 5, 2014
I am not being facetious. I am dead serious about this one, people.
First, some context. In case you didn’t notice, Detroit has been in a NAFTA-induced downward spiral of “free market” hell for the last several decades. The population of this once-great metropolis has nose-dived from over 2 million to fewer than 700,000 as nearly everybody with money ran for the suburbs. Wealthy suburbanites still control much of the land, some of the water, and all of the professional sports teams. That doesn’t seem to keep them from Detroit-bashing, as exemplified by suburban Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson this past January:
“I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and the corn.’ ”
So we come to learn that Detroit’s wealthiest man, Little Caesar’s owner Mike Ilitch, has decided to build a new hockey stadium – next to two other brand-new stadiums, one of which is also Ilitch’s. The price tag stands at $650 million, which of course will be paid for by Ilitch and his over $1.7 billion in total worth taxpayer funds redirected from school property taxes.
Yes, you read that correctly. The City of Detroit intends to pay Mike Ilitch to build this stadium from money originally destined for schools. (Technically, the state is supposed to reimburse the City for all school funds expended on the stadium. This, of course, begs the question of why the state didn’t just pay for it in the first place…)
Doesn’t that foreclose on an entire generation of Detroit youth just to please a billionaire who doesn’t even need the money?
But won’t it create jobs?
Yes. But not for the youth whose schools are being closed: the Detroit City Council approved the massive $1 public land handover to Ilitch without even getting a commitment that 26% of the arena jobs would go to Detroiters.
Wait, why only 26%?
Ugh. Major #facepalm.
So we are left with what you might expect of a city under “emergency financial management” – read “dictatorship” – and a corrupt City Council that is completely complicit in the ransacking and looting of Detroit by the same Old Boy’s Club that’s been driving it into the ground for decades.
Which leads me back to my initial suggestion: if the city is going to keep foreclosing on kids’ futures just to make a buck for some rich suburban dude, I propose we get ready to hold high school math class in the high-end luxury boxes at Ilitch-Land Stadium next year.