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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Land O Links: So you want a new arena?

*What is a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings worth to that quasi-bankrupt city and to the region and state that surround it?

Last year, state legislators cleared the way for a tax diversion to help fund a big downtown project, including a Red Wings arena to replace the aging (vintage 1979) Joe Louis. Late last month, the Ilitch family, which owns the Red Wings (and other things) says that the project is moving forward.

But note a figure in the Detroit Free Press’ report: “Chris Ilitch leads a company owned by his parents — Mike and Marian — that includes the Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and had $4.2 billion in revenue in 2010.”

Does the Ilitch family really need public dollars for an arena – or is this just a good business move to take advantage of the irrational politics that surrounds professional sports and stadiums?

Those business moves amount to this: Promising the world, in economic benefits; threatening doom if agreement isn’t reached.

Heck, the NBA even is forcing some of its owners to take a lesser buyout apparently out of a fear it might give political leaders the idea that they can say “no” when the local team demands public aid.

As for those economic benefits … well, the check’s in the mail, isn’t it?

Detroit actually has fared fairly well in this sphere.

Comerica Park was built (for $300 million) with the public financing only 38 percent of the tab. Mike Ilitch and Co. footed the rest. And next-door Ford Field’s $500 million tab had only $80 million in public help, Crain’s Detroit Business reported.

To get a sense of how … odd the stadium business is, bookmark this handy blog.

land-o-FINAL*Back in the real world, about 1 in 5 Michigan residents rely each day on government assistance to buy food.

In January 2013, the latest data available, there were 1,784,755 people in Michigan receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aid. For 2012, the Census Bureau estimated 9,883,660 state residents.

The good news is that the need is trending downward – down 2.9 percent from January 2012, for example. The bad news is only seven states have more residents on food aid than Michigan.

Slate.com developed a county-by-county interactive map to show food aid trends. Try it out. (But be warned that the site wasn’t being cooperative with LOL’s Web browser.)

*Walmart is going big on generating its own renewable power for its stores and, in the process, highlights a troubling situation for Michigan homeowners.

As noted in this Public Service Commission report (use your find function to search out “deskewing”), large power users – i.e., businesses, factories, etc. -- long have subsidized small power users – i.e., homeowners.

And since they use so much energy – at considerable cost – it’s worth the business world’s time to find alternatives. Cue Wal-mart.

So, what would happen if more and more businesses are able to generate their own power at a better expense rate?

It would not be good news for Michigan utilities. And it would mean higher electric bills for homeowners, too.

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