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 

drs July 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I would like to know why every time funding is stopped, the taxpayers are asked to shell out money. I know that the DIA did some cost savings measures a year a two ago but couldn't they do some more and maybe start making money at the place?....it is a beautiful building that could be used for weddings, etc.
Linda P July 30, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Agree completely with Dr. Barr. When I asked some yes voters when was the last time they went to the DIA they said it was 20 years ago when I asked when they last sent in a donation ..they said can't remember. Lets close up the inside and just look at the pretty building and maintain the outside as a piece of art. That is what most people do anyway.
Linda P July 30, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Agree with Cheryl's comments and besides what happens if Oakland county approves and Macomb and Wayne reject it.....then Oakland will be on the hook for the likely rising millage that is inevitable once it gets started. Look at the zoo...they are talking about raising the millage after putting in a million dollar carousel...the animals aren't eating any better I trust.
Linda P July 30, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I have cut and pasted the following from the June 7th meeting of the Oakland Commissioners.....if I understand it correctly an attempt was made to exempt Oakland county from the DIA tax or to nullify its passing if the DIA tax was rejected by Wayne and Macomb Voters, This attempt failed...so if I understand this correctly even if Wayne and macomb fail to pass the DIA tax, and Oakland passes it...Oakland is stuck with the tax. You can thank the following commissioners who allowed this to happen. Read below: and vote the NAYS OUT OF OFFICE. Moved by River supported by Gosselin the resolution be amended as follows: B. NOTWITHSTANDING SUBSECTION A ABOVE, THE (Oakland county)AUTHORITY SHALL NOT LEVY AND/OR SHALL NOT COLLECT A TAX FOR ANY PERIOD UNLESS THE VOTERS OF BOTH WAYNE COUNTY AND MACOMB COUNTY HAVE ALSO AUTHORIZED THE LEVY AND COLLECTION OF A .2 MILL TAX FOR A PERIOD OF NOT MORE THAN 10 YEARS PURSUANT TO 2010 PA 296. Vote on amendment: AYES: Matis, Nuccio, River, Runestad, Scott, Taub, Weipert, Bosnic, Gosselin, Long. (10) NAYS: McGillivray, Middleton, Nash, Potts, Quarles, Woodward, Zack, Covey, Crawford, Dwyer, Gershenson, Gingell, Hatchett, Hoffman, Jackson. (15) A sufficient majority having not voted in favor, the amendment failed. MISCELLANEOUS RESOLUTION
Mike White July 30, 2012 at 03:34 PM
This is nothing more than overt attempt to add nuance to a position that begins and ends with the self-serving idea that other counties shouldn't have to pay for institutions that they patronize. Study after study shows the value of the arts and its presence and effect on our youth. Framing it as a choice between funding police and funding the museum is a false argument. This sanctimonious caterwauling from the sainted "taxpayer" over everything that doesn't involve tax breaks is nauseating, and now it is infecting things like funding the DIA. As a kid I was bused from a suburban enclave to see the DIA. Do we really want to deny our children that experience because some whiny TV commentator has stoked your righteous indignation over, ----egads!--paying for something of which there is an actual benefit? Or perhaps we should just stop funding social and cultural institutions altogether and give the liquidation proceeds to the Tri-County taxpayers so everyone can have an extra $200 to buy a new HDTV? Isn't that America?
Sharon Henderson July 30, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Why should we pay for a bloated, mismanaged organization where the director makes a 1/2 million dollars? Let them reign in their salaries and benefits, charge admission, obtain better ratings and we will see in a few years. If people want to support the arts, then do it. But don't expect the 99% of people who rarely go there to do it. The truth hurts.
Jess Parker July 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I will be voting no on the DIA request.
Lianne Mathie July 30, 2012 at 10:15 PM
So Issac parrots the so called facts from the Troy Tea Part and everyone eats it up hook , line and sinker. Nice, comparing the DIA to Toledo is like comparing a big wheel against a Benz. Utter baloney.
drs July 30, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Sorry Linnie but I'm a democrat and I love the DIA (my kids got sick of it because we took them there plenty of times but they too will grow to love it). My biggest complaint from the DIA and the zoo (which we have been members of for 25years) is stop relying on taxes to fund everything. Start running the DIA leaner and having it make it's own money. Oh, and if you know your museums...Toledo Art Museuem is or was rated the 5th best art museum in the country.
Lianne Mathie July 31, 2012 at 01:31 AM
drs, Toledo doesn't rank at all, however I don't expect you to know that.The benefactors who donated and entrusted us with the collections expected much better of our culture, which sadly is focused on the screen of a cell phone or profit. The millage is form a endowment to sustain the DIA through the future.It's not rocket science but if you want to believe the bleating of a small tea party crowd, vote however. The DIA anchors so many good things, Wayne State, the New Center area and Ford and Comerica. I'm not the only one who considers it essential.Read on. http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20120708/SUB01/307089967/keith-crain-time-to-be-responsible-and-vote-for-dia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Institute_of_Arts
drs July 31, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Lianne, wasn't able to get to Crain's link but I have read plenty on the pros and cons of voting for the DIA tax, oh but I wouldn't expect you to know that. Sorry, but until the curator and his assistant take a pay cut this family will be voting NO!
Lianne Mathie July 31, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I know drs, just throw it in the trash can,but make sure all those nifty toys you have are always the newest, that's how you roll, but I knew that.
JH July 31, 2012 at 03:03 PM
The curator, like the CEO of a company, is well paid due to the value they create and/or preserve for the institution. A lower paid curator would lead to a lower rated museum. Or do you really expect he would stay living in Detroit at a much lower pay rate when he could move elsewhere and make what he is now? Not going to happen...
drs July 31, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Hey Lianne, you don't know one thing about me, what arrogance, I don't even have a cell phone because I can't afford one. But you seem to know everything. Vote NO on the DIA, thanks for helping me make my decision!!!!!!!
Lianne Mathie July 31, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Glad I could help you out, but I do know one thing about you, you know nothing of art.I will be voting YES and canceling out your NO vote. Have a wonderful day.
jgron August 01, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Out of 12 major Art Museum's Graham Beal is 11th in compensation. You cannot compare his salary to the Governor's - that is like comparing an athletes million dollar salary to the salary of the President. Of the 12 museums mentioned in the Free Press, the DIA receives 2% tax support while many of the others receive as much as 95%. The 0.2 mill is a small price to pay to keep the museum open - how about the naysayers taking a trip downtown to see what a beautiful museum we have. Needless to say I will be voting YES!!!!
Scott Pakulski August 05, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Dr Barr. You are incorrect on the Toledo Museum of Art. They have a huge endowment sonething the DIA is lacking. So I hope everybody votes YES to save the DIA on August 7
kay myler August 05, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Can't afford the police officers to keep the visitors of the DIA safe...so it's doors will close with or without this mileage. Police officers paid below poverty level aren't exactly inclined to protect the privileges of us suburbanites...would you?
j.clawson.usa August 06, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Move it to a try-county location.. Free of blite and dangerous parking and watch the profits grow. I am not saying its the people...its the time to move into an area that will appreciate it and use it.
JH August 06, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Have you been there recently? Midtown is not exactly a war zone... The area around the museum does not feel unsafe at all during the hours the museum is open. There are a lot of places in Detroit I wouldn't feel comfortable going, but the DIA is certainly not one of them.
j.clawson.usa August 06, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Acessabilaty! 20min drive + the parking is a mess + the panhandling...lets be realistic about detroits art scene...it is not what it used to be...why? The dia is small and outdated...many of the worlds top rated museums have "upgraded" moved or is more open to the public...ie.paris,rome,spain,moscow...rebuild for the future with great parking, longer hours, safer area...we can put detroit back on the map as an art center people would travel to...stop catering to ourselves and think of the big picture.
Madison August 07, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Or we could use that money for public services which lord knows Detroit needs. We're going to invest all of this money in a museum while outside of the museum walls there is mayhem in the streets, but it's okay as long as when our house burns down because there aren't enough firefighters we can still go and appreciate some nice art right? Who cares if one of the workers from the DIA get shot on the way home because there aren't enough police? I'm sure their family will be forever grateful that we used money for the DIA instead of police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs to protect us.
FredS August 07, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I'd rather drive downtown then to stripmall hell to see the DIA. You're really complaining about a 20min drive and panhandlers??
FredS August 07, 2012 at 04:05 PM
oops. then = than.
EKC August 07, 2012 at 06:21 PM
The DIA is small, yes, but this is Detroit, not Paris. Trying to compare the two is ridiculous. We'll get longer hours when attendance goes up. And Midtown is extremely safe. The Wayne State area has its own police force. They keep the panhandling pretty under control around there, and there are very few incidents. Detroit isn't the war zone people seem to think it is. Maybe try going there before you make judgments about the area or quality of the exhibits. There's some really great art there. Also, ever been to Scarab Club? MOCAD? District VII? Tangent Gallery? There's a ton of art galleries and exhibits in Detroit. We really have a thriving art scene.
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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