Mayor Duggan Wants Cobo Center Renamed 'as Quickly as Possible'

August 25, 2017, 4:52 PM

Mayor Albert Cobo

On Thursday, a Deadline Detroit column questioned the appropriateness of haviong a convention named for the late Detroit Mayor Albert Cobo. 

Dan Austin, a local historian and former press spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, wrote in that column that the 1950-57, mayor was responsible for racially motivated policies that "did much to divide our city and region, wiped out black neighborhoods and set the table for Detroit's decline."

"He stoked white people's fears of black Detroiters, hinting that he was the only thing 'keeping them at bay.'" 

On top of that, Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley has been advocating in print that Cobo Center be renamed after Joe Louis. In May, she wrote:

"And Cobo? He was a candy store owner who successfully ran for mayor by campaigning against 'the Negro invasion of white neighborhoods in Detroit,' according to news reports and historical accounts."

On Thursday, the Freep reported that the regional authority that runs the convention center has hired a company to explore the option of selling the naming rights to the center.

On Friday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told Riley he wants the name removed. She reports: 

Cobo CEO Patrick Bero said the process could take six months to two years, but Duggan said he told authority member Larry Alexander that the center "should move as quickly as possible" to rename the center. Alexander is member of the board of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and is President and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

If convention center wants to benefit financially from the naming rights, which can be quite lucrative, it may be a tougher to get a company to pay for the Joe Louis name rather than its own.

The re-examining of building names and statues has heated up around the country in wake of Charlottesville.  

"I'm not a believer that you have to scrutinize every street name and every building in the city," Duggan told the Freep "but the Cobo Center is central to the city of Detroit's image across America and around the world. And I felt like a center that meant so much to Detroit's reputation ought not to be named for sombody who didn't provide fair opportunities for everybody. We're just really pleased with what the Cobo authority is doing."

Duggan's push for renaming the Cobo Center comes in the midst of re-election campaign in which his opponent, state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, has tried to make race an issue.

Young has said repeatedly that a white mayor can't truly address the sensitivities of the black community. Duggan and some supporters have dismissed such thoughts.  

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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