Monday, January 28, 2013

Belle Isle is a park, not a commonwealth

view from Belle Isle beach, photo by Carolyn Lusch

Crain's Detroit Business published an opinion piece by Keith Crain encouraging the city of Detroit to consider all ideas, however ridiculous, regarding Belle Isle - including those that involve creating an exclusive libertarian utopia commonwealth.
He could not be more wrong. Everyone in metro Detroit, including business leaders and politicians, should summarily reject this idea. They should do this to show Detroiters that they understand the difference between apocalyptic, frightening pitches and real, reasonable proposals for change.

To anyone who enjoys the broken beauty of Belle Isle and wishes for its improvement, the commonwealth would seem like a weird nightmare come to life. The island's publicness is its fundamental feature. No matter what kind of place you live in or what kind of job you worked at all day, you can cross the bridge into Belle Isle and take a walk along the river, swim at the beach, maybe ride a bike, maybe go fishing.

wading at Belle Isle, photo by one of Carolyn's rapscallion friends

And all those people have a legitimate concern that, Detroit not being in the best position for bargaining, the few precious resources that bolster quality of life will be wrenched from the city's control and ultimately made inaccessible to its residents.

State control is probably not that monster. It's probably economically necessary and can be executed sensitively. Hantz Farms is probably not that monster. It's an interesting idea that likely only happened because he was a big businessman and not an ordinary resident, but it still could yield good things. Detroit Future City is probably not that monster. It is an attempt to address economic realities, and again, has the potential to be carried out with community support.

The Belle Isle Commonwealth is that monster. So how can we expect Detroit to seriously consider the more moderate proposals when respected leaders in the business community are giving any degree of credence to this lunacy of a land grab?

Yes, Detroit needs big ideas - but it needs the ones that respect the dignity of the people of Detroit, that are cognizant of the history of the city and the nation, and that do not create even greater rifts and roadblocks than the ones we've already got.

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