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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Op/Ed - Not so fast Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Detroit City Parks Belong to City Residents First

English: Casino building in Belle Isle Park, D...
English: Casino building in Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Michigan, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
IU News & Talk Op/Ed
By Monica RW

As a sitting Elected Park Commissioner in my local community, I'm frankly appalled by the overreach of State Officials on which entity should operate Belle Isle Park.

Belle Isle Park doesn't belong to the State of Michigan. The park directly is owned by the Citizens and Residents of Detroit. Not citizens of Highland Park, Ann Arbor, Grosse Pointe Farms, Birmingham, nowhere else in Oakland, Wayne, Livingston, Macomb, Washtenaw Counties, anywhere in "Mitten" --Lower Peninsula or "Bunny" -- Upper Peninsula areas either.

It doesn't matter, to be a bit frank, what suburbanites feel should happen to Belle Isle Park. 

Watching the City Council meetings, we observed resident after Detroit resident say they did not want nor desire the State to "lease" Belle Isle Park. The Citizens of the City make up the semi-final say of what should happen to Park land with the limits of Detroit. 

From there, the City Council's sole job is responding, by vote, to wills Detroit's residents for the absolute final say of Residents to what should occur with their Parks. 

Specifically, the residents of Detroit include:

-Individuals pay taxes and live in City Limits

-Residents who don't own a piece of taxable personal property but pay Detroit City Taxes 

-And others who are not employed or own personal property but live within the City limits. 

That's it, that's all.

One can clearly understand the motivations, so to speak, of people who don't live in Detroit and desire change. Yet, one must have to equally relate to the reality, it's NOT your change to make or mandate. 

With such, from a Elected Park Commissioner point of view, I would recommend for the Council, Detroit Residents and if in current existence, any Detroit Park Commissioners consider for concrete ideas effort to fix City's Park funding and maintenance issues:

If $ 650 Million dollars of State Funding exist --in the form of State Tax Breaks passed by the Michigan House during last December's Lame Duck session for businessman Mike Ilitch to build a "new" Red Wings Stadium and develop land nearby the proposed venue--- clearly funding exists somewhere in Lansing that equality could be GRANTED to the Detroit's Recreation Department with monetary revenue to temporary maintain Belle Isle

Also if the State cares as much as they say about Belle Isle and other City of Detroit Parks, the only "strings" that should be attached to these funds is that they're SPECIFICALLY placed inside of a Park Fund Account. Lansing elected officials can attach monetary conditions to receive grant funds, an outside auditing firm must oversee the account.

Some reasonable conditions for receiving GRANT funding could include:

-Hiring necessary maintenance staff to maintain ALL City Parks

-Embark on a complete Park land operational assessment to conclude the maintenance and recreation staffing needs necessary to fully operate all of Detroit's Parks.

-Hire security staffing to ensure updated equipment placed with GRANT funds in the park stays in each location.

-Perform a complete safety audit -by hiring contracted services of a outside firm-- to assess current any liability issues in Detroit Parks.

-Maintain a seven to nine seat -- initially appointed, then elected--- Park Commission to respond to residents concerns about the parks, along with an experienced Recreation Director to work side by side Commissioners to oversee park land along with add necessary revenue by drafting structured fee recreational activities for City Residents.

-And if necessary, the seated Park Commission recommends to the City Council a fee scale to gain entry to "high usage" parks similar to Belle Isle. 

Despite of Detroit's Financial Problems, all the above can be done. 

Instead, the State in a backhanded way with the willing assistance of Mayor Bing, is trying to take Belle Isle Park anyway from its' residents. Therefore, Mayor Bing who has threaten to shut down unilaterally 50 City Parks and shutter the others, should read Michigan State Public Act 157 of 1905Act 261 of 1965 along with any statutory language regulating City Parks inside of the Detroit Charter.

City of Detroit Charter - Sec. 9-503. Historic Areas and Landmarks.

"The preservation of historic areas and landmarks is declared to be a public purpose.

The City may provide, by ordinance, for the preservation of historic areas and landmarks within the City. When an area is designated an historic district, the designation may not be withdrawn without the consent of a majority of the property owners within the district and the requirements of the district applicable to private property may be enforced upon the complaint of any property owner or association of property owners within the district."
Just as a reminder, Belle Isle Park Mayor Bing, maintains within its' boarders, many historical landmarks.

From the Belle Isle Conservancy Website
"Belle Isle features a large, natural wooded area that is home to a wide variety of small animals and birds. The park was designed in the 1880s by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. It features a number of historic public landmarks including the Belle Isle Casino, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservancy, and the Scott Fountain."
Independent Underground News & Talk will continue to follow this story and report updates, where warranted.

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