“Spirit of Detroit” statue in downtown Detroit. (AP Photo)
The headline juxtaposition boggles the mind. You have, on one day, “Detroit Files Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in History.” Then on the next, you have “Detroit Plans to Pay For New Red Wings Hockey Arena Despite Bankruptcy.”
Yes, the very week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder granted a state-appointed emergency manager’s request to declare the Motor City bankrupt, the Tea Party governor gave a big thumbs-up to a plan for a new $650 million Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. Almost half of that $650 million will be paid with public funds.
This is actually happening. City services are being cut to the bone. Fighting fires, emergency medical care and trash collection are now precarious operations. Retired municipal workers will have their $19,000 in annual pensions dramatically slashed. Even the artwork in the city art museum will be sold off piece by piece. This will include a mural by the great radical artist Diego Rivera that’s a celebration of what the auto industry would look like in a socialist future. As Stephen Colbert said, the leading bidder will be “the museum of irony.”
They don’t have money to keep the art on the walls. They do have $283 million to subsidize a new arena for Red Wings owner and founder of America’s worst pizza-pizza chain, Little Caesar’s, Mike Ilitch, whose family is worth $2.7 billion dollars. (“Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your pensions!”)
How did Governor Snyder possibly summon the shamelessness to justify this?
Here’s how. He said, “This is part of investing in Detroit’s future, That’s the message we need to get across.… As we stabilize the city government’s finances, as we address those issues and improve services, Detroit moves from a place where people might have had a negative impression…to being a place that will be recognized across the world as a place of great value and a place to invest.”
Where, oh where have we heard this argument before? What city has heard the false promise that stadium construction on the public dime would be a postindustrial life raft? There are actually many, but none have heard it more and paid the cost quite like Detroit. A new Red Wings arena would be the city’s third publicly funded major sports stadium, joining the Tigers’ Comerica Stadium and the Lions’ Ford Field. Each of these was billed as a “remedy” to save the city. Each of these has obviously failed. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Try to fool us three times? Go to hell.