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Billionaire Gets New Sports Arena in Bankrupt Detroit

Business  (tags: abuse, americans, bankruptcy, business, corporate, corruption, Detroit, dishonesty, finance, government, marketing, money, politics )

- 1727 days ago -
The headline juxtaposition boggles the mind. You have, on one day, "Detroit Files Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in History." Then on the next, you have "Detroit Plans to Pay For New Red Wings Hockey Arena Despite Bankruptcy."

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:43 am
Detroit Red Wings logo. (Image: Hawk Eyes)

The headline juxtaposition boggles the mind. You have, on one day, “Detroit Files Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in History.” Then on the next, you have “Detroit Plans to Pay For New Red Wings Hockey Arena Despite Bankruptcy.”

Yes, the very week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder granted a state-appointed emergency manager’s request to declare the Motor City bankrupt, the Tea Party governor gave a big thumbs-up to a plan for a new $650 million Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. Almost half of that $650 million will be paid with public funds.

This is actually happening. City services are being cut to the bone. Fighting fires, emergency medical care and trash collection are now precarious operations. Retired municipal workers will have their $19,000 in annual pensions dramatically slashed. Even the artwork in the city art museum will be sold off piece by piece. This will include a mural by the great radical artist Diego Rivera that’s a celebration of what the auto industry would look like in a socialist future. As Stephen Colbert said, the leading bidder will be “the museum of irony.”

They don’t have money to keep the art on the walls. They do have $283 million to subsidize a new arena for Red Wings owner and founder of America’s worst pizza-pizza chain, Little Caesar’s, Mike Ilitch, whose family is worth $2.7 billion dollars. (“Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your pensions!”)

How did Governor Snyder possibly summon the shamelessness to justify this?

Here’s how. He said, “This is part of investing in Detroit’s future, That’s the message we need to get across.… As we stabilize the city government’s finances, as we address those issues and improve services, Detroit moves from a place where people might have had a negative impression…to being a place that will be recognized across the world as a place of great value and a place to invest.”

Where, oh where have we heard this argument before? What city has heard the false promise that stadium construction on the public dime would be a postindustrial life raft? There are actually many, but none have heard it more and paid the cost quite like Detroit. A new Red Wings arena would be the city’s third publicly funded major sports stadium, joining the Tigers’ Comerica Stadium and the Lions’ Ford Field. Each of these was billed as a “remedy” to save the city. Each of these has obviously failed. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Try to fool us three times? Go to hell.

I spoke with Marvin Surkin, co-author of the classic book Detroit I Do Mind Dying. He said, “These are more than just remedies that didn’t work. They are part of the problem because stadiums don’t address the central issues of falling population, falling tax base, declining wages, unemployment and the underfunding of schools.”

Surkin is correct. If anything, this kind of corporate welfare has over the last generation exacerbated Detroit’s existing problems. Why? Because it siphons money out of the city services—things like schools and hospitals—while creating the very kinds of jobs that are the antithesis to those that once built Detroit into the third-largest city in the United States. No living wages. No job security. No tax base. Just spanking new stadiums for suburban sports fans, which Detroit residents will be able to enter only if they’re selling foam novelty fingers.

As Neal DeMause, who runs the indispensable website Field of Schemes, said to me:

“There’s absolutely no reason on earth that the state of Michigan couldn’t say to Mike Ilitch, ‘Sorry, Detroit has more important things to do with its money.’ Instead, though, the governor seems content to let Ilitch cut to the front of the line for public funds, on the grounds that ‘who doesn’t get fired up’ about hockey. Even if you limited it to economic development projects, putting money into fixing city schools or restoring streetlights would do far more for Detroit’s business prospects than a hockey arena. This just goes to show the problem with carving out shares of tax revenue to go to development authorities—they end up basically serving as slush funds for developers, even when the city treasury is otherwise empty.”

There is a right-wing narrative about Detroit that the city is in peril because of some combination of the 1967 “race riots” and greedy unions. The reality is that black and brown residents of Detroit made Motown and those “greedy unions” built a stable working class that could realistically dream of a better life for their own children. The breaking of Detroit should be seen, in the words of David Sirota, as an indictment of right wing economic orthodoxy. Instead, the bankruptcy has been used as a warning to other cities that unions, pensions and a culture of resistance are roads to ruin.

With this Red Wings arena, Snyder, Ilitch, and their ilk may have gone too far. The commitment of Detroit’s corporate masters to this stadium project actually acts like an autopsy, revealing who has really destroyed the Motor City. As legendary Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs put it, a conservative agenda has “been strip mining cities by privatizing almost all services, attacking public workers and their unions, while at the same time providing billion-dollar tax cuts for large businesses and cutting revenue sharing to the cities.” In a city that’s 83 percent African-American and built on union labor, it’s a pelt long desired by the Snyders of this world. Neoliberalism has destroyed Detroit. Free trade deals have destroyed Detroit. Corporate welfare has destroyed Detroit. It’s perverse of Snyder and Detroit’s anti-union, pro-stadium mayor—and NBA hall-of-famer—Dave Bing to see stadiums as symbols of Detroit’s revival. They are symbols instead of its decline.

More and more people across the world are getting wise to these kinds of priorities. Perhaps Detroit should keep its eyes on Brazil, where mass discontent with the quality of schools, hospitals and the government led to marches on stadiums built or refurbished for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. One of the slogans amongst the Brazilian masses was “A giant awakes. Come to the streets.” In Detroit, if no one can afford to go to the game they might have no choice but to come to the streets.

Are Governor Rick Snyder’s actions in Detroit an “affront to democracy” or merely tough but necessary decisions?

By Dave Zirin, The Nation | Op-Ed | Truthout |

**Think the world needs an alternative to corporate media? Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and keep independent journalism strong.**

Kit B (276)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:47 am

Is this business operating to create jobs and grow the city of Detroit? Or is this the worst possible type of carnivorous, bone-picking avarice, the kind of despicable planned failure that will take the waning funds of a dying city, just to blame the same city for inevitable failure.

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:45 am
Boggles the mind is right - One wonders where priorities are with this kind of "carnivorous, bone-picking avarice, the kind of despicable planned failure that will take the waning funds of a dying city, just to blame the same city for inevitable failure." (great description!) And then they will blame the "lazy, black people on welfare" for the city going bust....

JL A (281)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:02 am
I guess he didn't talk to Sacramento where the team still owes the city big bucks, the economic benefits didn't arrive and now they want a new stadium or they'll leave...thank heavens their state constitution protects pensions and their AG is stepping in to make sure the overpaid city manager complies with the constitution

. (0)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:22 am
Now you know what's important and now you know the meaning of bread and circus.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:28 am
" Go to hell. " nothing to add there.

Elizabeth Fuller (134)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:29 am
All I could think of when I read the title was Rome and the gladiators... noted, thanks Kit :)

Kit B (276)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:57 am

When Rome built the Coliseum, they could afford to do so. When Rome was bankrupt there were no huge building projects. Who in Detroit will buy the tickets?

Theodore Shayne (56)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 10:00 am
I just had to post this one.

Elle B (84)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 10:42 am
"ROME" is right . . . with exponentials!

Who do the delusional grand oligarchists think will pay to see their entertainment extravaganzas? Perhaps they are counting on the working peasants making far less than minimum wage who haven't eaten a proper meal for some time to crawl in. . .thunderous applause should not be expected, however. . .it would result in extreme overexertion of the underpaid and undernourished if by miracle they do attend. . .

Note: This has been their sick plan for decades. . .the demise of democracy. . .which is now vanishing in a rapid free-fall rate of exponential decay due to XL constants of stupidity and greed. . .

Gene J (290)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 11:03 am
“There’s absolutely no reason on earth that the state of Michigan couldn’t say to Mike Ilitch, ‘Sorry, Detroit has more important things to do with its money.’

The 1% taking care of the 1%, or the republican party rolling over on its back for a belly rub. Sickening and inexcusable. I hope the public unions whose pensions are being cut sues the pants off this pathetic excuse for a governor. Playpens for billionaires should always be paid for by the billionaires, they keep the profits, there are NO long term jobs created in these projects, none, except for those who sell the hot dogs. Every cent of profit goes into the pocket of the already rich. This is a practice that goes on around the country and ought be forever stopped. Since when did professional sports become more important than the lives of PEOPLE? Is it any wonder so many feel this nation has lost its soul? The 1% prove it over again every day.

Barbara K (60)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 11:21 am
This is the worst governor we ever had. He robs, steals, and is the most corrupt piece of crap on the planet. He is making himself and his cronies wealthy off our backs. We should get a vote about spending OUR money on that new hockey rink. There are so many other things our state needs and for us to have pay the tally for something that unnecessary at this time is as bad as the Billion Dollar bridge he wants to build to Canada, that we don't need. Funny how he finds money for all these unnecessary things while denying us the necessary things. We have enough signatures to recall him, but the Tbagger Secretary of State says they are the wrong font size. They are not. But they have a Tbagger judge holding up the election for the past 3 years. I hope those who voted this empty shell in have smartened up and realize how he is raping and pillaging this state and VOTE HIM OUT! While we still can. He is working on voter suppression too, while he thinks no one is looking.

Yvonne White (229)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:32 pm
Detroiters should burn the Mayor's mansion & the Governor's mansion..let them live in an Arena!;)

Vallee R (280)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 1:32 pm
Ulterior motives??? It doesn't make common sense.

Dianna M (16)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 1:59 pm
Years ago, the city of Grand Island, NE, wanted to build a complex to host rock concerts in. One proponent of this project said, "You have to spend money to make money." My reaction was pretty negative--You want OUR tax dollars to pay for this project so that YOU can make money? Why not invest your own money?" I'm pretty sure the residents of the city felt the same, since that project was never realized.

Fast forward a couple of decades, to Kearney, NE. The city council just HAD to have that "Archway" (that thing that looks like a prison) built over the Interstate. "Oh, it'll be all self-funded!" they said. "You won't be paying a PENNY more in taxes!" Well, what a surprise, that white elephant has defaulted, and guess who's taxes are going up to pay for it? Yep, the same people who get a monthly sewer/water/sanitation bill from the city of Kearney, and have to look at that line where it says, "Round up my bill to $_____ for beautification projects."

You spend OUR tax dollars so the rich businesspeople can make more money--and what does the average citizen get out of it? More trash thrown in their yards by drunk concert-goers or drunk sports fanatics.

Michael M (5)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 2:07 pm
Never was a fan of taxpayer funded sports areas... The Oakland Raiders took the taxpayers of Alameda County for a s-ton of $$$ for their crap of a football team. (At least I think they are a football team since I have no idea what they are playing when they are on the field!)

Roger G (154)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 3:02 pm
corrupt politicians should be shot !

marie C (163)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:51 pm
Thanks Kit

reft h (66)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 11:22 pm
Good point, Kit, who could afford to go to the stadium?

Sounds like the rich folks in Detroit have their priorities.

Lona G (80)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 3:45 am
??? I've no words for this. This is beyond criminal, $300 million paid from public funds while Detroit files for bankruptcy? This surely will be revoked when the city is under guardianship, won't it?

JL A (281)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 11:47 am
There was a story of a suburb that wanted to build a wall to keep Detroit out--are those the residents who will benefit from a stadium paid for by others instead of themselves?

Sheri Schongold (7)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 1:40 pm
Well, now you know where the priorities of Detroit are!!

Joanne Dixon (38)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 1:57 pm
Perhaps by "investing in Detroit's future" Mr. Snyder means "working on bleachung Detroit to lily white."

Birgit W (160)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 2:09 pm
He should rather help the poor .

Ann Breeden (65)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 2:21 pm
I don't think I was able to get through with my comment on this yesterday so I'll try again.
Isn't that just so typical of the 1% and their Tea party cronies to do something like this instead of rebuilding Detroit. All I can think of are all those people who worked all those years and suddenly ending up with zero. I think they should sue the lot of them who are holding hands in this one.

Sheila D (194)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 3:32 pm
Sounds familiar. The MN Twins "needed" a new stadium...the MN Vikings "needed" a new stadium...the U of MN needed a new stadium - yes, they really did, but where were the rich alumni??
The people of MN won the right to have the new Twins stadium put on the ballot - we voted NO taxpayer money for the Twins. Of course, the rich owners of both the Twins and the Vikings threatended to move. Well, we can't have that...Gov Pawlenty (R) found the money - some was from taxpayers. Now Minneapolis has a beautiful new Twins stadium. The U of MN has a New football stadium...still no money for the Vikings. Enter Gov Dayton (D). There's to be new Vikings stadium - not sure where as I haven't kept up with it anymore.

Moral - don't trust politicians, even if the People say no - theyl find a way and taxpayers Will pay. Noted.

Lois Jordan (63)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 4:27 pm
Noted. Thanks for the info, Kit. I can only add that I find this absolutely sick, sick, sick! A sports arena in a city this impoverished is just absolutely mind-numbing!

Edith B (146)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 8:04 pm
I thought nothing else this man did would surprise me. I was wrong. We have a similar situation here in Ky. In the eighties, a coal severance tax was passed to benefit the counties that were being raped by coal. Since it was passed two thirds of the money has gone to Frankfort, Lexington, and Louisville instead of the Eastern Ky counties that were dying. Coal production is at an all time low, and the amount of tax of course has been reduced. Instead of ALL the money being sent to the rural governments who need it, a huge chunk is being given to Lexington to renovate Rupp Arena, where UK plays basket ball. These renovations are sky boxes and party rooms for the wealthy, and will actually reduce the number of seats available to Joe public. Local governments are laying off police, emts, sanitary workers because they don't have funds to pay. Our government insists that Eastern Ky benefits by Lexington having a refurbished arena.

Kit B (276)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 8:07 pm

Thanks Edith

Sherri G (128)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 9:12 pm
OMG the hubris of the top 1% is shameful. This is just the beginning in Detroit. The city is ripe for picking. It is another New Orleans whose rich will take over the land left after a disaster. The Governor should be run out of town on a rail. I tried to send stars but have to wait for 24 hours. TY Kit Noted.

Past Member (0)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 11:36 pm
Thank you Kit. Another proof that these thigns happen all over the world.

Hartson Doak (39)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 11:00 pm
Big cities are centers for disconnecting to the natural system that is needed for humans. What the ideal set up will become is agrarian based cities of about 60,000 people surrounded by farming. These city centers will be connected to the rest of the world through the internet, and a modern high speed rail or tube system systems. These will be the the way to distribute food, and ideas to the rest of the world.
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