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Can you say "gouge"?

Detroit Councilman Clyde Cleveland is not happy. And he’s not alone.

Lay the blame on Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch. At a City Council meeting last week, Cleveland complained about the $20 parking fee the Little Caesars pizza baron charges fans who attend Tigers games (or, for that matter, any activity) at Comerica Park.

Cleveland said that the exorbitant price violates a voter-approved anti-gouging ordinance he sponsored about a gazillion years ago. The law prohibited lot owners near the old Tiger Stadium from raising rates without notice.

The councilman’s criticism was not limited to Ilitch; the sleepy-eyed Cleveland also went after Central United Methodist Church. The 133-year-old house of worship is adjacent to Comerica Park and charges $20 to park in its lot during ball games and other events at the new stadium. (Normally, parking at the church is $3 during the day and $6 at night; Ilitch charges $6 for parking when Comerica Park is not in use.)

Cleveland’s accusations did not sit well with church head the Rev. Ed Rowe, who wanted to respond. But before Rowe could add his two cents, consumer affairs director John Roy Castillo explained to the councilman that as long as lot owners notify his department and the public 30 days in advance that they intend to raise fees and post rates for all to see, he “can’t control how much they charge.”

Castillo added that both Rowe and Ilitch followed this law to the letter.

This did not placate Cleveland, who pointed out that at the old Tiger Stadium, only on opening day were lot owners allowed to raise their prices. “What gives the Consumer Affairs Department the authority to approve $20 for every game at Comerica Park?” he asked.

“Our interpretation of ordinance is that it only applies to the old Tiger Stadium,” said Castillo in a phone interview with News Hits.

Council members agreed to have the Law Department look at the ordinance and determine if it applies to parking rates at Comerica Park. (Our prediction: Fat chance.)

Thanks to Council President Pro Tem Maryann Mahaffey, who is a member of Rowe’s church, the reverend was eventually allowed to respond to Cleveland. He told the council that all church parking profits go back into programs that serve the community.

“We fed 377 people at the church yesterday,” he said. “This time last year we were closed in July and August because we didn’t have the money to feed people.”

In fact, said the good reverend, church supporters purposely park at the lot during ball games because they know the money is going to a good cause. This satisfied Cleveland, who said that he did not intend for his ordinance to penalize the church.

To get into the councilman’s good graces, New Hits suggests that Ilitch tell Cleveland about the Good Samaritan work he’s planning. On Aug. 27, the Red Wings will play the Tigers in a softball game. All tickets will be $8 and the proceeds will go to Ilitch Charities for Children. Ironically, parking fees for this event will be reduced from the regular $20, according to a Comerica Park spokesperson. What that amount will be has not yet been determined.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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