Minehaha Forman is a freelance writer living in Detroit. Born on a farm in Belize, Central America, she moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education and a career in writing. Forman’s work has been featured in many metro Detroit publications including Dbusiness magazine, Hour magazine and Corp! magazine. She has provided event coverage for Real Times Media and The Michigan Chronicle for three years, covering the popular Pancakes and Politics speaker series and other events. Prior to working with the Chronicle, Forman was a blogger with The American Independent News Network where she covered Metro Detroit politics and the 2008 presidential election. She will continue to provide commentary and coverage of Detroit politics as a blogger and feature writer for The Michigan Chronicle’s website.
Website URL: http://truthordarestories.blogspot.com/
As early as last fall when former DMC head Mike Duggan became more open about his intended run for Detroit Mayor, he started on a major task: to distance himself from current Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder, both of whom are widely unpopular among Detroit voters, polls and pundits and plain old word on the street have shown.
Everything Bing has supported, Duggan has pinned as a bad idea, from the Belle Isle Lease to the proposed lighting authority and the privatization of city services. the consent agreement to claiming in November that Bing and Governor Snyder were going down “the wrong road.” Duggan’s big job over the next few months will be to find ways to be relatable to Detroiters and to unravel the rumors that he is a union buster.
In an interview Monday with Angelo Henderson on WCHB-AM 1200, Duggan continued to distance himself from Bing and disputed the idea that privatization is the answer, something Bing has often turned to in his role as mayor. Over the past three years, Bing has pushed to privatize the DDOT bus system, the city lighting department, the health department and even trash collection. He has also hired a number of outside firms to perform services that the city offers. Bing has said the city’s last resort is to privatize services and that hiring outside firms is necessary to fix problems within the city.
But Duggan, when asked how he felt about privatization, said it was a result of leadership failure. He told Henderson on Monday:
“Privatization is an admission of management failure. A private company has to make a profit. The government does not. So if government can turn over to the private sector for running it cheaper, the government has to be pretty messed up in the way it was running.”
Belle Isle surged back into the spotlight in recent weeks after a Metro Detroit developer made an outlandish proposal: Sell the city park to private investors for $1 billion and secede the island from the U.S. to form a corporate utopia where taxes are near nil.
Many Detroiter’s guttural reaction to the billion dollar offer, presented by Bingham Farms developer Rodney Lockwood in the form of a futuristic fiction novel, was a granite hard “no”. Not surprising, since just months ago city council rejected a much tamer idea presented by Gov. Rick Snyder: lease Belle Isle to the state at no cost for 30 years while Detroit works to beef up its bare-bones finances.
While Lockwood’s far-fetched idea is highly unlikely to come to fruition, it makes the state’s offer seem like a very modest proposal. It also offers a peek at what could become of the island if the city plunges into bankruptcy before securing a deal with the state to maintain the island.
Despite the scathing criticism of Lockwood’s plan, $1 billion is nothing to yawn at. It’s a considerable sum for a city with an annual operating budget of $3.1 billion. It’s also the only reason the bizarre proposal is getting any airtime at all. Money is on the table. A lot of it. And when money talks, people—even opponents—listen.
That’s exactly what happened at the Detroit Athletic Club yesterday as Lockwood shared his vision for Belle Isle with a wide range of Michigan business leaders and elected officials. But not everyone, even staunch free market supporters, liked everything they heard.
The Detroit Free Press reports:
“Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, told developer Rodney Lockwood and his partners that they hadn't done enough to explain how their idea for a wealthy, virtually tax-free enclave on Belle Isle would benefit Detroit itself. ‘Having rich neighbors doesn't make you rich,’ he said, pointing to the example of upscale Grosse Pointe next to Detroit, one of the poorest cities in the nation.”
Detroit officials also doubted the plan would benefit Detroit.
George Jackson, head of the Detroit Economic Growth Council (DEGC) said that he didn’t see how the plan would boost Detroit’s development. Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown flatly stated, “It will not work.”
Such a statement raises a searingly important question: What will work?
The answer could come as early as next week.
The Detroit News spoke with city council members who confirmed the lease is likely to pass council soon: Brown told The News:
"We're still working on issues about security, but we can get it done. The votes on City Council are there — they have actually been there for a while." City Councilman James Tate said: "The majority of the issues that my colleagues and the community had are addressed in the new proposed lease…[but] it's important to me that we have a public hearing on the matter to weigh in on the issue."
Councilman James Tate said the council votes are secured:
"The majority of the issues that my colleagues and the community had are addressed in the new proposed lease," Tate said. But "it's important to me that we have a public hearing on the matter to weigh in on the issue."
The revamped lease proposal cuts the lease time down from 30 to ten years and the city could opt out after each ten-year interval. The city would retain ownership of the park while reaping the benefits of state funds to operate the 895 acre island in the Detroit river.
As for the fantastical corporate proposal for the island, it may never get far off the ground. But it does paint a picture of what could happen if naysayers keep disputing state intervention with 895-acre park without offering any alternatives.
"I have no problem selling Belle Isle," Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s Baruah told the Detroit News regarding Lockwood’s plan, "But frankly, I don't think you are making a great case for people outside the island."
In his State of the State address Wednesday evening, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder did not bring up the issue of gun control despite President Barack Obama signing 23 Executive Orders earlier in the dayto restrict gun sales in hopes of curbing gun violence in light of recent tragic shootings.
Instead, Snyder touched on mental health policy, another key issue aqs the national conversation on gun violence continues. Snyder, while he did not mention gun violence or it's relation to mental health, said caring for the mentally disabled would "benefit all of us."
Snyder suggested that public-private partnerships, not just public money would play a key role in funding mental health projects in Michigan in the upcoming year.
Snyder didn’t give any details in his speech such regarding any new projects or any specific companies the state plans to partner with. Rather, he offered a broad suggestion that “ great demonstration projects” will spur better and more preventative mental health programs.
“We started investing [mental health] and we’ve done some good work with mental health courts. But the issue is that we should be doing more to help people before they show up before a judge,” Snyder said in his speech. “So what I’m saying is, we need to work together in partnerships that well put additional budget resources towards. But we need to partner on coming up with great demonstration projects and how to engage mental heath issues more effectively, get communities more involved, create more pub private partnerships and take care of people that deserve better attention that will benefit all of us. So let’s work on mental health.”
Snyder also announced encouraging developments for veteran care. Moving forward, the state now has more leverage to partner with non-profit organizations to better reach the nation’s men and women of service.
“Tonight I’m happy to announce we have received something from the U.S. Veterans administration. The state of MI is now going to be an accredited body," Snyder said.
What does that mean?
"We’ve got great veteran service organizations—The American Legion The Purple Heart Association, Veitnam Veterans—many good people are doing that work but now we can works with them better. We can collaborate better. We can prosecute better claims for veterans in terms of benefits, so it’s major achievement."
Snyder said Mchigan will have a new veteran's agency by the end of the week. "We are going to stay focused on [veterans]. And we are going to show better results."
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