Just a week after Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July 2013, the city announced the public would pay $285 million to help billionaire Mike Ilitch build a new Red Wings arena.
Many of the details were kept quiet until the public no longer had a voice. City Council was even rushed to approve the deal.
Now Mayor Duggan’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is showing the same lack of transparency with the Detroit Pistons, which is expected announce Tuesday afternoon that the team is moving to downtown Detroit.
The DDA is holding a special public meeting at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cass Tech High School, and neither the mayor nor the DDA will divulge what’s happening. That’s a brazen decision since the meeting is public and potentially involves a lot of tax dollars.
“The DDA has a rule not to disclose the agenda until the meeting convenes,” DDA spokesman Bob Rossbach told me.
In other words, it’s none of your business what’s going to happen Tuesday unless you show up.
Sources told Motor City Muckraker that the topic is the Pistons.
This is important because the DDA “votes on whether to support private investments and business growth within Detroit’s central business district with loans, sponsorships and grants, infrastructure improvements and other programs that increase economic activity,” the Detroit News pointed out in a story today about the meeting.
The DDA won’t say whether more tax dollars on are on the line for another billionaire – Pistons owner Tom Gores.
Gores has been negotiating with representatives from the Ilitch family’s Ilitch Holdings Inc. to move the team to the Little Caesars Arena, where the Red Wings will begin playing.
Gores wants to build a large practice facility in an unidentified location north of the Red Wings arena.
Will another billionaire benefit from tens of millions of public dollars? It’s anyone’s guess because Duggan and the DDA prefer to work behind the scenes.
When the Ilitches wanted to demolish a historic building near the Red Wings arena site, Mayor Duggan hijacked the Historic District Commission and replaced an award-winning preservationist and a long-time board member with pro-developers. And he lied about it, denying he was playing a role.
Duggan’s office has declined to discuss the issue.
If you’re concerned about Tuesday’s meeting, call the DDA at 313-963-2940 and demand they release the agenda ahead of time. Or call Mayor Duggan’s office at 313-224-3400.
Here are the DDA board members:
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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.