Live blog: Council to debate transferring Belle Isle to state this afternoon

Detroit City Council is to begin debating the merits of transferring control of Belle Isle to the state under a 30-year lease agreement supported by Mayor Dave Bing.

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta is boycotting the meeting, saying it’s not worthy of his attention.

3:19 p.m. More back-and-forth between council and the state and administration. But a majority of council members are opposed to entering a lease – at least for now.

3 p.m. A deal looks very unlikely because council members want more details and guarantees.

2:52 p.m. Pugh said he won’t vote on a lease unless there are more specifics. That all but kills the deal.

2:43 p.m. Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, in a raised voice, said the lease “is an insult to the residents of Detroit. It’s an offense to talk about giving away something because you can’t keep it clean. That’s management.”

2:33 p.m. Councilwoman Jenkins: Lease “is so vague … There are so many things to address.” Audience applauds when she asks for more specifics.

2:28 p.m. Belle Isle Conservancy leader Sarah Early: “We will work with the DNR. We have a voice … We will be the watchdog”

2:20 p.m. Meeting heats up with testy exchange between council and mayor’s office. Councilman James Tate accused the administration of hiding documents related to the lease.

2:13 p.m. Pugh wants a 10-year lease instead of 30 years.

2:06 p.m. Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. questions timing of lease. “I didn’t hear a fact-based rationale why the administration believes this is the thing to do right now,” Cockrel said.
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“It seems we have shifted the focus away from matters that are far more pressing.”

Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said the city and state can handle multiple priorities.

2:04 p.m. Pugh wants to know if the state can guarantee that Detroiters will be hired to work at the park. State says it can’t make such assurances.

1:58 p.m. State says it will keep park clean with $1.6 million in annual maintenance. Hopes to get an additional $1.4 million for sprucing up other parts of the park, but no guarantees.

1:52 p.m. Council continues to listen to the state and administration make their case for signing a lease with the state.

1:45 p.m. State pledges to take care of all 13.4 miles of the park.

1:37 p.m. State says the lease would be a good partnership to enhance the park and “free up critical city services.”

1:30 p.m. Detroit Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis says the agreement with the state would save the city at least $6 million a year and free up police who patrol the island park.

“This is a framework that is workable,” Lewis told council members of the pending deal with Gov. Rick Snyder.

1:24 p.m Some council members are asking to delay the debate until it goes through a committee. That’s an odd request since the debate can happen during a regular meeting.

“There is no urgency,” Council President Charles Pugh said. “Belle Isle is not about to sink into the Detroit River.”

1:15 p.m. Council is discussing other items on the agenda. No discussion on Belle Isle yet.

1:06 p.m. Enough council members show up to hold the meeting. Five of the nine council members must be present to hold a public hearing.

1:05 p.m.  Council meeting is adjourned because not enough members show up.

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.

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