Detroit's priorities should be schools, not soccer

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By Mike Renda, General Manager

The proposal to invest a billion dollars to build a soccer stadium on the downtown jail fail site seems like a dream partnership of Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert  and Pistons owner Tom Gores.

The planned announced recently would mean a professional soccer franchise for Detroit and an ultra-cool stadium to connect Comerica Park with the Greektown entertainment district. They are asking to forget Wayne County Executive Warren Evans' concerns about the cost of weary taxpayers of moving the jail to another site.

In a past editorial I came out against the failed jail site, arguing that we should not build a jail at the gateway to our city.  So, yes, the new soccer stadium would resolve that issue.

The debate over the soccer stadium development ignores an obvious question:  how can we rationalize building a gleaming new stadium in the shadows of public school systems that have mold, have no heat and ceilings that leak.

Here's my take - our priorities are totally in the wrong order. We should put our best efforts into fixing our decaying school buildings and worry later about playing fields for pro soccer.

With the Detroit schools huge debt crisis and the legislature waiting on a long-term solution, it is amazing that Mayor Mike Duggan endorsed the stadium plan, saying "I'm going to work day and night to bring major league soccer to downtown Detroit."

Mayor Duggan should feel that way about fixing Detroit public schools. The Michigan legislature must commit now to resolve the DPS school debt and create a viable new school district.

I strongly support EM Steven Rhodes plan for the new district, including earmarking $75 million for capital improvements, to bring our school buildings up to code.

Soccer fields can wait, the school children of Detroit can't wait any longer.