Stadium deal's sweeteners turn sour

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As the most engaged Metro Times readers know, we haven't been 100 percent supportive of the deal Mike Ilitch got for his stadium. All the players in Lansing and downtown Detroit really bent over backwards (and,we feel, bent their constituents the other way) to ensure that our pizza billionaire got real estate, tax deals, generous subsidies, free demolition, and many other incentives to build his profit-making stadium just across I-75 from downtown.

A few small sweeteners existed or were negotiated that helped that medicine go down, among them some nonbinding agreements about landscaping, or grandfathered agreements about jobs for Detroit residents. While the narrative is that big-ticket projects such as stadiums are important because they pass on the benefits to the community at large, it's worth noting that the only thing ensuring that this "trickle-down" process happens are such agreements, and then not always.

Well, look at what Lansing's up to. They're considering a bill that would void any such agreements

It all smacks of dishonesty and bad faith. Without such agreements, would many of the people who approved of the deal have swung behind it? Certainly community benefits seemed important to the Freep's Stephen Henderson, who argued his point in an editorial back in March. "More than $250 million for nothing. That's where we're starting," he wrote. 

But if this house bill passes, Ilitch will be off the hook for any and all commitments. And in a nick of time, shortly after the celebration of his groundbreaking, but before anybody turns a shovel of earth in any but a ceremonial manner.


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