The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Excuses for Corporate Handouts

Aug 1, 2022

The Detroit City Council just approved yet another 60 million dollars in tax breaks for billionaire Dan Gilbert, supposedly to pay for “cost overruns” for construction on the site of the old Hudson’s department store. This is on top of the more than 200 million dollars he had already received from the city, county and state, and the valuable downtown land he was given for a grand total of $1!

Workers have seen this scam before. Somehow politicians always have money to pay billionaires for “cost overruns.”

When residents and some city council members have rightfully spoken out angrily to say this is money that could go to improve city services, the constant refrain from apologists for these corporate handouts is that the money for these tax breaks comes from property taxes in downtown Detroit, which is collected by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and therefore does not take money away from city services.

This is patently false, because the DDA is allowed to capture money from libraries and community colleges. Just ask commissioners and staff from the Detroit Public Library, who voiced their anger in March of last year about money going to the DDA that’s needed to re-open neighborhood branches of the public library. They pointed out that in 2020, the DDA ‘captured’ 12% of the library’s millage revenue and is expected to do so in future years, despite Detroit voters approving a library millage renewal in 2014 that called for the DDA’s capture to be capped at 5%. The DDA has been allowed to exceed that cap supposedly because of previous agreements the library was bound by.

Even setting aside the question of money being taken from libraries and community colleges, someone has to pay property taxes to pay for the “re-development” the DDA pays for. Jerry Belanger, the owner of Cliff Bell’s jazz club, Bucharest Grill and the Park Bar voiced his displeasure when the city voted to hand over 39 parcels of land to the billionaire Ilitch family to build Little Caesar’s Arena for the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.

Downtown businesses that receive money from the DDA get police, fire, and sanitation services. Those cost money that comes out of the city budget, not from the DDA, and therefore is paid for by city taxpayers, not the billionaires getting handouts from the DDA.

It’s obvious to anyone who looks around the city of Detroit that the fancy new developments that will continue to pour money into the coffers of billionaires like Dan Gilbert come at the expense of residents in the rest of the city.