Detroit political candidate sues city over using school taxes for Red Wings arena

A Detroit resident running for city clerk has filed suit against the funding mechanism for the new Detroit Red Wings and Pistons arena, claiming that the city’s development agency illegally siphoned off tax levies meant for another purpose without getting the public’s approval:

D. Etta Wilcoxon alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court that the Detroit Downtown Development Authority and the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority have violated her right to vote by attempting to use tax revenue from an 18-mill DPS levy “for a different purpose” without first obtaining voter approval from Wilcoxon and the other registered voters.

The grab violates Michigan’s General Property Tax Act, the lawsuit alleges.

This is confusing, because the whole Detroit arena deal funding scheme is confusing, so let’s revisit it briefly: The DDA has been collecting property taxes and using them to pay down school construction debt, but is now going to siphon off a chunk of that and use it to pay down arena construction debt instead. Then the state is reimbursing the DDA for the money, so really the subsidy is coming out of state coffers.

Still, the DDA is undeniably using money that was approved for another purpose, even if the state is paying it back, so Wilcoxon’s lawsuit has maybe a leg to stand on? Why she’s only filing it now, three months before the arena opens, is less clear — though it may have to do with that whole “running for city clerk” thing — and if she’s successful it’ll be the city and state scrambling to find a way to raise $300 million, not the sports team owners, but, sure, challenging maybe illegal use of public moneys is always fun.

In other news, the Detroit city council is still considering a tax abatement for a Pistons practice facility, which would cost the city about $20 million. Oh, and the teams showed some journalists around the arena construction site recently, leading the Free Press reporter on the junket to enthuse that the place will be “at once intimate and airy,” which is not strictly impossible — you could have an intimate seating bowl and spacious concourses, say — but is also exactly the kind of PR gibberish that teams tend to spout, so it’s probably best to be skeptical, especially when the actual photos accompanying the article show the exact same “wall of suites topped with cheap seats a mile from the action” design that every arena seems to have these days:

Basically, don’t believe anybody about anything, because people are horrible and will lie to your face, and most journalists will repeat whatever those people say because that’s what they see as their job, or at least all they have time for. The end of the world really can’t come soon enough.

6 comments on “Detroit political candidate sues city over using school taxes for Red Wings arena

  1. “wall of suites topped with cheap seats a mile from the action” design that every arena seems to have these days:.

    You forgot the Scoreboard that the smucks, I mean fans pay lots of money, some being “entertainment expenses” for smaller businesses, so a Tax Deduction, so they can watch the game on the BIG SCREEN HD TV hanging over head.
    Take them to Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters and bill will be less.

  2. Sounds like someone at the Free Press is trying to line up a PR job with the Pistons or Wings. Wouldn’t be the first time THAT’s happened in sports.
    Then again, given how newspapers are dying a slow death while sports teams are getting government subsidies, that’s not the dumbest move she could make.

  3. How do teams get away with demanding practice facility subsidies? In most cases, the team already has secured a new arena, so there’s no threat of relocation. And they can’t even use their superficial claims of “job creation”. It’s still the same trainers, the same janitors and no one is going to be buying popcorn or beer.

  4. What do any of these arenas have going for them, other than the fact that they are new? They all look exactly the same to me.

    When I was in school, they used to tell us that the Earth was getting colder, and that soon we would all freeze to death.

    I’ve got 20 years or so left on the planet, I hope it does heat-up. Just selfishly. Shorter drive to the beach, from Denver.

    “Oceanfront property in Arizona.”

  5. Revolutions would solve these problems but technology & unlimited war funding has rendered hoping for the end of the world the only option.

  6. Makes me mad every time I see a new arena built with an NHL regulation size rink; if they had any common sense, the league would have required new buildings to house an Olympic (European) standard rink. The major issue with the NHL’s lack of goal scoring is that there just isn’t enough room for players to get creative. The players have gotten significantly larger, while the rink, and the attacking zone in particular, has not. Add one more body on the ice in the form of a second referee, and it’s no wonder players have to go down the tunnel from the bench just to change their mind.