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Inaccurate presumptions?

By Shea Howell

This week Mike Score released an open letter to the community about Hantz Farms. Tina Basset of Basset & Basset Incorporated forwarded a copy of the letter to me, with the following comment: “I have been reading your columns in The Michigan Citizen and wanted to be sure you saw Mike Score’s open letter to the community.  In all fairness, it should run in full in The Michigan Citizen.  Many of your presumptions are not accurate and we hope that you have an open mind to what we are proposing.  I am sure Mike would not mind talking to you about your concerns.”

I appreciate the invitation to dialogue with and have respect for Mr. Score. However, I have had conversations with him in the past and they have not resolved any of my concerns.

I am glad John Hantz produced an open letter to the community. However, the letter does not address any of the questions and concerns people are raising.

Instead, the letter reads like a public relations effort, intended to link Hantz with groups who have been working to “repurpose larger tracts of land.” It also implies that critics are ungenerous and don’t “practice civic duty” or have pride in their community.” The letter states:

“People who have been generous and who practice civic duty and pride in their communities understand and support Hantz Group’s willingness to make this type of investment. The effort is to clean up, maintain and create a beautiful environment that will grow the City’s population base and create an economic catalyst by stimulating new business opportunities and therefore, jobs.”

If, after this statement, the letter explained how the purchase of 170 acres of land would accomplish any of these claims, I would be less skeptical. But it does not. Instead it claims that Hantz is offering to purchase the land for “a premium of $3,600 an acre–1/3 higher than the city’s value of the land.”

This raises some skeptical “presumptions.” According to an article in the July 5, 2012 edition of the Wall Street Journal, we find the following comment:

“Hantz Farms officials acknowledge their self-funded venture would create few new jobs in the short term, and only modest revenue for Detroit. Hantz is offering only $300 a parcel, one-tenth of what city officials wanted. It has agreed to clear the land and demolish as many as 200 structures—at an estimated cost of more than $2 million, offset in part by tax credits and state assistance—before beginning to pay roughly $60,000 a year in taxes on the land.”

The Wall Street Journal then posits three “presumptions” Hantz should address.

- Hantz claims his plan will “create an economic catalyst by stimulating new business opportunities and therefore, jobs.” How? How does this claim reconcile with the statement in the WSJ that says, “Hantz Farms officials acknowledge their self-funded venture would create few new jobs in the short term, and only modest revenue for Detroit?”

- Hantz claims he is purchasing the land for “a premium of $3,600 an acre–1/3 higher than the city’s value of the land.” How does this claim reconcile with the report in the WSJ which states he “is offering only $300 a parcel, one-tenth of what city officials wanted?”

- The letter refers to the endorsement of the Lower Eastside Action Plan group. Point 5 of that letter says, “Mechanisms have been developed—a Community Agreement and a Community Advisory Council—to continue the dialogue between Hantz Farms and local stakeholders.” Where is this agreement? How was it developed? By what process?

Until these questions are answered, citizens have every reason to hold skeptical presumptions. I have yet to see why they are “not accurate.”

See Mike Score’s letter here.

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