• COMMENTARY: New $400 Million Hockey Arena and No Street Lights in the Motor City?

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    I’m angered that Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, would approve the city’s plans to spend $400 million to build a new hockey arena when the city is broke and thousands of city workers are worried about receiving their hard-earned pensions.

    It’s a tragedy that Orr – and Detroit’s city administrators – are gambling with the retirement funds for 10,000 city workers who have worked tirelessly for decades and could be left with nothing because the city recklessly filed bankruptcy.

    Advocates of the arena say a new stadium for the Detroit Red Wings is the kind of economic development needed to turn Detroit around and attract private investors to a city in crisis.

    “I know there’s a lot of emotional concern about should we be spending the money,” Orr told reporters. “But frankly that’s part of the economic development. We need jobs. If it is as productive as it’s supposed to be, that’s going to be a boon to the city.”

    But critics say the project –and I agree – say Orr’s spending plan is misguided and the $400 million to build the arena won’t guarantee long-term jobs for those who need employment right now.

    What Orr failed to mention is that it will take years to build a new hockey arena – a proposed facility where construction workers haven’t even broken ground – when Detroit residents need relief now.

    Today, there are 80,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit – more uninhabited property than any urban city in America – police, on average, take an hour to respond to calls, and 40% percent of the city’s street lights are shut off because the city can’t afford to keep them on, and dozens of schools have closed.

    “If you want people to live in the city, and not just visit to go to games, you have to invest in schools, in having the police to respond to calls,” Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader in the state senate, told reporters. “There are so many investments that should trump a sports stadium.”

    When did a sports arena become more important than providing for the people of the Motor City?

    Detroit is a city in crisis, a city that has been teetering on the brink of financial disaster for decades.

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