The Detroit community group Corridors Alliance is demanding that any public funding of a new Red Wings arena should include a community benefits agreement to guarantee that jobs go to local residents and protect local homeowners from being displaced:
“We want to hold the development to a higher standard,” [the alliance’s Francis] Grunow said. “As time has gone on, there’s been more and more public money included in these projects.”
That’s all well and good, and a CBA would indeed provide some teeth for requiring that the Red Wings actually live up to their promise to hire Detroit residents for the majority of jobs created. The problem with even well-written CBAs, of course (i.e., not this one), is that 51% of the jobs created by an arena project is still not a whole heck of a lot of jobs, especially not once the actual construction is completed.
If the argument for the arena project is that it will help the local economy, then requiring local hiring seems like a no-brainer, but it won’t change the fact that Detroit could create a heck of a lot more jobs for its $261.5 million if it spent it on just about anything else. Which isn’t getting discussed now, mind you — and the state of Michigan has effectively ruled out considering it — but so long as community groups focus on getting a cut of the meager spoils and not the overall policy behind sports subsidies, it’s easy for team owners to buy off opposition by promising to hire the right people.