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Council frowns on Belle Isle lease

Kevyn Orr

Kevyn Orr

By Donald Barnes
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — During formal session on Oct. 1, council members expressed their disapproval of the state agreement with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to lease Belle Isle.

“It’s unfathomable to me that anybody could come to the New York City Council and advise the council that Central Park has been leased away to the state of New York without a hearing. I can’t imagine that,” Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said. “Belle Isle is ours. Nobody gave it to us; the city paid for it.” Watson said she questions whether Belle Isle was ever “off the table.”

The proposal for the state to lease Belle Isle first came to the council last summer and was rejected.

Council President Saunteel Jenkins has requested the legislative policy division provide the council with a report on Public Act 436, the Emergency Manager Law.

According to Jenkins, section 19-1 of the EM law states the legislative body has 10 days to review the deal and offer economically equal alternatives to any proposal from the EM that exceeds $50,000.

“From my understanding there isn’t going to be any cash that changes hand, certainly this is a lease that has a value of more than $50,000,” Jenkins said. “I was not opposed to a lease for Belle Isle, I was opposed to a lease for Belle Isle that did not provide any protections for residents who live here and currently use Belle Isle.”

Councilmember Ken Cockrel previously said, once the city got an emergency manager, the leasing of Belle Isle would be inevitable. “We are where we are now,” Cockrel said. “Hopefully it’s a better deal than before — one that actually takes the island to the next level. We won’t know until we actually see the lease.”

President Pro Tem Andre Spivey and council member James Tate reserved comment until the new lease is presented.

Spivey, Jenkins, Tate, Cockrel are the four remaining council members who voted with the programs for “Detroit’s rescue” that Gov. Rick Snyder, Treasurer Andy Dillon and Mayor Dave Bing proposed and that brought Orr and emergency management and state control to the city.

Council set a public hearing for Oct. 28, 2 p.m. to discuss moving city elections to the even election year beginning in 2018.

Meanwhile, union activist Robert Davis is asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate the no-bid contracts — now reaching $62 million — signed by EM Kevyn Orr with a variety of consultants including his former law firm, Jones Day.

A state representative from Taylor also responded to media reports of the boondoggle reaped by Orr’s former  firm and other consultants in the bankruptcy proceedings.

Michigan State Rep. Doug Geiss (D-Taylor) introduced H.B. 4945 Sept. 30. It would impose many of the ethics rules applied to state and local elected officials on emergency managers.

Geiss noted what citizens under emergency management have been saying for years: there is no check and balance with EMs. “The person can do whatever he or she wants to do without having anyone say, yea or nay.”

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