The following was written after attending last week's panel discussion in Troy organized by opposition to the DIA millage.
1. "The City of Detroit continues to own the Museum's permanent art collection, including works of art acquired prior or subsequent to the operating agreement, as well as the Museum building and grounds." Despite this, the City of Detroit does not want to provide any funding to support the DIA. In 2011, the City of Detroit provided $500,000 to fund the DIA's operation and upkeep. In 2012, the city of Detroit has cut all funding. The City of Detroit did however find it feasible to budget over $1.2 million this year to fund the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
2. DIA administration, not the city of Detroit, is asking for the millage for 10 years while the contract with them will end in 5 years. The raised levy from the Tri County may end, all or some, in Detroit treasury.
3. The DIA is doing financially well. Between 2009 and 2011 the assets increased by 50 million dollars to 185 million from 135 million increase by 37%!
4. 100 million dollars are available in the bank as unrestricted cash and can be used by DIA at any time.
5. Graham Beal, president of DIA compensation was $426.000 plus perks, more than the salary of US president. Governor Snyder compensation is $159,300 annually. Beal partner in the DIA conspiracy is Annmarie Erickson whose compensation is $236,867 plus perks.
6. The millage will raise 23 million dollars (Oakland 10, Wayne 8 and Macomb 5 million dollars). This money will be paid by home owners who may have other priorities being elderly, unemployed or having health problems. It is estimated that about 19% of the Tri County residents visit the DIA. Thus these 19% are subsidized by 81% of the population which prefers other entertainments. Moreover, yes, it is free admission to the DIA for the Tri County residents, but admissions are only 3% of DIA revenue. The "free admission" does not include special events, concerts etc. There will be a special charge for it. On top of it there is travel to the DIA and parking.
7. In return for giving DIA at least 230 million dollars Tri County residents will get practically nothing. They will get 2 spots on the DIA 44 member forum, but no supervision or control or assets. GM got money from US government and surrendered stocks and other assets, but why does DIA gets a freebie? DIA levy must be rewarded by surrendering DIA assets. What is wrong in creating a DIA branch in Birmingham?
8. Today there was a demonstration in the city of Detroit regarding laying off policemen. What is the priority of our community? Should we have a nice museum gem with crime and murder surrounding it? Are police less important than a museum?
9. Detroit has 22 different museums and cultural institutions. Why finance the DIA and not others, or are we going to see many more similar DIA millages?
10. Simple math: last year DIA revenue exceeded by 70.000 dollars DIA expenses (about 35.000.000 dollars). DIA millage levy will not replace revenues but will add to them. The Zoo millage created a surpluse of 6 million dollars....
11. A troubling question is the fact that governor Granholm eliminated a 10 million annual Michigan contribution. Either the DIA belongs to the city of Detroit or that this gem belongs to our whole state. It is unfair to single out the Tri County because they are thought to have deeper pockets than the rest of the state.
12. Rating of DIA per Charity Navigator gives DIA a 2/4 rating or 48% while most museums have a rating that is higher than 60%. This reflects not so good use of available money.
13. DIA was compared to Toledo institute of Art which is larger and has no admission fee and is not a burden to Toledo residents.
14. On a personal note I believe that the present property taxation method is obsolete since it allows tyranny of administrators who frequently have a self serving agenda. Michigan congress should address this issue urgently and produce a simple, fair, inexpensive method which will serve the needs of the community. Property tax is a consumer tax where one may pay differently for the same service.
15. It is difficult to fight a 2 million dollars of public money but here it is: VOTE NO on DIA millage.
Isaac Barr, M.D.
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