Belle Isle to remain in Detroit’s hands – at least for now; council furious

Detroit City Council stood united today against a plan to lease Belle Isle to the state for 30 years, saying the deal was laughably inadequate and fails to address fears that the park would not improve under Michigan control.

“What we have before us is way beyond disrespectful,” Councilman James Tate said. “It’s stupid. It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible attempt at throwing it down our throat.”

Turns out, the pending deal between Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder offers no assurance that the financially struggling park would receive a penny for improvements. In fact, any future funding depends on the availability of state funds, which are controlled by a traditionally anti-Detroit Legislature.

Calling it a”crappy proposal,” Council President Charles Pugh criticized the mayor for holding a press conference last week championing a 30-year lease.

“They were celebrating a touchdown, and the game didn’t even start,” Pugh said. “The stadium isn’t even open yet.”

The fight underscores the dysfunctional relationship between the mayor and council at a time when the city is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Some council members said they were open to a lease but were flabbergasted that the mayor’s office wouldn’t supply adequate information to even begin a discussion on handing over control of a city gem.

“This is not about this body being obstructionist,” Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said. “This is about us doing our job. … We can’t make informed decisions without proper documentation.”

The state’s desire to take over the park is part of a Snyder’s mandated overhaul of city government that many fear will cripple services and stip Detroit of its gems.


Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.