DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says budget problems will force the city to close 50 parks this spring — and no outdoor pools will be open this year.
Almost 40 other parks will get fewer visits from work crews for grass-cutting and other maintenance. But Bing said the cuts are not retaliation for city council’s failure to act on a state proposal to take lease Belle Isle. He said it’s just a part of Detroit’s sobering financial reality.
“We looked a gift horse in the mouth,” Bing told reporters Friday. “We had a deal that was workable, that was doable, that would not have closed parks.”
The Mayor added, “Why we didn’t act on that, I don’t know. We have to stop of this wishful thinking — all of this pie in the sky. Let’s be real with each other, you know. People want to help; we need the help.”
Nineteen Detroit parks have been given premier status, meaning twice-monthly cleanup and maintenance.
Bing said they chose which parts to close based on what they thought would have the least impact.
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Bing said he’s also canceled the planned hiring of 50 people who were supposed to help with new programs for kids and seniors through the Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, six Rec Centers will no longer offer extended hours.
Detroit City Council members on Tuesday resolved not to vote on the state’s proposed plan to lease Belle Isle — which some had called stupid and offensive.
The proposed plan, supported by both Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Bing, would have allowed Detroit to maintain ownership of the 985-acre island park and save the cash-strapped city $6.5 million annually in maintenance and other costs.
Bing said that’s money the city cannot afford to pass up.
“I hear people saying the $6 million is not a big deal based on where we are. Everything is a big deal when it comes to cash,” said Bing. “You know, we’ve been talking about a financial crisis forever, so when we kind of thumb our nose at $6 million, I think it’s nuts.”
Many Detroit residents have spoken out about any proposal to lease the island, some saying such a move would further undermine the rights of citizens who have already lost political clout under a consent agreement with the state.