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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Free the Weed 81 - by John Sinclair

 Highest greetings from my roost just above downtown in the Motor City, about three blocks from the brand-new Little Caesar’s Arena where the Red Wings, the Pistons, and the top grossing of pop stars play almost nightly now.

     On top of hosting the Red Wings and the Pistons, LCA is projected to be the busiest concert venue in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. Plus which, the Ilitchorganization and its new partner, Tom Gores, owner of the Pistons, have formed an event promotion business that controls virtually every major concert venue above the size of a nightclub or bar for miles and miles around.
     When he bought the Pistons several years ago, Gores appointed a guy named ArnTellem as vice chairman of his organization and set him to work on ways the Pistons could be moved back into the city to the benefit of both the team and the local citizenry.

     Teller engineered the union of the Pistons and the Ilitch outfit to include a downtown Detroit home for the pro basketball team in the Red Wings’ new arena and a $50-60 million mid-town office building and practice facility for the Pistons in what we used to call the New Center area around Grand Boulevard and Woodward Avenue.

     Since partnering with the Ilitches in the Little Caesar’s Arena deal. Gores has hooked up with the gigantic downtown developer Dan Gilbert, also owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, to develop a huge plan for converting the abandoned county jail site just north of Greektown into a massive commercial-housing-retail complex crowned by a fifth downtown sports arena to house a new professional Detroit soccer team.

     You may know that I’m a fanatical Detroit Tigers fan, but other than my periodic trips to Tiger Stadium (I refuse to call it Comerica Park) I’m not a person who would ever attend a sporting event or even a concert in a sports arena. I don’t care what happens to the Pistons, the Red Wings, or the Lions, who last won a championship when I was a sophomore in high school (1957).

      But as a citizen of Detroit, I’m excited to see these things happen in the center of this beat-up city, long ago given up for lost and almost totally abandoned by the people with the money and the jobs and the tax base that had made Detroit the fifth largest city in America and the world center of the automobile industry.

     Their retreat from the city was followed by about a million white people, home-and business-owners who followed the job sites to the lily-white suburbs and ventured back into the cityproper only to attend Tigers and Red Wings games or concerts atCobo Hall, JoeLouis Arena and the few other remaining downtown venues.

     The Lions were moved to the Silverdome outside of Pontiac, the Pistons moved to Auburn Hills even farther north, and it was pretty much left to Mike Ilitch and his family organization to keep professional sports alive in the city. When they built the new Tiger Stadium, the Ford family wasinspired to build a new football stadium downtown and move the Lions back into the heart of the city.

  But the turning point for the redevelopment of downtown Detroit came when a guy named Peter Karamanos decided to build the headquarters for his giant Compuware company in the middle of downtown Detroit—the first such major commitment to downtown development since the opening of the Renaissance Center in 1975.

     The amazing thing was that building this one big commercial building off of Grand Circus Park served as a lever to move downtown into a whole new mode of business and industry. Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and already an ambitious property developer in Cleveland, followed behind Karamanos and started buying up abandoned or under-used properties all over downtown and rehabilitating them.

     This kicked off major redevelopment efforts that saw stores and restaurants open in spaces that had been vacant for years. Several major hotels that had fallen into total disrepair were renovated and brought back into service, along with decrepit but once majestic office buildings that are now beginning to thrive again after 40 or 50 years of utter neglect.

     Downtown office buildings were converted into loft apartments and quickly rented to the legions of new white people who were brought into downtown by the jobs created at the worksites erected by Karamanos, Gilbert and their collaborators. New housing was built just north of I-75, across the street from where the new Little Caesar’s Arena now sits, and the redevelopment surged north along Woodward and Cass all the way to Grand Boulevard.

     This summer Dan Gilbert and his civic partners unveiled the QLine light rail system they had funded to run from Larned Street north just past Grand Boulevard and triggered a further round of development along Woodward that’s repopulating a great number of long-abandoned storefronts and apartment buildings and beginning to re-create the sort of street-level culture that once thrived in this vicinity.

     The redevelopment of the downtown area and what they now call Midtown (formerly the Cass Corridor) is an incredible thing and heralds a new era in this long godforsaken urban center. The sad part is that this rebuilding area represents only a tiny fraction of the vast City of Detroit, mostof which is still beat up, abandoned, run down, boarded up or reduced to blocks-long empty fields where there used to be contiguous housing and neighborhood retail spots.

      The boom in hiring to staff the downtown corporate entities doesn’t extend into the African-American neighborhoods of Detroit because for years these citizens were deprived of proper education and training in the sort of job skills that are required to work in the modern world of commerce and industry. So the corporations ship in thousands of young white people to fill those positions and get the big paychecks, while the citizens who have suffered through 50 years of decline continue to suffer.
      In the immortal words of the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young, I don’t want to be a repeater pencil, but this brings me once again to the question of the Insane Clown Posse posing as the Detroit City Council and their prime hatchetman, a guy called Butch.

     With all of the rebuilding activity downtown, essentially the result of enlightened private enterprise, the only positive thing happening in the decrepit neighborhoods of Detroit has been the spontaneous opening of almost 300 compassionate care centers serving medical marijuana patients in the city and from the suburbs since 2008.

     But, as I’ve reported so many times, the Detroit City Council is on a crusade driven by the former police officers and churchpersons who direct its operations to shut down as many compassion centers as possible and limit the licensed medical marijuana businesses to no more than 50. In the year since the licensing ordinance was passed by the City Council, the City has issued only eight operating licenses to marijuana dispensaries.

     Their idiotic crusade is being challenged by a ballot initiative in the city of Detroit this month and is also in conflict with the ridiculously strict State of Michigan licensing act that goes into effect in December. I’ll have more to report next month after the November elections, but I have to repeat that I’ve never witnessed a stupider or more backwards civic action than the closing of the marijuana care centers in the city of Detroit. What’s wrong with these people? Free The Weed!

October 24, 2017

© 2017 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved,

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