As I’ve said before, I love Detroit. Born and raised there to parents who were born and raised there, and went to college at Wayne State. It’s an amazing place. I passionately want to see Detroit revitalized. But part of loving something means being honest about it, and Detroit is a mess. To save the city, to really save it and get it out of the mess it’s currently it means making sacrifices.
That's why the recently announced $330 million deal to "save Detroit's art" and fund pensions is so disappointing. It has nothing to do with Detroit's long-term viability and success. We need a plan for financial stabilization, not a plan to leverage the Detroit Institute of Art's (DIA) collection to help a select few, in this case pensioners.
This deal actually is a symbol of what's wrong with Detroit. Liberal elites prioritize the art collection, not safety, not balanced budgets, not services to the city. Unions prioritize their members first, not overall city success. Democratic politicians prioritize short-term deals to help their constituencies rather that long-term financial stability. Recognize that song? It’s the same old crony tune that got the city here in the first place.
Repeating old patterns of short-sighted deals, putting emotion (the DIA love is real, but irrelevant given the bankruptcy and how few people visit it) ahead of reason and protecting small constituencies at the expense of everyone else won't get the city out of this mess.
And that's why this DIA deal is wrong. It's not part of a long-term revitalization plan. I'm not even sure it's really has anything to do with bankruptcy.
Let me be specific.
First, the $330 million put up by foundations is a ridiculously low number. Even Christie's valuation was $866 million and that was considered very low because they only appraised a small percentage of the art. An estimate by the Detroit Free Press pegged the value at more than $2.5 billion. It seems the DIA collection is being deliberately undervalued to "protect" it. Admirable, I suppose, but that doesn’t change the city’s economic reality so it’s irrelevant.