As expected, the Detroit city council rubber-stamped the transfer of several blocks of downtown land to Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch for $1 yesterday — or rather, the transfer of the land to the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, which will lease it to Ilitch for 95 years, because you wouldn’t expect a guy to own his land and have to pay property taxes on it, seriously, right? The council approved the plan 6-3, notwithstanding that Ilitch didn’t agree to anything in writing guaranteeing that jobs would go to locals, as some councilmembers wanted, and the city didn’t succeed in getting more than that dollar (I hope it has lots of 1’s in its serial number, at least) for its land, as other councilmembers had been insisting.
Yesterday’s agreement came two months after the council put off a vote in order to increase its “leverage,” which has Detroit’s Metro Times wondering what kind of leverage they exerted, exactly:
But if that was the point — to meditate on what Olympia Development CEO Tom Wilson glibly called a “once-in-a-generation” deal — some left City Hall Tuesday puzzled after the council approved the transfer of city-owned land to the Downtown Development Authority at the cost of $1. City Council President Brenda Jones, Councilman James Tate and Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez voted against the swap…
Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins says the original proposal offered no job guarantees for Detroit residents or the creation of a neighborhood advisory council. So, the pre-construction job guarantees now in writing were an improvement, she says.
“Is this a perfect agreement? Absolutely not,” Jenkins says. “… We didn’t reach perfection, but I think we did work very hard.
“It’s much better than what we had originally.”
According to city records, Olympia and the DDA say 51 percent of the jobs hired for the arena’s construction will be for Detroiters. But without a community-benefits agreement in place, that’ll be difficult to monitor, Grunow says.
And, City Council staff noted Tuesday, there’s no job guarantees for Detroit residents post-construction.
Leverage, people! It works better when you’re willing to walk away.