The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Plundering Belle Isle

Oct 28, 2013

Rotting buildings, bathrooms welded closed, raccoons in the rafters, trash blowing in the wind … that’s what Detroit’s island park, Belle Isle, looks like these days. Absolutely, the island needs improvement!

Michigan’s Governor Snyder wants the state to take control of the park. To improve the park – or so he says.

His budget for next year says otherwise. He allocates just 3.7 million dollars – less than what the city has been spending recently, between four and six million.

No problem, says Snyder – he plans on a “public-private partnership” to save the island. Look no further than the recent Grand Prix for a glimpse of the future under such a “partnership.”

From set-up to take-down, during most of the busy summer season, island visitors were subjected to confusing reroutes, lane closures, eventually corralled into a small section – all so the Grand Prix could go on. On race weekend, Belle Isle was closed to everyone without tickets.

And afterwards? The Prix organizers promised cleanups and repairs – but they weren’t done at all or left uncompleted, leaving torn-up grass, ruts, gravel paths to nowhere, and ugly barricades randomly dotting the island.

Roger Penske, CEO of multibillion-dollar Penske Corp., used a non-profit to run the race. Its mission, “1) promote the revitalization of economically depressed areas of the City of Detroit by conducting motor vehicle racing and 2) raise funds for the preservation and improvement of Belle Isle Park.” It paid no taxes and, according to its IRS 990 form, paid no donations to either the city or the island it promised to improve; there was no indication it paid rent. The island was prostituted for the well-to-do, to do with it whatever they wanted. They may have repaired a few roads – for the race!

This is what a public-private “partnership” is: the island turned into a low-cost or even free rental site for corporate events. The people of Detroit don’t need more of these rip-offs!