Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cobo Conspiricy

It seems like every two years Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit suggests the expansion of Cobo Hall. This year he got his buddy County Executive Robert Ficano to do the deed for him. Its not that the idea is such a bad one, it is that the taxpayers never seem to get relief from the Cobo expansion project. They don’t seem to care what laws they break, what rights they trample or how much the taxpayer pays to achieve their goals.
At least the project has gotten less ambitious. At one time they wanted to build a new facility and attach a hotel without any idea what they were going to do with the old one. The price tag under Ficano seems to have dropped some as well, but we still have to consider that the bonds from the 1989 expansion will not be paid for until 2015. That has not been the only costs assumed by the taxpayers. We have been paying through Downtown Development, Tax Increment Financing and local taxes.
Of course, any new project must start with an Authority made up of individuals who have not been elected by anyone. Then, they are authorized by the legislature and appointed by some elected official(s). The State seems to want to be involved on this project too and will be represented if it flies. I think this is so the $16.2 million grant that was given to Cobo Hall in 2006 will not have to be given this year but rather extracted from taxpayers as is customary in a different manner.
It is proposed that this non elected body be given the authority to bond for this plan to the tune of $968 million for the 270 sq. ft. expansion. We should be grateful that this amount includes paying off the existing bond balance. Cobo Hall would then be turned over to private companies to be managed. Of course there is no guarantee that they will not buy $500,000 worth of artwork like the mayor did in 2002 when they were expected to lose millions of dollars.
Article IX Section 25 of the State Constitution says we should have the opportunity to vote on such matters. This is something they conveniently forget all to frequently and it certainly has not stopped them in the past. To insure that the counties and the legislature approve the plan, $233 million from the 22 year extension of the of the hotel and liquor tax would be split up between the 83 counties.
Few of these projects ever live up to their expectations (Pontiac Silverdome, Poletown Plant, first Cobo expansion, etc.). Cobo Hall loses tens of millions of dollars each year which leaves the taxpayer holding the bag. Even if they expand Cobo Hall there is no guarantee that the massive expendatures will produce the desired results.
If business is expected to benefit so much by this expansion, then they should be willing to foot the bill. Businesses are not the only ones who have been ravaged in this state. Taxpayers pay all the bills as consumers, even those imposed on business. With all the problems on the state and local level, more taxes for a car show or possibly a few more conventions makes no sense as a solution.

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