There is a lack of support on the part of the Trenton City Council
members to pursue the purchase of the 58 acres from the
The County – both Executive and
Commissioners – continues
to support the deal.
But the Trenton Commissioners have been beat up by Municipal Employees
– especially Fire Fighters, some of whom are not being scheduled as much
because of cuts in State Revenue Sharing
– “If you do not have funds to keep all of us working, how can you
spend money on this kind of development?” See Mayor Brown’s letter in Sunday’s
News Herald, below, which explains that the purchase dollars do not
come out of Annual Operating Funds.
There is a small window of opportunity to
get the deal back on track by raising the sights of members of the
Trenton City Council to support Purchasing the 58
The redevelopment of the one mile of
Detroit River at the former McLouth Steel Plant is the
top regional opportunity for
Please reach out to the City Council
members of Trenton. Time is of the
Blair J. McGowan
COMMENTARY: Mayor: Don't confuse
city's complex financial issues
Brown PUBLISHED: February 29,
After listening to comments from a wide range of public
employee unions and residents, I wanted to make some observations concerning
the 58-acre Detroit Steel Co. property acquisition and to dispel any
misunderstandings that may exist.
At the present time, the
acquisition is in jeopardy due to unknown cleanup costs at the site.
Originally, we entered into the purchase agreement with DSC believing that the
purchase would be shared equally between the city of
Wayne County and that the remediation costs
to clean the property would also be shared.
We have since learned that it is not possible for the
county to be an equal partner in the risks associated with the property.
Although this is disheartening, I still remain forever
grateful to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and his administrative staff
to get us to where we are today in this venture.
The following observations will, hopefully, enlighten
those who have an interest in this acquisition and negate any misinformation
that they may have heard.
First, there is no relationship between the city's
efforts to hold down operating costs during this recession and the acquisition
of the DSC site.
The city is committed to providing the best services to
its residents that it can afford. But for the spiraling costs of health care
coverage for the city's employees, pension funding, overtime and other
benefits, as well as reductions in state revenue sharing and personal property
tax revenues, the city would be able to continue funding for services in the
manner and fashion to which it was once accustomed.
The proposed DSC purchase does not use current revenues
or take revenues from operating funds of the city. The money to be used to
purchase the property and clean it up will be borrowed money in the form of
bonds, not general revenues of the city.
It is our hope that redevelopment of the property would
take place as soon as possible and the bondholders could be repaid through the
resale of the vast majority of it to commercial developers.
Without a public investment in securing the property,
it will continue to either lie dormant or succumb to railroad status, which
will provide no local property tax revenues.
As most people know, there is little remaining
undeveloped property in the city with which to produce new tax revenues
supporting public services.
The few remaining parcels need to be developed to
maximize the return in tax revenue dollars. If the property goes to someone
else as storage or otherwise nonproductive development, the city will be tied
to the limited tax yield generated by those for years to come.
This is called an investment in the future, putting in
place today building blocks that will assure revenue generation to support
public services. It does not take from public services today, but rather it
assures the availability of first-class public services in the future.
Failure to understand and appreciate these basic
concepts may lead us in a dangerous direction: to sit on our hands and do
nothing about the future of the city. And that could have disastrous
Inaction, or to have the property be sold to a non-tax
revenue-producing entity, would lead to future problems. Residents and public
employees will end up at odds with some future city council over the few
morsels of tax revenues that are left on the table, all because in 2004 we
were too shortsighted to move aggressively to protect and provide a future
That type of inactivity will eventually pit taxpayers
against public employees, city departments against one another and unions
against one another, all resulting from the limited and declining resources
available to support public services.
That is a destructive path to
follow and one that the city of Trenton need not take.
If we fail to act on opportunities that present
themselves, we will regret it.
Acquiring this parcel of land is
consistent with the Heritage River initiatives to reclaim
riverfront property for public access and re-development purposes.
Gerald Brown is the mayor of