Detroit, Rick Snyder — January 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Detroit City Council blows chance to get real help from the state, Belle Isle State Park offer rejected


Don’t be the punchline of a dumb joke

There’s a joke that talks about a guy stranded on a desert island. A man paddles by on a raft and asks, “Would you like some help?” “No,” answered the guy, “God will help me.”

A few days later a boat pulls up and the driver asks, “Would you like some help”? “No,” the guy answered again, “God will save me.”

The next day a helicopter lands on the island and the pilot says, “Hop on! I’ll help you!” “No,” says the man a third time, “God will help me.”

A week later, the man is despondent. “God, why won’t you save me?!” the man shouts to the heavens.

A booming voice from the sky answers, “Dude, I sent you a raft, a boat and a helicopter. What else do you want from me?”

This is exactly the situation Detroit was in with regard to Belle Isle. Long a “jewel” in Detroit, it has fallen into shameful disrepair over the past couple of decades. The State of Michigan offered to lease the island from Detroit, make it a State Park, and restore it back to some semblance of its original beauty.

The Detroit City Council hemmed. They hawed. Many Detoiters, rightfully distrustful of the Snyder administration due to their clumsy manhandling of their relationship with our biggest urban center, feared it would somehow be taken away from Detroit. The result was that they couldn’t get their act together enough to even vote on it and, yesterday, the State told them to bugger off and withdrew the offer:

The Detroit City Council declined to vote on a lease proposal for the island park Tuesday. Now, Governor Snyder’s officer says the state has pulled the offer because the city won’t meet an end-of-the-month deadline.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the Governor’s office, says the deal needed to be finalized by then so the Michigan Department of Natural Resources could make funding and programming arrangements for the upcoming fiscal year.

The idea faced fierce opposition from the get-go.

Some people thought the state lease deal didn’t contain enough specifics, and worried about imposing an $11-a-year entrance fee (the fee covers all state parks) on a traditionally free public space. They also questioned why the state was seeking a 30-year lease for the island.

Others simply opposed the idea of the state running Belle Isle, even though the city would retain ownership.

It would have saved Detroit over $6 million a year in maintenance costs and Belle Isle could once again have been a tourist draw, bringing in much needed revenue to the city. But the City Council apparently couldn’t recognize a good deal when they saw it and waited for the State to bail them out some other way.

It’s almost as if they thought that Rick Snyder, Jase Bolger, and Randy Richardville were going to personally come down to Detroit, load Belle Isle onto some flatbed trucks and take it back to Lansing with them.

I’m fully sympathetic to the Council’s distrust and fear of the Snyder administration. They’ve been given little reason to trust them over the past two years. But this deal is so clearly a good one that to reject it shows a total lack of leadership and foresight. The State Park system is one of the best things about Michigan and using the excuse that an $11 annual park fee (that allows you unlimited visits to every one of our 100+ parks and recreation areas) is too much is simply a red herring that nobody is buying.

C’mon, Detroit, you’ve been asking for help from the State all along. What will it take for you to accept it when legitimate help actually arrives?

[Detroit image credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]