Friday, March 09, 2007
It's Time To Sell Belle Isle by Akindele Akinyemi
I remember when Former Mayor Dennis Archer proposed to charge residents of Detroit $3.00 to get on Belle Isle everyone raised all kind of hell: both living and dead. I was one of them.
Today, I have reversed by decision. I think it's time for the City of Detroit to sell Belle Isle. I know many people who are reading this will think I am out of my mind for proposing to sell one of the city jewels.
Have you been on Belle Isle lately? It is in desperate need of repair. People feel that Belle Isle should remain free but at the same time people will not take care of the island. This includes the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation.
The city is cash strapped right now. We are in a $96 million deficit. It is time to trim the fat off the meat.
I would like to give three ways of helping Belle Isle.
1. Turn Belle Isle over to the Metro Parks Authority. Charge a minimum fee of $4 to get on the island. This would go towards the upkeep of the island.
2. Some say Belle Isle could be sold for $370 million. Belle Isle would generate $13.8 million (at current millage rates) in property taxes per year. $13.8 million in new property taxes each year would mean $488,000 more for city libraries, $2 million for Wayne County, $4.4 million for Detroit Public Schools, $1.1 million for the state of Michigan, and $5.8 million more each year for the city of Detroit to do with as it pleases. The city also would also be relieved of its $6.6 million annual appropriation for Belle Isle.
3. Author and American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray offers an intriguing plan for deregulation that, if it were adopted for Belle Isle, could turn the island into a showplace for the benefits of privatization and deregulation. Applied to Belle Isle, the idea would work out something like this:
· The island could be sold to a builder or group of builders under a guarantee that the city of Detroit would exempt all commercial activity on the island from past or future city regulation.
· The owner(s) could then prominently advertise to interested businesses and the general public the island's freedom from city regulation. Patrons coming to the island would do so with the knowledge that they were voluntarily entering upon unregulated territory. The attraction: bargain basement prices for virtually all goods and services.
· Specific deed restrictions could be placed in each sales or lease contract, mandating a minimum level of public safety and health necessities. For example, one deed might mandate that every building or homeowner must contract directly with a fire and rescue service rather than having one blanket, city provision. Similar deed restrictions could mandate that each owner contract out for refuse collection and other services.
· The owner or owners also could draw up zoning ordinances and island speed and noise limits, and hire a private security force, possibly through Wackenhut Corporation, a private, for-profit security firm already under contract with the federal government. A Belle Isle private police force could be armed, make arrests, and book suspects where necessary, just as city law enforcement does now. Serious crimes, such as homicide, could be handed over for adjudication by city police.
3. Belle Isle can be ran by Wayne County Parks or go into a joint regional authority with the City of Detroit.
People would be happy to pay to get on Belle Isle for recreational purposes and family enjoyment. We pay to get into Metro Parks. We pay to get on Grosse Ile (where people already live). People pay to get on Mackinac Island. We have to stop letting racial politics get in the way of progress if we are serious about changing Detroit.