Letters: On WSU president, and eminent domain in Detroit
Wilson's accomplishments are overlooked
I was disappointed and upset to hear of the recent attempt by some members of the Wayne State Board of Governors to terminate President M. Roy Wilson.
Besides the fact that the board did not have the authority to execute this action, nor were their criticisms serious enough to warrant termination or "resignation," it draws attention away from the significant improvements during Wilson's leadership in almost every single measure: enrollment, graduation rates, diversity, fundraising, research, campus development and on campus residents all come to my mind.
The recently announced program by Wayne State to provide a college education for qualified Detroit students displayed great leadership and will benefit our community for generations to come. I think It should be a model for other universities to follow.
Wilson's accomplishments have been recognized nationally, and its hard to think of someone better for the role. It must be hard to focus on your job when you are constantly under threat of losing it.
I understand the board has serious concerns. They should be discussed professionally, without emotion or abrupt actions and motivated only by what is best for the school.
Let's let Wilson do his job.
Matt Simoncini, chairman
Wayne State Foundation
Grosse Pointe Park
Detroit's future is in the hands of speculators
Re: The Detroit News' Nov. 7 article, "Detroit erases $1.3M in debt, fines in deal with controversial landowner": This article highlights the crisis that the city faces in attempting to assemble land to rebuild its economy without the power of eminent domain. The landowner received 15 sites owned by the city, including waterfront property, in return for his five sites within the footprint needed by the city for the Fiat Chrysler plant expansion. The price is exorbitant. Erasing fines for past actions detrimental to the public is unconscionable. What would cause the city to make such an extraordinary deal?
Prior to a 2004 Michigan Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the use of eminent domain to acquire property for economic development at fair market value and an amendment to the Michigan Constitution in 2006 expressly prohibiting its use for that purpose, the city could have acquired the five sites needed at their fair market value, kept the 15 sites it swapped and enforced the landowners' outstanding fines and debt. But changes in the law have put the city in a straitjacket, giving speculators free rein at the expense of city residents. This will delay Detroit's recovery for decades.
Leading up to the Michigan Supreme Court's decision, opponents of the use of eminent domain for economic development convinced the public that Mayor Coleman Young's use of eminent domain in the 1980s to acquire the site for the GM Hamtramck Assembly Plant (Poletown) bulldozed a vibrant neighborhood over the objection of its homeowners. But this is not true.
The mayor's actions were supported by the citizens district council, the elected and official voice of the neighborhood residents, and overwhelmingly by the Detroit City Council, as well as the Catholic Archdiocese, UAW, civic and state leaders.
In addition, the benefits to residents were considerable. Fair market value prices paid homeowners were, on average, $13,000 and they received an additional grant of up to $15,000 to buy a replacement home in a neighborhood of their choice.
Yet the myth of the city bulldozing a vibrant neighborhood over the objections of its residents remains alive and well — an obstacle to changing eminent domain law and land assembly in Detroit. This is bad news for the city and for residents in declining neighborhoods who need jobs and a helping hand to move to better living conditions.
John E. Mogk, professor
Wayne State University Law School