A Tale of Two Cities - Part 1

by David Rambeau

Before you read this column Iíll advise you to sit down, and make sure young children arenít around because this will floor you and make you cuss and I donít want my writing to hurt you or get you a cussing ticket.

I attended a recent Detroit City Council hearing at the City-County Bldg. to listen to the move by Compuware and its cohorts to ripoff the people of Detroit with the aid and assent of the mayor and our so-called city council members.

In the hearing Compuware made the proposal to the six council members present (three were absent) to give CW a guaranteed tax abatement of $70 million and throw in two downtown city blocks for $1 each. Then the corporate spokeswoman told council they had seven (7) days to make a decision because the capitalist was in a hurry to get started.

That morning I had taken my usual ride, a city bus, to the hearing and watched the passengers who got on pay $1.25 each for their ride, or more than Compuware would pay for an entire downtown Detroit city block.

When the Compuware rep made that proposal she maintained a straight face and so did our elected officials. Politically sophisticated though I am, I, in contrast, nearly fell out of my seat.

What can you and I get these days for $1? Well, when I go to a bakery on West Warren in the Wayne State University area and get a single-dip ice cream cone Iím charged $1.59. Compuware wants a whole downtown Detroit city block for $1. When I get a bag of popcorn from the supermarket I pay $1.39. Compuware wants a whole city block in downtown Detroit for $1.

One council member, Ken Cockrell Jr. asked the Compuware rep if buying a whole city block for $1 was legal and, when assured that it was, sat back satisfied. No other council members pursued his point. Apparently the city canít just give downtown city blocks away for $1 so they have to transfer them to the Downtown Development Authority, who will then transfer them for $1 to a Compuware front or, as in the past, to other corporations and multi-millionaires. In drug circles itís called money laundering. I guess in this case it could be called property laundering. The net resultís the same.

Another council person, Brenda Scott asked Pete Karmanos, Compuware CEO, if he would consider putting up a statue on one of the blocks. He said heíd consider it. Probably a plastic statue from the toy store costing about $2 or about what he will be paying for two entire downtown city blocks.

Council woman Alberta Tinsley-Talabi asked about the companyís affirmative action and community involvement programs. A Compuware rep said they had both and pointed to the East Indian sitting at the table. Excuse me. I had to laugh to keep from crying.

A couple of days later I was at a pre-Kwanzaa program jointly sponsored by the Wayne County Commissioners and the Detroit City Council. The guest speaker talked about our African heritage and the Seven Principles, one of which is Ujamaa (cooperative economics). In the hallway I was approached by a brother who was selling tickets to a fund-raiser for $20. After some discussion and because he didnít provide any background info, I finally asked who was sponsoring the event. He told me it was a fund-raiser for Councilwoman Tinsley-Talabi. I told him he and she needed to go see ďDollarĒ Pete Karamos about buying tickets. After all she and the council were preparing to give him $70 million and two whole downtown Detroit city blocks for a dollar each, so he ought to have some chump-change handy to buy some fund-raising political kick-back tickets.

In fact, I think everybody who gets approached by any council member, the mayor, or their reps about supporting any political fund-raisers ought to be told to go see Pete and his cronies.

Have you noticed that whenever thereís a need, the community is asked to volunteer. For example, the public school officials and the cityís elected officials have been asking Detroiters to volunteer to protect students as they walk to school. For Angelís Night they ask thousands of volunteers to protect the city against arsonists. For the Spring Clean-up they ask community people to volunteer to clean up the city. Theyíre also trying to put a $3 fee on anybody who wants to drive around Belle Isle. But when it comes to giving out millions of dollars in tax breaks or millions of dollars in infrastructure (streets, freeways, lighting, parking structures, etc.), or entire city blocks for $1 each, itís always out-of-town multi-millionaires that get them.

Councilman Nick Hood the Third said he was ďecstaticĒ about CW coming to town. That it was part of Detroitís rebirth. To my way of thinking Detroit is reborn every time a black baby issues forth. He also called the casinos and the coming stadia part of the economic growth and development of the city. Well, he must have some information Iíve never heard about because all the studies Iíve read indicate that stadia and casinos are a net loss or break even economically anywhere theyíre built. And that doesnít even include social costs.

Councilwoman Sheila Cockrell has never met a capitalist she didnít love so no need to mention her comments. And Councilman Hill just sat there looking like a greased eel in a polyester suit speaking from a memorized script.

When you finish reading this and pass by a fast-food eatery and see the 99 cent hamburgers for sale with 6 cents tax, just remember that somebody just got from your public servants a whole downtown Detroit city block for 5 cents less.

A Tale of Two Cities - Part 1 by David Rambeau

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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