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‘Hands off’ Belle Isle

Residents rally to maintain ownership of ‘city jewel’

By Marcus Wright
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Several hundred people attended an Aug. 1 “Hands Off Our Island” rally on Belle Isle. The rally, organized by Detroit City Council members Kwame Kenyatta, Brenda Jones, and JoAnn Watson, was held at the band shell.

The three council members message to attendees was say, ‘no’ to a 99-year lease, state imposed fee and the Consent Agreement. Council members said they support city ownership and operation of Belle Isle.

Recently, Mayor Dave Bing has also come out against a state takeover of Belle Isle.

At a July 24 NAACP meeting, Bing said he could not support the state’s proposal to lease Belle Isle for 99 years, and that he will develop a plan to upgrade the island instead.

“I can’t support [the lease] without them telling [us] what they’re going to invest and upgrade in Belle Isle,” Bing said.

Council woman Jones says the mayor’s administration cannot be trusted.

“It’s difficult to understand their position, it changes from day to day,” Jones said. “They tell people at an NAACP meeting they’re against the 99-year lease and, the next day, we hear the mayor called the governor and asked him to expedite the process.”

Jones also believes the five council members who supported the Consent Agreement may regret their decision.

New Destiny Baptist Church Pastor Tellis Chapman told the crowd it didn’t matter that only 200 to 300 people came out.

“We don’t count numbers, we make numbers count,” said Rev. Chapman. “This is our island.”

Owosu Mallard, a city resident, attended the rally. He said he was there to support the council members who have always put the interest of the people of Detroit first. Mallard said the city should maintain ownership and operation of Belle Isle.

“There are ways to support the maintenance of Belle Isle other than handing it over to the state,” Mallard said.

Tyrone Travis said he supports the effort to rally but more is needed to stop the takeover of Detroit.

“We have to go into the neighborhood and organize the discontented masses,” said Travis.

AFSCME official, Ed McNeil, said the city had options and could have prevented many of the changes in Detroit if the city had adopted the Coalition of Union’s plan.

“There would no be need for a consent agreement,” McNeil said. “The consent agreement invited the devil in and we’re catching hell.”


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