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.