Council slams private deal to turn Belle Isle into state park

belleisle_1506Detroit City Council members slammed a back-room deal Tuesday that will place Belle Isle in the hands of the state of Michigan.

“How dare someone come into this city and take away the most treasured jewel of our citizens,” Councilwoman Joann Watson steamed. “It’s nefarious and underhanded.”

Some council members learned shortly before today’s 10 a.m. meeting that the state was secretly finalizing a deal that would give management of the nation’s largest municipal island to the Department of Natural Resources.

The council rejected a similar plan in February, and the state said it had shelved the idea.

But we reported this morning that Gov. Rick Snyder’s executive team and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s office had privately revived the plan and were hammering out the final details.

Council members said they were never briefed on the plan and have not seen the new lease.

While the emergency manager has sole authority over most decisions, he made a public pledge to be transparent and involve the city’s elected officials.

“There is no respect for the people in this city,” Councilwoman Brenda Jones said.

Orr’s office didn’t respond to requests for more information, and the DNR declined to comment.

Click here to stay up-to-date on the lease with Belle Isle – if and when the state and city decide to release the information.

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.