By David Docekal, Editor, The Hypercapitalist
I briefly mentioned this in a comment on my last Detroit post but I still wanted to go more in-depth on the subject of shareholders for the City of Detroit.
Residents, I believe, would take more pride and feel more accountable if they had direct ownership in their city. One could argue that this is true with government as it is now but people don’t see government as an investment. They see it as an expense. Holding stock in a corporation, however, is like owning property. It goes up and down in value (hopefully you make a profit) and if you need to sell it, you can sell it. By holding a piece of paper that says you own equity in Detroit would be something that empowers you to be involved.
Residents would automatically get a set amount of shares for free when the city becomes private. These shares would not be allowed to be sold for a minimum of two years. This is to help maintain the stability of the investment pool. The free shares are given out in order to gain buy-in for the program and to release the burden of buying shares for residents who may not be able to afford them. This enables them to vote in city elections. Only shareholding residents may vote for the board of directors.
The return on investment would come in the form of shares of stock to investors in the city corporation. The shares would be valued by a marketplace set up specifically for the buying and selling of stock in the city. The value of course is worth the demand. Citizens of the city would automatically get a certain number of shares without having to purchase upon their first tax return (to prove residency) living in the city. That gives them the ability to be vested in their hometown without having to suffer a possible burden of purchasing shares. It would otherwise be like owning any other stock in a company. It would have the chance to increase in value and be sold as needed.
Additional shares can be purchased anytime. However, they would be designated “non-voting” until proof of residency is provided. Then they would be converted to voting stock.
The investment account could be managed online, on the phone, through your regular broker or at an office for the Department of Shareholder Affairs. This would accommodate low income stockholders who may not have access to the internet or even a phone.
Residents would be able to buy voting shares in the company. The annual voting would elect a board of directors that would in turn hire a CEO and vice presidents to manage the city day-to-day. Executives would receive sizable but not outlandish bonuses based on the city’s performance for that fiscal year.
Outside investors (or non-residents) can buy shares in the Detroit Corporation but they would be non-voting. This would minimize the risk of outsiders deciding city management but would afford the opportunity for the rest of the world to put their faith and support into Detroit. Non-voting shares are also given to any corporation regardless of residency. Voting shares are designated for resident individuals only.
This would all be backed up by the “I Own Detroit” ad campaign featuring everyday residents along with celebrity residents, like Eminem, sharing their pride in ownership and pride in their hometown.
The point is to promote pride, faith and commitment in the city. And above all: accountability.
Taxes would still be a factor. Property and Income Taxes would be used strictly for infrastructure, payroll and other day-to-day city services. Investment capital would be used for capital projects such as beautification, stadiums, parks, etc.
Other revenue would be from sales tax that could be partly allocated to a special fund for low-interest loans for qualified locally-owned small businesses provided by the company’s banking subsidiary. Other money would be donated to registered, accredited food pantries within city limits.
The corporation would take possession of all current city services including emergency services, schools, libraries, infrastructure, etc. Each department with a dedicated vice president appointed by the CEO.