Dan Gilbert says gimme a tax break and I will save Detroit

images_dan-gilbertThis morning in Lansing, Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, who essentially owns downtown, appeared in Lansing to request approval of a $50 million tax incentive plan “designed to spur large-scale redevelopment projects in urban centers across the state,” according to the Detroit News. The article went on to say that Gilbert and his supporters are arguing for the tax break using the reasoning that said tax break will allow him to create “transformational” developments in and around downtown Detroit that will be really great for all Detroiters because it will attract all kinds of money and investment and attract all the right sorts of people.
OK, Gilbert didn’t exactly say it like that. But he didn’t need to. Because that’s what he’s saying.
But to get an even better – and much more detailed – translation of what Gilbert may be up to, you should read Free Press business columnist John Gallagher’s article from last week. The article, which quotes some pretty knowledgeable folk from around town, raises the rather obvious question (s) of exactly how is it that by giving Gilbert this great tax break (for Gilbert), somehow all of Detroit will be in his eternal debt for the wonderful things that his proposed developments (none of which are located in not one Detroit neighborhood outside of downtown) will bestow upon the entire city. Here’s a peek:
“More broadly, we can ask how plans for a massive new state-supported project on the Hudson’s site, for example, fits into a holistic vision for Detroit’s revitalization. We need a theory of everything in urban redevelopment. We still don’t have that, just general assertions that these huge projects will boost the tax base and make Detroit more alluring in the future.

 “As John Mogk, longtime professor of development law at Wayne State University, put it last week, “It’s just not easy to explain how the public interest is benefited by having major incentives offered to developers downtown but not offered to neighborhoods to improve their conditions.”

“Tom Goddeeris, executive director of the nonprofit Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. on Detroit’s northwest side, questions where the general benefit is to the city at large from such incentives for big downtown projects, like Gilbert is requesting. ‘There theoretically is some spin-off benefit,’ he said. ‘It’s all this idea of trickle-down economics, and for the last 40 years, wealth trickles up, not down.”
Trickle down economics…
I could swear I’ve heard that term somewhere before…
For the uninitiated, trickle down economics promotes the theory that if it’s good for folks with money, then it’s good for everybody else because, well, the scraps will be better quality scraps for the rest of us to fight over. Or something like that. All we need to do is just wait for all that generosity and largesse to spill over into the rest of Detroit and life will be just…
Fill in the blank.

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