Plans for a new, $400 million hockey arena in Detroit still going forward
Because, after all, what's a little bankruptcy between crony capitalists?
Advocates of the arena say it's the kind of economic development needed to attract both people and private investment dollars into downtown Detroit. It's an argument that has convinced Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager he appointed to oversee the city's finances, to stick with the plan. Orr said Detroit's bankruptcy filing won't halt the arena plans.
"I know there's a lot of emotional concern about should we be spending the money," said Orr. "But frankly that's part of the economic development. We need jobs. If it is as productive as it's supposed to be, that's going to be a boon to the city."
But critics say the project won't have enough economic impact to justify the cost, and that it's the wrong spending priority for a city facing dire economic conditions.
Detroit city services are already stretched extremely thin. On average, police take about an hour to respond to calls for help, and 40% of street lights are shut off to save money.
"If you want people to live in the city, and not just visit to go to games, you have to invest in schools, in having the police to respond to calls," said Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader in the state senate. "There are so many investments that should trump a sports stadium."
Additionally, Orr wants to make deep cuts to both the pensions and health care coverage promised to city employees and retirees.
The state legislature approved the taxpayer funding for the arena in December. The controversial vote split Detroit's own legislative delegation. Whitmer argues that the matter should be reconsidered given the city's worsening finances.
Do these people have a death wish? Isn't a large part of Detroit's problem that they invested in these showcase projects instead of mundane things like police and fire protection?
If one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over even though it is shown not to work, then it's pretty obvious that many politicians in the state from the governor on down have lost their minds. To spend taxpayer dollars on any sports stadium or arena is questionable at best. The owner of the Detroit Redwings, Mike Ilitch, is worth $1.7 billion at last count. How much of his own money is he putting up?
It helps to have friends in high places.