A place where men are free.

I don’t know how far news from Detroit travels, but this particular news is odd enough that it might have reached your corners.

For months now, the city’s been wrangling over the fate of Belle Isle, its island park, which is beautiful and unique and, like so many of Detroit’s assets, too expensive for the city to maintain. The sane answer — which the city council, in its insanity, has opposed so far — is to turn it over to the state to manage on a long-term lease, accompanied by serious infrastructure investment and a nominal entry fee. (Ten dollars a year, which would also include admission to all other state parks.)

A second idea was floated last week, and oh, but it’s a doozie: A group of rich men, including a former president of Chrysler, the former head of the state chamber of commerce, a former Senate candidate and a local political consultant, want to buy the island from the city. Buy it for $1 billion, after which they would turn it into the “Commonwealth of Belle Isle,” a Randian wet dream of income tax-free city-state living. Not just anyone could live there; you have to buy your way in:

Under the plan, it would become an economic and social laboratory where government is limited in scope and taxation is far different than the current U.S. system. There is no personal or corporate income tax. Much of the tax base would be provided by a different property tax — one based on the value of the land and not the value of the property.

It would take $300,000 to become a “Belle Islander,” though 20 percent of citizenships would be open for striving immigrants, starving artists and up-and-coming entrepreneurs who don’t meet the financial requirement.

You can read more at the link, but that’s the gist. And no, even among an invitation-only audience of their peers, the idea mostly didn’t go over well. Although there were plenty of crazy dreamers who clapped very loudly:

But the Commonwealth of Belle Isle idea found several supporters, too, among the invited guests at the DAC. John Rakolta, chairman and CEO of the Walbridge construction firm based in Detroit, said the Lockwood vision could produce $20 billion in new investment and create 200,000 jobs in the city in 10 years, although he admitted the numbers were just guesses.

If I weren’t so certain the parties behind this don’t understand the idea of performance art, I would swear this was a piece of it, a little bit of wackiness for everyone to chuckle over on the next National Review cruise. And I thought it would sink quickly, but I overlooked one detail in that first story. This:

(One of the organizers), the former chairman of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and current board member of the free-market-oriented Mackinac Center for Public Policy has written a self-published book about the plan called “Belle Isle: Detroit’s Game Changer.”

I figured that of course this would be a tract of some sort, filled with patriotism and flag-waving and Rand-iness. But no. IT’S A NOVEL. Or a novella, I guess — 140 pages or so set years into the future, when… oh, let Jeff Wattrick at Deadline Detroit sketch it out. It sounds FABulous:

The plot, set 30 years into the future, involves a visit to the pleasant island community of Belle Isle by Joe, a 6’2″ blond-haired, blue-eyed Syrian-American doctor and Detroit native who now lives in Damascus. Joe’s high school best friend, Darin, is kind of Belle Isle’s Wizard of Oz. He’s portrayed (heroically) as a cross between Robert Moses, Thomas Jefferson, and the president of the Del Boca Vista Phase Two condo association.

Both characters are fastidious middle-aged men who take pride in their appearance and watch what they eat. Darin, we learn, used to help girls shop for clothes in high school.

Neither Joe nor Darin appears to be married now or have children. If either was ever married, or currently has a romantic partner, it is a secret kept from readers. This is particularly odd considering the novel basically consists of conversations between the two long-time friends who, it is explained, have rarely kept in touch over the last 20 years. In their time together never once do they say anything about their personal lives.

Perhaps, like many a confirmed bachelor, these men are simply married to their work. Affairs of the heart are handled are handled with, let’s call it, discretion.

A homoerotic self-published novella written by a former head of the state chamber of commerce! I literally clapped my hands at this news. I can’t WAIT to read it.

There’s more, so much much more, at the Deadline Detroit link. I’d happily quote it all, but let’s give DD the traffic, eh? The account of the “Italian gray stone pavers” in the foyer of the Belle Isle condo make it worth the price of purchase. (Although I plan to steal one.)

I had something else to blog about today, but I’m going to hold off — tomorrow promises to be brutal, and I’ll need a cushion at day’s end. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Sunday’s “Downton Abbey,” which I DVR’d. I hear Lady Sybil’s baby is being born tonight! That’ll be such a fun episode!.

Good Tuesday, all.

Posted at 12:34 am in Detroit life |

29 responses to “A place where men are free.”

  1. Brandon said on January 29, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Manti most likely told the truth.


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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 29, 2013 at 7:21 am

    It’s a laff-riot, Nancy! And that poor old countrified buffoon Clarkson tries to muddle the merriment, but is quickly put in his place, to everyone’s satisfaction.

    In all seriousness, I weary of the Bates-in-prison scenes. We all know he’s getting out, can we just move on? But I suspect the set designers enjoy having some scenes where all they have to do is sweat the shades of grey and all the lighting crew can take a long smoke break.

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  3. Suzanne said on January 29, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I don’t think Bates will ever get out of prison. I think that cell mate of his is going to make biiiiig trouble.

    I do have to feel sorry for poor Lord Grantham. It seems that every decision he makes lately is wrong.

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  4. Scout said on January 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

    We’re in mourning here. And I suspect Lord Grantham will be sleeping in his dressing room for quite some time.

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  5. beb said on January 29, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I think an article about the Commonwealth of Belle Isle was up on Yahoo news one day so it has been around. Still, considering how reluctant the city council is to lease the island to the State Parks department I can’t imagine them ever selling the island out-right. On the other hand, a cool billion dollars for it might at some point start to look very attractive to the city. So one never knows.

    As a libertarian haven I give it six months. There’s just too big a streak of bossiness in people for large groups to get along without written rules and restrictions.

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  6. coozledad said on January 29, 2013 at 8:35 am

    This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.

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  7. Dorothy said on January 29, 2013 at 8:36 am

    In the mid-70’s a neighbor (who also happened to be the woman who cut my hair and all of my sisters’ hair, too) down the street from us lost a baby to toxemia. She nearly died herself. Her husband came home and found her passed out on the floor in the bathroom. Fortunately she survived and went on to have a daughter a year or two later. That’s the first time I’d ever heard of that condition. TLo sure sang the praises of Sunday’s episode of DA in a post yesterday.

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  8. 4dbirds said on January 29, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I so want to talk about Downton Abbey but don’t want to be a spoiler. Please let me know when it is ok.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 29, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Hey, for what it’s worth, lots still murky out of Irving, TX, but those of us in the “work from within” approach in the Boy Scouts of America are feeling pretty good right now. National Council is about to announce the final wording on a revision of the statement on leadership standards, pressed strongly by local council leadership and their board members. Yesterday was a series of conference calls and e-mails and a day spent unexpectedly at the council office, but the word *looks* like it will be to put the question of adult leadership in the hands of chartering organizations, so LDS & Catholic units may still choose to bar unmarried and gay or lesbian leaders from their units, but chartered organizations (say, UCC or DoC congregations, or Kiwanis clubs, or whatever) may approve whomever they like.

    In other words, the current language will simply be stricken, and a new phrase will be added to affirm our willingness to support chartered organizations to manage the units they sponsor under whatever leadership standards their group, church, or faith community already generally maintains.

    Personally, I feel like this is the end of a thirty year struggle, even as I know there are plenty of bumps in the road ahead (Scouting didn’t actually say anything in any document about homosexual leadership issues until the early 80s; it became part of the new two-deep, youth protection standards that went into place in 1982). We will still have arguments about our Scout Oath and “do my duty to God and my country,” how and why we have “uniforms” and let the kids shoot guns, but this is a big step onto much more solid ground for the Scouting Movement in the US, and I am very happy. And I’m sure I’m going to get to spend lots of time talking to angry traditional/conservative church leaders over the next few weeks, so I hope that feeling carries me through all that hostility and negativity, but it’s a train long overdue to leave the station.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 29, 2013 at 9:30 am

    FYI, I’m “senior VP for membership” in the SImon Kenton Council, BSA, which runs from Delaware, OH down to Portsmouth on the Ohio River, with Columbus and Chillicothe our core cities along with here in Newark, OH. Along with being a dad who’s going for the first time to Philmont with my son this June!

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  11. Julie Robinson said on January 29, 2013 at 9:32 am

    If it’s any comfort at all, Jessica Brown Findlay asked to be let out of her contract early to go shoot a movie. Of course Julian Fellowes didn’t have to kill her off, but it certainly sends a message to the other actors, doesn’t it?

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  12. Julie Robinson said on January 29, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Remember Indiana state representative Bob Morris, he of the “Girl Scouts promote radical agendas” fame? I’m thinking he’s blowing a gasket over the BSA decision.

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  13. Peter said on January 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Sweet Baby Jesus laying in a manger, this Republique Capataliste du Belle Isle idea is thinking WAY outside the box.

    But seriously, the island’s about 1-1/2 square miles. I don’t care how exclusive you make it, Randland is too small to even hold the most dedicated wing nuts.

    What’s wrong with taking over Mackinac? I think many of the residents up there would be on board with the idea to begin with. No cars, no road link to land, easily defendable, has a private airport. Keep some of Jamaicans around to tend to the lawns and grow Christmas trees for export, and everything Cooz warned us about would come true.

    Or if they’re short on cash they can take over South Beaver Island. Hell, the Mormons tried it and got bored, what’s wrong with a second attempt?

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  14. Prospero said on January 29, 2013 at 10:02 am

    I suppose if the rich dickheads got their way with the Commonwealth of Bell Isle, the slave quarters would be Pontiac, I suppose. Or just a new Cabrini-Greene style high rise at 13th and Indiandale.

    I read that NYTmag feature about child porn and restitution last night, and it left me with a disturbing question. Since much of the legal strategy is based in provisions of the Defense of Women Act, is it screwed by the refusal of asshat GOPers to renew the Act because of new provisions to protect gay spouses and some Native Americans? The two young women on whose personal hells the story focuses are admirable and heroic, and as hard as the story is to read, they seem to be on the way to wholeness.

    One point of comfort in the Belle Isle story. When the rich fucks overbreed and overburden the island, it will make an elegant solution to introduce Glades pythons to tamp down the infestation of barely human critters.

    Aside from Jones Beach, what is heroic about the little Hitler behavior of Robert Moses? He tried to force the O’Malley family to move the Brooklyn Dodgers to the Bronx, the actual catalyst for the move to LA. The guy was an overprivileged bully.

    Suzanne@3: Bates is going to be forced to kill that rat-bastard with his bare hands, sealing the deal on never leaving prison.

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  15. alex said on January 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Julie, I don’t know that Bob Morris is literate, but if he were I could see him penning an unwitting homoerotic novel about his own unexamined life.

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  16. Prospero said on January 29, 2013 at 10:14 am

    A place where men are free. And the sheep? They nervous.

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  17. brian stouder said on January 29, 2013 at 10:56 am

    So, if you’re an F1 fan, and every year you watch their race from Monaco, then (I’m betting) you have a vivid idea of where this Belle Isle concept came from. Hell, maybe it could theoretically work, if Detroit was a Mediterranean coastal city, with lots of wealthy people docking their yachts so that high-maintenance women with their requisite ‘pair of aces’* can sun themselves.

    But on Lake St Clair, I’m guessing their ‘aces’ would all have ‘party hats’**, all the damned time!

    *I love that term, and have officially stolen it from our proprietress

    **stolen from Pamela

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  18. Bitter Scribe said on January 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    This Belle Isle thing reminds me a little of that compound in Idaho, or God knows where, that is supposed to be inhabited by a bunch of gun nuts who will be required to be armed to the teeth.

    Yes, by all means, let’s take a bunch of resentful losers, give them all guns, and pack them tightly together in an enclosed space with only one way in or out. What could possibly go wrong? The people at Sadly, No! had a field day with this one.

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  19. Prospero said on January 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    If they can’t get their greedy hands on Belle Isle, I’d suggest the bastards go run all the rubes out of Warren and take over there. It’s not as nice as Belle Isle, but the yahoos that live there would let it go for much less than $1bill. Plus, they are the Teabangin’ sort of yokels that rich GOPers use and abuse like rented mules and tools in all of their political shenanigans anyway, and they are always painfully stupid about being happy to do it.

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  20. Prospero said on January 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Legendary Ohio musician Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner bit the dust over the weekend.

    Serious funk, whackadoo vocals (although I’m partial to the “Say What”s in Love Roller Coaster), excellent guitar playing, outrageous clothes. I saw these guys at the Michigan State Fair once, and they were amazing.

    It ain’t Parliafunkadelictment but nothing is, and it’s “all George’s chillen”.

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  21. Brandon said on January 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I’ll try to read more on Belle Isle but it seems to be a preview of the future.

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  22. Prospero said on January 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    It’s the 35th anniversary of that whiny drivel Rumors. In honor of that,we do the shake .

    Brandon, rich aholes try to pull shit like that are going to run into serious monkey-wrenchers. I will be one of them.

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  23. Bitter Scribe said on January 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    It’s “Rumours.” And I’ve never gotten the hipster hate.

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  24. Kirk said on January 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Agreed, Bitter Scribe. Fleetwood Mac has been through many incarnations, and “Then Play On” is one of the best albums ever (by any band), but “Rumours” has plenty of appealing stuff.

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  25. Deborah said on January 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Weird weather day. It was supposed to rain all day and be near 60 so I decided I would not walk today because I hate to walk in the rain no matter how warm. But there turned out to be be a mild temp but dry window mid day when I could get some walking done, so I was able to get 6 miles in but I was sweating like crazy when I got home. All I wore was a sweater with a windbreaker over it and that was way too much. This is Chicago and it’s January. Scary.

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  26. Dexter said on January 30, 2013 at 1:47 am

    I promised my wife I would never stray…unless Ashley Judd became available…
    uh oh!

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  27. Pam said on January 30, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Uh Oh, Nancy, did you see Downton? They said in the run up to the new season that there would be a death in the cast. But who knew? I thought it would be Bates. So tiresome, that. I hope they don’t do something trite with Branson now.

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  28. Prospero said on January 30, 2013 at 9:01 am

    In defense of my poor opinion of Rumours, I’d quote these cringe-inducing lyrics by Lindsay Buckingham, in the execrable, screechy Second Hand News:

    I know there’s nothing to say
    Someone has taken my place
    When times go bad
    When times go rough
    Won’t you lay me down in tall grass
    And let me do my stuff

    Great googly moogly, that is awful, and the vocal sounds like a cat with it’s tail caught in a door.

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  29. Prospero said on January 30, 2013 at 9:01 am

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