DETROIT – I stopped paying for the local papers years ago. But they still arrive, somebody dropping them on my porch like so many dead rabbits.
Increasingly, the headlines are filled with messianic sightings. Stories about the latest savior who has come to rescue Detroit from itself. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes; Dan Gilbert, the deep-pocketed developer; or the latest person with plans for the Packard plant.
It all reminds me of a trip I took to the Vatican. I climbed the narrow stairs that lead to the top of St. Peter's Basilica. I passed many panting pilgrims – old women from the countryside, judging by their black dresses and head scarves.
I hope those old women never made it. Because once I got to the door, there it was in big black spray paint:
"Sex Drugs Rock ‘n Roll"
Yes Satin, the misspelled messiah. The prince of gullibility. The false promiser.
Now Ron Rosenbaum famously wrote that Satin lives in Long Island but it seems to me the vandal/worshipper who sprayed the graffiti must have come from the Motor City because SATIN – the Unbelievable -- lives in Detroit.
Satin takes form of the bankruptcy judge who – according to news reports -- will decide all things financial in Detroit.
But look beyond the obvious. Judge Steven Rhodes has less power than you may think. If creditors can decide on a restructuring plan, then that is how the city will proceed and the bankruptcy goes away.
But if the creditors cannot agree on a plan, then the bankruptcy will dissolve in a fit of disunity and we will be right back where we started: bickering creditors, blight, mayhem, payless paydays. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in the streets of Detroit Rock City.
The more important judge in this matter is perhaps the bankruptcy mediator: Gerald Rosen, chief district judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. It is up to Judge Rosen to knock heads into a workable consensus.
I'm told Judge Rosen has called city negotiators and representatives for the city's retirees to court to discuss the plight of critically wounded retirees. Apparently our story about firefighter Brendan Milewski, who lost the use of his legs in the line of duty only to be kicked off his city health-care plan, may have pulled at Judge Rosen's conscience. God bless you sir!
According to reports, Satin also lives downtown!
Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano may soon need bail, considering the one-man grand jury investigating his handling of the failed jail project.
But according to news reports, Dan Gilbert maybe the first to post bail for Ficano in the form of buying up the failed jail site plus the courthouse and the three other jails downtown. Gilbert's representatives unveiled drawing of a half-billion dollar hotel this week with promises of sidewalk cafes.
But look underneath it. Those in the know don't believe Gilbert really wants to build a South Beach north. He simply wants the jails and its alkies and pimps away from his casino. More likely, we can expect some townhouses and Chinese restaurants for Gilbert's young, hip employees.
And then there's the Packard plant. Again from the newspapers a few months ago -- we were treated to grandiose drawings of lofts and coffee shops by some guy from Chicago. But he couldn't come up with the back taxes to buy the mammoth brownfield. Then a kook from Texas bid $6 million for the site but couldn't come up with the dough. Now the guy from Chicago comes up with the big check, we'll see how he does with the rest of the cash. And if he can't come up with the money, there's a guy from Peru next in line promising hipster lofts.
Has anybody done the math? To demolish the 35-acre site and clean up the soil could top more than $40 million by some estimates. That's before any construction begins.
The only person I know with the scratch to buy an exclusive loft built on a contaminated ghetto brownfield? You guessed it. Satin!