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]

  • That kind of stupidity is just shocking. I agree that any kind of dealings with Snyder et al have to be looked at with suspicion, but this looked really, really good for a change. So they would rather watch the former beautiful Belle Isle (named that for a reason) fall into ruin than let the state have anything to do with it. Brilliant.

    One question, though. If it was going to be a state park how could Detroit still maintain control? Was that ultimately the problem?

    • It was a lease so they could opt out of it after a period of time, ten years, I believe it was.

      • Toka313

        But that opt out meant that the city had to takeover all bonds and contracts the state entered into. The DNR said they were going to take out an immediate 20m bond right off the bat. It makes it close to impossible for the city to take it back. That was my concern.. (Also Detroit was still responsible for water, sewage, and lighting under the deal)

  • Toka313

    The 10 year ‘out’ that the city had seemed like a farce to me. I wish our media had dug deeper into some of the parts of the lease that seemed sketchy. Particularly the bonds the city would have been responsible for if they wanted to get out after 10 years. This could have been stopped if there was a requirement that all bonds/contracts the state entered into ended at 10 year periods. Nobody in the city inquired about it, nobody in the state offered it. And yes, after Jean Klock Park, where is the room to trust the Snyder administration?

    • The Snyder administration had absolutely nothing to do with Jean Klock Park. The culpable individuals in that travesty were the Benton Harbor City Council members.

      • Toka313

        Thanks for the correction. How about “after RTW, where is the room to trust the Snyder administration?” FTFY.. :-)

  • kirke123

    well, they dont trust them and i dont blame them, i dont either!
    now, i do think its a great idea if its guranteed not to shut down like other parks.
    i mean, look what happened in benton harbour, that would have made a great st park?

    • Which state parks has the Snyder Administration shut down?

      Whether Jean Klock Park would have made a good state park or not is neither here nor there to this conversation. The Detroit City Council blew it. This was a good deal and they should have taken it.

  • Bill

    save the money and get more flaming hot chetoos and obamaphonez!!

    • Bill

      Detroit city council may be the dumbest group of imbeciles to walk the face of the earth.

  • Carolyn4444

    Penny-wise and Dollar-foolish? That’s the Detroit City Council over and over again. This is one group that ought to be a Council as a “part-time job”. Maybe if they had to really earn a living alongside other Detroiters, they see the light!

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