When Outlier Media’s Noah Kincade looked into why District Detroit was delayed in breaking ground, he came across a public agency he had never heard of before. Kincade knows a lot about Detroit and Wayne County government as a coordinator for the Detroit Documenters (a program of Outlier Media). How had he never heard of the Detroit/Wayne County Stadium Authority, an agency with the power to delay a project worth hundreds of million of dollars? I sat down with him to learn more about why there is so little public information about such a powerful committee and what happens next with District Detroit.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sarah Alvarez: How did you find out about the Detroit/Wayne County Stadium Authority?
Noah Kincade: In writing for the Detour Detroit newsletter, I learned District Detroit is delayed because they don’t actually own the land that the first buildings are going to be built on. That land is currently owned by the Detroit/Wayne County Stadium Authority.
I love when I find a new agency I’ve never heard of that Detroit Documenters should be covering. So, I immediately started looking for them online.
What did you find?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing online. They have zero web presence. On Google, you get results from Moody’s and credit rating agencies because they have issued bonds. There’s enough money flowing through this authority that they’ve been able to sell bonds to raise money, but there’s no web address or office address online. Google also turned up a 2010 Auditor General’s report on the authority.
So what did you do next?
I went to Wayne County’s site, and I just did a search for “stadium authority.” Zero, nothing.
I did the same search on Detroit’s website and found a mention related to the City Council’s Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee. I sent a group email to all of the members on that committee and a few days later got a reply from Councilmember James Tate’s office, and they said they would try to get me answers. They also gave me a few Wayne County contacts I reached out to.
What were you trying to find out?
My questions were pretty basic. I wanted to know: How do I contact this authority? Is there a telephone number? Is there an email address? Do they have an office? I also wanted to know how to get minutes of past meetings, and how to find out if they’re meeting and when they are meeting. That’s it.
Did you get answers?
Tate’s office informed me that meeting notices would be posted in the lobby of the Guardian Building. They also explained that there are six members on the board — three are appointed by the mayor and three by the Wayne County Executive. Two of Mayor Mike Duggan’s appointees are retiring but haven’t been replaced yet. Former Police Chief Ike McKinnon is on the board now. Duggan would like to appoint Stephanie Washington (his chief of staff) and Luke Polcyn, from his jobs and economy team, when the authority actually meets, I suppose.
Did you go to the Guardian Building? Is there a bulletin board there somewhere?
Yes, in the lobby, and on the stadium authority’s posting, it shows they have canceled the last three months of meetings. They met in May and canceled June, July and August. Those months have lines across them saying canceled. The September meeting is going to happen next Thursday on Sept. 7, assuming it doesn’t also get canceled. It is in the Guardian Building, but there’s also a Zoom link posted on the piece of paper.
If they do meet, do you know if they’re going to talk about District Detroit?
I haven’t been able to find any meeting agendas, but I think so. I’ve read that District Detroit made their pitch at the May meeting to purchase this land. But the authority didn’t vote on it, and then they canceled three months worth of meetings. So, that’s holding up District Detroit.
Have you ever run across an agency that has such little publicly available information before?
This is the first time we’ve found one that doesn’t have at least a page on a government website. But while I was at the Guardian Building, I also saw a posting for the Wayne County Building Authority. They do have a webpage, but the posting showed they have canceled 10 of the last 11 months of meetings.
And we’re going to send some Documenters to the upcoming Stadium Authority Meeting?
Absolutely. I’m going to go, too, because I still want to get our questions answered.