DETROIT (CBS Detroit) It’s probably not a huge surprise, but a new poll finds that Detroiters are overwhelmingly opposed to both cutting retiree’s pensions and selling the DIA’s art work to reduce the city debt.
Epic/MRA pollster Bernie Porn said more than 75 percent were opposed to both issues in a recent poll he conducted across Detroit. Porn said the numbers came from those who tend to vote in mayoral and city council elections — with about 77 percent African-American.
“Clearly voters do not want pensions touched as a way to pay down the debt, and they feel even stronger about selling off any of the at the Detroit Institute of Arts,” Porn said, adding the survey respondents are reflective of the general turnout in the next election.
As Detroit winds its way through the largest municipal bankruptcy case in history, Christie’s Appraisals said last month it agreed to appraise some city-owned pieces in the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA’s entire collection is said to be worth $4 billion.
At the time, Christie’s said the appraisal “is one of many steps that will be necessary for the legal system to reach a conclusion about the best long-term solution for the citizens of Detroit.”
The museum said in a statement that it will cooperate in the process.
“However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM’s focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit’s most important cultural institution,” a statement from the museum read.
The polling numbers follow a public outcry at last week’s bankruptcy hearing in federal court, where dozens of citizens protested to Judge Steven Rhodes, claiming the city is not eligible for bankruptcy. Many argued the city has money it’s not disclosing and is using bankruptcy as an excuse to eliminate pension obligations.
The emotional meeting included retirees saying their voting rights had been violated by the appointment of emergency manager Kevyn Orr, and others saying a reduction in pension payments would force them onto public assistance.
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.
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.