Finley: Council chases away jobs to please union

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Somewhere in the basement of City Hall there’s a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign that needs to be dusted off and hung outside the building.

Might as well make the message match the emerging attitude toward business and investment. The city is returning to the days when it viewed business and development as evil and unnecessary.

Finley writes: "Detroit is returning to the days when it viewed business and development as evil and unnecessary."

The evidence? The City Council late last week refused to OK permits for a second tower of rooms to be built next to the Crowne Plaza Pontchartrain Hotel downtown.

The $158 million, 500-room expansion would have made Detroit more competitive for the big ticket conventions and events — such as the NCAA Final Four — that it is missing out on for lack of large hotels downtown.

It would have also created more jobs for city residents, both in the construction and staffing.

And here’s the best part: The hotel was not asking for a dime from the city in terms of tax breaks or incentives. When’s the last time that’s happened on a major project?

But the project had one major flaw: Crowne Plaza has been in a long-running labor dispute with the union representing downtown hospitality workers. Three years ago, employees voted against forming a union. 

Councilwoman Janeé Ayers worked with the union before joining the council. Now she’s serving as its de facto business agent.

The councilwoman insisted the hotel take a neutral stance in organizing drives. 

It refused, and also decided not to play the council’s shakedown game any longer.

Crowne Plaza dropped plans for the new tower, saying it will invest the money intended for Detroit in another city.

Detroit not only loses a major hotel, it also sends a message to other developers that the city is not an honest broker when it comes to labor disputes.

Next up: The package of ordinances introduced by President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield on Monday. Her “The People’s Bills” would cut parking ticket fines, putting the city’s solvency at risk, and mandate even higher numbers of Detroiters be hired for major construction projects. The package would saddle businesses in the city with additional costs.

Mayor Mike Duggan sat on the sidelines while council was chasing away Crowne Plaza. Hopefully he’ll engage before the council cements the return of Detroit to an anti-development, business hostile community.

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