Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The City of Utopias

Posted by on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 7:58 AM

The Detroit we are now used to reading about in architectural and urban planning journals and websites is seen as a utopia of urban farming or as a city that, from the ruins of industrial capitalism, has the potential of realizing some progressive urban concept that would never see the light of day in a prosperous city. But we on the left are not the only dreamers. Some dreamers on the right see in the ruins of Detroit (the decaying Belle Isle park—a 982-acre island) a neoliberal utopia...

Here's the scenario for the Commonwealth of Belle Isle that Lockwood and others want to see: Private investors buy the island from a near-bankrupt Detroit for $1 billion. It then would secede from Michigan to become a semi-independent commonwealth like Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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.

Among the citizenship requirements are a command of the English language, a good credit rating and no criminal record. Mogk adds that such a scenario would make the island "a drain of talent and resources" at the expense of Detroit.

The 20 percent—artists, immigrants, and entrepreneurs—being the fertilizer for this isolated neoliberal elite.


Comments (15) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 1

Sounds like one of the original US colonies, before 1913 came around and they implemented an income tax. Before then all government was funded by property taxes.

Maybe they could also have indentured servants...people who work the land for others, to eventually own it.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on January 15, 2013 at 8:41 AM · Report this
wingedkat 2
The ultimate gated suburb. It avoids not only the taxes that pay for the city the residents benefit from, but the taxes that support the nation as well, all the while demanding a large fee for the privilege.
Posted by wingedkat on January 15, 2013 at 8:53 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 3
So, what... all their restaurant workers and janitors and street sweepers and so on are going to be foreigners who are boated in and out daily?

Or are they going to be the "striving immigrants and starving artists" who the wealthy fuck citizens can spit upon, all the while telling them with just a little more hard work and bootstrappiness they can be wealthy fuck citizens too?

I hope they form their little nation and it gets hit by a massive natural disaster and they all perish. Fuck them all.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on January 15, 2013 at 9:04 AM · Report this
Sounds like the plot to BioShock.
Posted by siduri on January 15, 2013 at 9:48 AM · Report this
I was worried about who was going to clean the toilets and serve the lattes until that last bit about the starving artists and immigrants: what a relief to know there is some foresight there.
Posted by Kumquat on January 15, 2013 at 10:09 AM · Report this
Fistique 6
Have we not already had enough laboratories of neoliberalism? It doesn't fucking work. Defenders are starting to sound all Herbert West. "The markets just weren't free enough!"
Posted by Fistique on January 15, 2013 at 10:18 AM · Report this
"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."

What are they trying to say? If the tax is a tax on improvements not the selling price of the land that is a Georgist tax scheme. Georgism was historically a progressive movement.. I would think Mudede would welcome the return of 19th century utopianism.
Posted by artful_bodger on January 15, 2013 at 10:21 AM · Report this
...a $300,000 buy-in? I wish them luck in finding teachers for their kids.
Posted by a tidy pachyderm on January 15, 2013 at 10:51 AM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 9
Supreme Ruler Dear, I believe that prior to the creation of the income tax, the federal government was funded almost entirely by tariffs. Property taxes probably funded state and local operations, but the tariffs are what gave Uncle his pin money.

As for the Belle Isle thing, I think it would be a wonderful thing to behold in theory (mostly because I think it would be a dismal failure that would be propped up by billionaires out of embarrassment) but I object to selling off Belle Isle. Can't they do it somewhere in the south where nobody cares?
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on January 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 10
Doesn't Puerto Rico take in more federal dollars than it gives back in taxes? So, these assholes' plan is not to be self-sufficient bootstrappers but to be welfare queens?

Mogk adds that such a scenario would make the island "a drain of talent and resources" at the expense of Detroit.

Serious question. How much talent and resources does Detroit have left at this point?
Posted by keshmeshi on January 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Timrrr 11
Sounds like a great way to give Detroit a free $1 Billion!

(Cuz, the first thing that'll happen is the US Govt will call bullshit on that whole "seceding" thing, swoop troops in to retake the island, and then hand possession of it back over to the city of Detroit again -- which will now have $1 billion in it's coffers to use in developing it properly!)
Posted by Timrrr on January 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM · Report this
Belle Isle was one of the very few places where blacks and whites mixed in peace when I was a kid in the 60's. But the bridge to the Island was also where the 1943 race riots began (far uglier than 1967). It is the most beautiful place in all of the Motor City. The south shore faces Canada and the shipping channel to the rest of the Great Lakes. If you flashed your headlights at the passing ore freighters at night, they'd blast their horns in reply. They were loud enough to make you spill your Courvoisier and Coke all over the front seat!
Posted by Stumphaven on January 15, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
blip 13
@10, That one made me LOL. Not because Detroit has a dearth of talent and resources, but because the talent and resources Detroit has to offer either don't have $300 K to waste on Belle Isle citizenship or wouldn't do so if they could. This guy has apparently bought into the Randian myth that greedy, super-rich assholes are the only people who drive the economy.

For years Detroit has been a smoldering void in the center of a large and diverse metropolitan area, but for the last couple decades a lot of younger, middle-class people have been fleeing the suburbs for the city. "I don't have the facts to back this up" but I would guess that a large part of Detroit's revival owes itself to these people.

It also made me LOL because Belle Isle is accessible to Detroit by a half-mile long bridge.
Posted by blip on January 15, 2013 at 1:04 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 14

I definitely should have put "talent" in quotation marks. I'm skeptical that there are many rich people (obviously the only people who matter to this dipshit) left in Detroit, and those who are left are surely already living in gated community enclaves so they don't have to deal with the rabble.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 15, 2013 at 1:28 PM · Report this
treacle 15
Sounds like a Ponzi scheme
Posted by treacle on January 15, 2013 at 2:07 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy