DETROIT (WWJ) Thursday brought a key bankruptcy hearing for the city of Detroit, where anyone with a stake in the issue was invited to speak before federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes.
More than 100 retirees registered to talk during the lengthy morning session, most of them objecting because they’re afraid the city is using bankruptcy as an excuse to shuck off its pension obligations. The hearing is part of the bankruptcy process, with a second one happening later the same day.
Less than half the registered people actually showed up to speak, WWJ’s Marie Osborne reported, but those in attendance were plenty vocal. Many talked about the years they devoted to the city, and how devastating it would be to lose their pension or take reduced benefits.
One woman told Judge Rhodes she’s the widow of a pensioner and receives $3,000 a month in benefits, and said if it was cut, she would have to go on welfare, Osborne reported.
“My voting rights have been violated,” another said. Many objected to the fact Detroit is being run by outsiders appointed by the governor, after he declared the city in financial emergency.
Still others questioned why the city filed for bankruptcy at all, saying the city has plenty of cash to pay bankruptcy consultants and lawyers, which means there’s still money.
With the blessing of Gov. Rick Snyder, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed a bankruptcy case for the city of Detroit — the largest such case in municipal history. An in-depth look at the books showed Detroit owes $18 billion and can never successfully turn the corner without shedding creditors and reorganizing, Orr has said.
Hassan Aleem was among the 30 or so people who spoke at the hearing, saying Orr shouldn’t have filed because he’s not an elected official and only someone elected can file for bankruptcy. Detroit’s councilwoman JoAnn Watson also questioned the legality of the emergency manager, and reiterated a long-held claim that the state owes Detroit millions over a revenue sharing agreement from a decade or so ago.
Former mayoral candidate Jean Vortkamp said the bankruptcy was the work of racist white men, and former high-ranking Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle called it a “poll tax,” invoking Jim Crow and lynchings. Another retiree said her grandson asks if people are trying to make them slaves again.
“Who’s going to prison for cruelty to retirees?” — retiree Paulette Brown asked, saying Michael Vick went to jail for cruelty to animals.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton reported the strangest talk came from a man who claimed to be from “the Chair of Saint Peter.”
Robert Marques said all of Detroit’s debts were wiped out on June 30 as part of the “global reset.”
“All courts are under the Roman Curia,” he said, curiously, and adding his speech was “not a farce,” before sitting back down.
Rhodes called the hearing “democracy at its finest.”