Letter: Jail plan bad for taxpayers

I write to oppose Dan Gilbert’s plan to destroy the downtown criminal justice center to erect a very costly soccer stadium. I support free markets and the improvements Gilbert has brought to Detroit through the use of his own money. This city owes him a lot. That said, his plan for the justice center is wrong for Wayne County taxpayers because he’s asking taxpayers to support this development, starkly different from how he developed the rest of downtown with his own money.

His plan will reportedly cost the county $520 million. The plan to finish the current jail is estimated to cost the county $320 million. His plan fails to accounts for all the costs involved. It fails to account for the amount of tax money the county and city invested in obtaining and building the current criminal justice complex, which includes: the old jail, the old new jail, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, the juvenile detention center, the failed jail site, and the old Detroit police headquarters. For example, the juvenile detention center was built in 1996 at a cost of $40 million dollars. It is a state-of-the-art facility. I believe Wayne taxpayers are still paying for it. In Gilbert’s plan, the county simply gives him all that land and those buildings at no cost.

Second, why should taxpayers have to pay for another stadium? Do county taxpayers know that the stadium tax capture mirrors the Downtown Development Authority boundaries in Detroit? That means Gilbert could be eligible to have his property tax captured to pay for this stadium. The proposed soccer stadium just happens to fall inside that boundary. Can Gilbert assure Wayne County that only private money will build the stadium he proposes, or will he tap the property tax capture to build it?

If he does want a tax capture, we should know that cost, too, before our leaders agree to the deal. If private money is being used, why not obtain fair market value for the county’s land? If the land costs are too high, the stadium could be built where there is more property available.

Others have pointed out that another costly stadium probably would not spur further economic growth in the downtown area. But the justice complex supports downtown business daily.

Finally, the current justice center is also located at the hub of public transportation for our region. As a lawyer who regularly practices at Frank Murphy, I can attest that many victims, witnesses, and users of the courts rely on public transportation. Moving the justice complex to an area not well serviced by public transportation would hamper justice for many victims and defendants in our community.

The current justice center no doubt needs an update. The conditions in our jails are inhumane. I urge County Executive Wayne Evans and the Wayne County Commission to resume the failed jail as quickly as possible, update Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, and reject the costly Gilbert plan.

Daniel C. Grano

Wayne County

14th District Republican chair