CHICAGO — A Wayne County Circuit Court judge Thursday ruled in favor of the Detroit City Council and blocked a new bond-issuing regional authority from taking over the city’s convention center.
The move derails a state-crafted plan five years in the making that would have allowed a new authority to issue up to $300 million in bonds to buy and renovate the aging Cobo Center, home of the North American International Auto Show and one of Detroit’s chief economic engines.
The five-member authority was set to take over the center on April 20. But in March the City Council vetoed the plan, arguing it left Detroit without sufficient power and that the $20 million purchase price for the center was too low for the city’s “jewel.”
Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. quickly vetoed the council’s rejection. The council sued, arguing that Cockrel did not have the authority to override the veto, and this afternoon Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Isidore Torres agreed. Torres gave the two sides nearly two weeks ago to reach a settlement, but said talks had apparently broken down.
Cockrel is scheduled to hold a press conference on the matter. In early reports, state lawmakers were pessimistic that another agreement could be crafted.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who was to have the power to appoint one member to the five-member board, repeated his vow to try to lure the lucrative auto show to Oakland County.
“In-friggin’-credible!” Patterson said in a statement. “If they’re popping champagne corks in Detroit City Council chambers this afternoon, I would suggest to you it’s terribly premature. What the City Council has done is overturn five years of hard negotiation that was Detroit’s last best chance to secure long-term funding for Cobo Hall, and frankly the North American International Auto Show.”