Secret deal: State to take over Belle Isle in Detroit

Update: 3:02 p.m.

The state is on the verge of taking over Belle Isle after a series of secret meetings between city and state officials, the Motor City Muckraker has learned.

Despite opposition to turning over the nation’s largest municipal park, the emergency manager’s office has been meeting with the Mayor Dave Bing’s executive team and the state’s Department of Natural Resources on a hush-hush plan that would strip management from the city.

The secrecy raises more questions about the transparency of Orr and the state, which are handling billions of dollars worth of assets without as much as a public meeting.
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“This is outrageous and disrespectful,” Detroiter Jane Casey, a park-goer, said. “I understand we’re in a financial crisis, but do the people’s work in public. Who the hell do these people think they are?”

The Detroit City Council expressed outrage after news of the impending deal began to leak out this morning.

“How dare someone come into this city and take away the most treasured jewels of our citizens” Councilwoman JoAnn Watson steamed this morning.

Plans of transferring park management to the state were snubbed in February by Detroit City Council, which lost its authority when Orr was appointed a month later.

At the time, the plan would have given management of the park to the state for 30 years to help save the city more than $6 million a year. Details of the new plan haven’t been made available.

Orr has pledged to act transparently as he wends the city through bankruptcy court.

DNR officials referred questions to the governor’s office, which finally released a statement announcing the plan at 3 p.m. today.

Check back for details.
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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.