Race sponsored by banks, corporations which caused EM takeover, devastated Detroit with debt and foreclosures
Run by phony non-profits, brings no benefits to Detroit residents
Portends state theft of island, city
By Diane Bukowski
May 25, 2013 — Since at least March, Roger Penske and his allies in the banking and corporate sector have seized control of a large section of Detroit’s world-renowned Belle Isle, banning public access and despoiling the island’s natural beauty, all to prepare for the “Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix” June 1 and 2, 2013.
Penske is chair of Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Inc. (DBIGP), a non-profit which claims in its IRS filings that it “1) promotes the revitalization of economically depressed areas of the City of Detroit by conducting motor vehicle racing and 2) raise[s] funds for the preservation and improvement of Belle Isle Park.” Therefore it pays no taxes.
He is also CEO of Penske Corporation, which according to its website “manages businesses with revenues in excess of $16 billion, operating in more than 1,800 locations and employing more that 36,000 people worldwide.”
This is the first time the DBIGP has returned to the Island since 2007 and 2008. Subsequent races were allegedly cancelled due to the “economic crisis of the automotive industry.”
DBIGP’s Form 990 for 2009, the earliest available on Guidestar, indicate that revenue for 2008 was $10.6 million, with expenses of $11.3 million. There is no declaration of any expense paid to the City of Detroit for rental of the island or the use of public employees from the recreation, police, fire and other departments.
In fact, the form shows “exempt purpose rental” of $909,099 under “Program Service REVENUE,” with an identical amount for concession sales. Nothing is listed under the category “Grants and other assistance to governments and other organizations in the U.S.” in either the 2009, 2010 or 2011 Forms 990 for DBIGP. (Click on DBIGP 2009 990.)
So where are the funds raised for “the preservation and improvement of Belle Isle Park?”
Detroit’s overall economic condition declined from 2007 to 2008, according to the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Statements for 2008. In 2008, the city had a total general fund defict of $219 million, up from $155.6 million in 2007. So evidently the city as a whole did not benefit from the races Penske held in 2007 and 2008.
VOD has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the city asking for
- A city budget involving projected city revenues and expenses for the Grand Prix.
- A copy of the contract(s) with Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Inc. and any related agencies such as the Downtown Detroit Partnership, both non-profits, involving use of city-owned public land on Belle Isle for the event.
- A complete list of charges to the event’s sponsors from the City of Detroit for allowing the presence of this event on city property, e.g. rent, charges for use of police, fire, recreation and other city personnel during and around the Grand Prix, to prepare for the event, to operate it, and for shutdown.
- A list of what improvements to Belle Isle that Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Inc. has made or plans to make to the island, pursuant to its report to the IRS . . .
- The cost of those improvements or planned improvements, projected for this year, and during past Grand Prix events.
- The amount of funds the company has contributed to the preservation and improvement of Belle Isle for this year’s race, as well as previous races held on the island.
There is no indication the situation will change this year, even though Detroit is in such dire distress, running a deficit allegedly exceeding $360 million, that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr flew in on vulture wings to save the city.
During a bicycle tour of the island May 21, this reporter took photos of sponsor signs on the raceway from the same banks and corporations which have devastated Detroit with predatory lending to its residents and government, as well as massive illegal foreclosures that have driven 275,000 people out of the city.
The entire section of the island west of the police station near the beach was cordoned off, looking like a “concentration camp for the wealthy,” considering three-day ticket prices of up to $155 for adults and $110 for children. The photos were taken through fences and barbed wire, over concrete blockades lining the raceway, as no other access was available.
A guard said the public could not even walk on the grassy side of the island next to the river on the other side of the barricades. Fences were set up from the barricades all the way to the water. Photos were taken anyway after the reporter slipped though an open gate, which was locked on her way back, forcing her to straddle the fence in the water to get back to her bike.
A pair of geese and poor little goslings, not yet able to fly, were however trapped by that fence. Wildlife on the island has been traumatized by destruction due to the races and other incursions on their native habitat for years now. Recently, another family of geese with babies was seen crossing East Jefferson against the traffic. dodging cars, clearly having been displaced from their original nesting place on the island.
Signs for Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans dominated the island as well. The wealthy mortgage baron, worth $1.9 billion, also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He was fined $100,000 by the NBA Commission for remarks he made criticizing LeBron James’ decision to leave the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Gilbert’s feelings “personify a slave master mentality,” and that he was treating James as “a runaway slave”.
The Quicken Loan headquarters in downtown Detroit migrated from the virtally all-white Detroit suburb of Livonia, also the home of current Mayoral candidate Mike Duggan until he moved to Detroit less than one year before he filed to run.
Gilbert is competing with Mike Illitch, worth $2.7 billion and owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, to buy up huge tracts of land in downtown Detroit and the Cass Corridor at bargain basement prices.
It’s a toss-up which of them is responsible for the recent eviction of extremely low-income residents of three apartment buildings on Henry. Both have plans for the area, urged on by the appointment of EM Orr.
According to a recent New York Times article, Gilbert has spent around $1 billion acquiring nearly three million square fee of real estate, and is negotiating to buy the Greektown Casino Hotel. Earlier, he bought the historic Dime Building in downtown Detroit for a paltry $15 million.
The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is of course also sponsored by Chevrolet, Cadillac and Corvette, brand names of cars manufactured by that great ally of Detroit’s population, General Motors.
After devastating the city of Detroit with plant closures through the 1980’s, GM closed 14 factories across the U.S., including seven in Michigan, as part of its bankruptcy and government bail-out/restructuring plan in 2009. Of the company’s remaining 62,000 hourly workers, 21,000 lost their jobs.
Those closings further devastated the majority-Black city of Pontiac, which now also struggles under the whip of an EM, who has sold off a large amount of the city’s assets, including its 11 water department plants. The company has gone on to close plants, most recently in Flint, another majority-Black city run by an EM. It has also hit suburban plants throughout Michigan and the country.
MGM Grand and Motor City Casino banners were prominent at the DBIGP concentration camp for the wealthy as well. While the casinos have provided jobs for some grateful Detroiters, they have also impoverished a great many more who have become gambling addicts.
Additionally, Detroit’s tax revenues from those casinos now go directly to U.S. Bank NA, which acts as a trustee to make sure its debts to the banks get paid off from that income. The primary creditor is UBS AG, which loaned the city a whopping $1.5 BILLION in pension obligation certificates in 2005, a predatory loan which the city defaulted on twice after the global economic collapse of 2008, costing it another $1 billion in fines.
Despite those factors, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, head of Detroit’s NAACP chapter, recently held its membership meeting at the MGM Grand Casino hotel.
Earlier, after hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents, mainly women and children, were thrown off public assistance, the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH came to Detroit to join a protest by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. He refused, however, to call a boycott of Michigan businesses and proceeded to hold a Rainbow PUSH Automotive Summit at the same hotel the next week, attended by auto executives from across the globe.
A newcomer to the Grand Prix sponsorship is Shinola, LLC, a white-owned start-up company given an award by City Council President Charles Pugh at the beginning of its session April 9, 2013. The company evidently has quite a bit of money available, since its signs, next to the historic Dodge Fountain, also blocked from public access, were as prominent as those of the major corporations.
Shinola CEO Randy Montgomery and his partners are making watches, bicycles and other paraphernalia at the College for Creative Studies, but have not said how many Detroiters they are hiring.
Pugh said he met Montgomery at a meeting of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a corporate front for privatization. The company bought the rights to the name from the makers of Shinola shoe polish, which ran racist ads featuring a Black child shining shoes.
The daily media is currently running outraged articles regarding EM Orr’s alleged announcement that paintings and other art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which are owned by the City, may be sold to pay off the city’s debt. They make no mention of the earllier loss of actual human beings, city workers who lost their jobs when the DIA was handed over to the management of the Founders Society, run by wealthy suburbanites.
It is more likely that treasures like Belle Isle, which is used primarily by Black Detroiters, particularly Black youth who have few other places for recreation, and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, run across a six-county area largely by Black city workers, will face the EM’s ax if Detroiters do not rise to defend their home.
VOD RECOMMENDS THAT DETROITERS AND THOSE WHO SUPPORT THEM BOYCOTT THE GRAND PRIX TO PROTEST THE EM TAKEOVER OF THE CITY.
- DO NOT BUY TICKETS.
- DO NOT ATTEND THE FREE DAY WHICH GIVES THE DBIGP THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW OFF BLACKS IN ATTENDANCE, WATCHING WEALTHY WHITE RACE CAR DRIVERS.
- DO NOT VOLUNTEER! DETROITERS NEED PAID JOBS!
- CONDUCT A MASS PROTEST AT THE BRIDGE! BLOCK TRAFFIC! INTERFERE WITH COMMERCE! SAVE OUR CITY!
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