Why wasn't Detroit free to choose?
So many are confused about who presently owns the art at the DIA. The city no longer owns it. That is no longer in contention. What should be contested is the value that the city should have received for it and what should have been done with the proceeds.
During the bankruptcy the city was forced to relinquish ownership of the art and in return debt was forgiven in the amount of $500 million in present value terms. It was a bad deal in that appraisals came in at between $4 and $9 billion dollars and this did not include the entire collection. Many estimated the entire collection to be worth between $10 and $15 billion.
It is worth putting this transaction at a personal level. Assume you were a head of a family of three living in Detroit and working at WalMart making $7.75 per hour. You rented your house, did not own a car and took the bus to work every day. Further, you just inherited a piece of art worth $100,000. What would you do?
One option would be to hang the artwork on the wall in the living room for family and visitors to enjoy it. A second option would be to sell the art, purchase a small home and go to a trade school to get a better job.
Why didn't we give the people a chance to do this with the art they owned?