OPINION: 15 Reasons to Vote Against the DIA Millage

One spectator's notes from Thursday's forum in Troy about the Aug. 7 ballot proposal.

The following was written after attending . 

The panel included State Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester), Bruce Walker of MichiganView.com, County Commissioner Robert Gosselin, and Simon Haddad of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance.

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.

Bloomfield Hills 

EKC August 07, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Last I checked, Detroit is in Wayne County, which is part of the "tri-counties" you mention.
IMRight August 07, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Mike, "other counties shouldn't have to pay for institutions that they patronize" Are you under the impression it is free to get in to the DIA? If someone patronizes the DIA today, they have to pay for it. I for one, would have no problem voting for this millage if I knew that the money was going to be put to good use and would stay with the DIA. This article has me unclear as to whether that is the case.
Seth Fisher August 08, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I'm glad I found this article, as it has been difficult to find anyone willing to put forth the best possible form of an argument against this millage. Some of it is transparent and a lot of it is warping and making bad comparisons between public officials and how much it costs for a competent museum manager, but there are valid arguments here about how the DIA has historically used its funding. Much of it has been parsed out well above, but I should note that the reason the DIA has taken in so much recently is a massive donor drive to save the museum after it lost state funding. That's not a long-term solution. Every other art museum in the country on the DIA's level has either a very large endowment, or public funding, or both. The city paid for it until they couldn't because people moved out of the city. The state paid for it until too many people moved out of the state. So now it falls to us. Is it that much money for any of us? No, not really. Do we want an art museum on a level with the major metropolitan areas? Yes we do. Complaining about the responsibility falling to us is like whining that we have to buy candy on Halloween even though 3/4th of the block doesn't currently have kids. This is what a community does so we can have the kind of community we want. Trying to get around that, however annoyed you might be about yet another tax, comes off as petty for a good reason: it's petty.
Ronald Wolf August 10, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Racism is alive and well as expressed in this disenting opinion, however is tit for tat the answer? That the city donated to Charles Wright and donated zilch to the DIA is reprehensible and racist. My conjecture is that the DIA has long had the reputation of being a "white," island of Europeon history in a now demographically African-American community. Indeed the majority of its members and visitors come for the special events that only occassionally include works related to African, and Black History. To my knowledge there has never been a comprehensive project on Detroit's racist history other than a short projects on the role Reverand Martin L. King played in it, and of course the underground railroad which is given short shrift. Thus the need for the Charles Wright Center which I compare to the Holocaust Memorial Center in West Bloomfield. Instead of tit for tat lets not cut off our nose to spite our face. The DIA is everyones Museum and I do like the idea of free admission for all. Hopefully, as Detroit's educational system and economy improves there will be more support in the future from a less racist Detroit City Council that sadly reflects a smoldering urban resentment for a mostly white suburban Detroit.
Ronald Wolf August 10, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I totally agree with you. What culture is there left in this area. EMagine Theater 3D special effect comic book movies? That the money on televised cartoon promotion is wasted money I have no doubt. That the management has decided it can compete with Comerica Park with escalated parking and admission fees in ludicrous. That all of the above only contributes to racial and economic class divisions in the city is obvious. However, please remember the time when you came and met your neighbors at Brunch with Bach and you could sit on the stairs for two dollars without having to pay general admission and you were asked for a donation instead. Remember when the museum was packed with Wayne State students and families that came to spend an afternoon without having their pockets picked. The milage is a step towards returning to those times, stolen cars, panhandling not included of course.


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