DETROIT (WWJ) – The Pistons’ move to Detroit hangs in the balance as the issue of public funding is argued in federal court.
Monday’s hearing seeks a temporary restraining order to block around $34 million of school millage money, taxpayer money that has been earmarked by the Detroit Downtown Development Authority to help pay for Little Caesars Arena, still under construction, and a new downtown headquarters for the Pistons.
Attorneys representing the DDA say blocking the funds could jeopardize the Pistons’ move while causing “irreparable harm” to not only the arena project, but to future investment in the city.
Activist Robert Davis, who brought the lawsuit, believes otherwise.
“Why in the world do they not want to citizens of the city of Detroit to vote on this question?” Davis asked. “The reason being is because I don’t think the citizens of the city of Detroit and the citizens of the county of Wayne want school money going to fund two billionaires’ projects — especially when they can afford to finance the project themselves.”
“If they just said, OK, let’s go and take it to a vote, as the statute clearly says they have to, they could alleviate a lot of these legal issues, but they’re afraid to grant the citizens of Detroit whose money that they’re using their right to vote on the question,” Davis added. “If it’s such a great project, why are you afraid that the citizens are going to turn it down?”
The billionaires in question are the Ilitch family — which owns the Red Wings, which will also play at the LCA — and Pistons owner Tom Gores, who (if things go as planned) will be bringing his team back to Detroit from the Palace of Auburn Hills.
A decision “soon” by U.S. District Court Mark Goldsmith as to whether or not he will issue a restraining order on the funds. He is expected to issue a written ruling on the matter.
Whether federal court agrees to take jurisdiction in the case or the issue is litigated in state court, Davis promises a fight.
In the meantime, work will continue on the arena — part of a broader entertainment district dubbed “District Detroit,” at Woodward Ave. and I-75, just north of downtown. It’s set to open in September.