STATE WAR ON DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS CONTINUES, “SELLING BLACK CHILDREN TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER”

Michigan Legislature still debating provisions of bills that would end DPS

 Current Detroit Board of Education, parents file class action lawsuit citing irreparable harm to Detroit’s children under state control

Retaliation continues against teachers who closed 80 percent of Detroit schools during walk-outs protesting building conditions

 By Diane Bukowski 

April 24, 2016 

Detroit Board of Education President Herman Davis stands at right as schools activist Helen Moore speaks at press conference announcing lawsuit April 7, 2016.

Detroit Board of Education President Herman Davis stands at right as schools activist Helen Moore speaks at press conference announcing lawsuit for DPS kids April 7, 2016.

DETROIT – The far right-wing war to dismantle the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district continues; a July 16 DPS “execution date” is set under pending state legislation.

Meanwhile, DPS board members and parents await the results of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed April 6 against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his Emergency Managers (EM)’s, and Detroit teachers face continuing attacks for a series of walk-outs that shut down 80 percent of Detroit’s schools earlier this year.

“The war is on,” Detroit Board of Education President Herman Davis said during a press conference April 7 on the lawsuit. “We must move forward as a community, and stop the school to prison pipeline. This is just like in slavery days. They are taking our Black children and selling them to the highest bidder. It’s genocide.”

Davis compared attack on DPS to slave auctions of previous era.

Davis compared attack on DPS to slave auctions of previous era.

On the legislative front, the State Senate has approved bills 710, 711, 819, 820, 821, and 822, which would replace DPS with a “community district” including charter schools, all under state control, and abolish the current Board.

The new board would answer to the same State Financial Review Commission that controls the city of Detroit under the bankruptcy plan.

It would also create a “Detroit Education Commission” appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, to determine school siting. (See earlier VOD article, linked below, which laid out provisions of the bills.)

Senate members and their supporters in the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children, co-chaired by Rev. Wendell Anthony, with Walbridge Aldinger CEO and Snyder ally John Rakolta, Jr., among others, are now wrangling with members of the House of Representatives over whether the legislation is sufficiently pro-charter school.

State Sen. Coleman A. Young II

Michigan State Sen. Coleman A. Young II

But State Sen. Coleman A. Young II (D-Detroit), expressed his complete opposition to the Senate bills during debate in the Senate.

“I want to make it clear that this is not a bailout,” Young said. “This is repaying DPS money that the state put into debt in the first place, and it’s not enough money for the debt that the state put DPS in. . . .there is no academic reform or support in this whatsoever. Sixty‑six percent of the children in Detroit Public Schools are not proficient in reading. Forty-seven percent of the city is functionally illiterate. This, to me, seems more about governance, contracts, and who gets the money than about doing what is best to educate our children.”

(See link below story for VOD’s earlier description of Senate bills.)

Student of Detroit historic multi-cultural Chadsey High School speaks at school board meeting against Chadsey closure March 10, 2005. Despite repeated walk-outs by Chadsey students, the school closed anyway.

Student of Detroit’s historic multi-cultural Chadsey High School speaks at school board meeting against Chadsey closure March 10, 2005. Despite repeated walk-outs by Chadsey students, the school closed anyway.

On April 20, 31 state Republicans signed a resolution to dissolve the elected State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction which it appoints.

Under terms of the resolution, the governor would appoint a director of a state Department of Education. Such an action, however, would require a state constitutional amendment.

The resolution’s sponsor, State Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township), said “It has become increasingly obvious that students in Detroit would be better off if DPS simply went away,” in an op-ed in the Detroit News April 9. He proposed instead that the state issue voucher payments to parents to send their children to private schools.

But Detroit school board members, parents, and their attorney Thomas Bleakley said April 7 that state control has been responsible for the Detroit district’s extreme distress, pointing to the chart below.

What State control of DPS has wrought

What State control of DPS has wrought

 

They provided a power point package summarizing their stand and details of the decline of DPS under state control. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DBE-presentation.pdf.)

Accompanying the package was a letter asking the public in part to “Oppose any dissolution or replacement of Detroit Public Schools. . . .oppose any further intervention and/or experimentation on Detroit schoolchildren . . . demand that the State of Michigan conduct a specific audit to determine the causes and origins of the DPS deficit . . . .[and] immediately empower the current and already elected School board. (See full letter at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DBEletter.pdf.)

Detroit Board of Education press conference on lawsuit, April 7, 2016. Board member Elena Herrada is speaking.

Detroit Board of Education press conference on lawsuit, April 7, 2016. Board member Elena Herrada is speaking.

The lawsuit, Pauling et al v. Snyder et al, filed against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his Emergency Managers, and their cronies April 6, says the state is waging an unbridled assault on the right of Detroit’s children, particularly children of color, to a “free, public, adequate and worthy education,” in the words of Bleakley. It asks for a trial by jury and “compensatory and punitive damages.”

(See full lawsuit at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DPS-lawsuit-v-Snyder.compressed.pdf. )

The long-closed Frederick Douglass High School on Detroit's east side has left a community full of vacant storefronts and homes.

The long-closed Frederick Douglass High School on Detroit’s east side has left a community full of vacant storefronts and homes.

“There is a now a greater percentage of school drop-outs, more children are entering the criminal justice system, and more cannot get in college,” since state control, Attorney Bleakley said.

School board member Elena Herrada said the number of children being suspended, with no recourse, is rising. There are only two suspension hearings officers, and no translators for Spanish and Arabic-speaking parents.

A Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study, “The School to Prison Pipeline,” earlier found that children of color, particularly Black children, are disproportionately suspended across the state, leaving them to the mercy of the streets.

Students have been left without schools, period. The majority of DPS schools have been closed since the state takeover, leaving 89 bona fide public schools in 2016, out of 261 in 1994, depriving entire communities of the institutions that once anchored them.

Detroit Board of Education member Lamar Lemmons.

“Seventy-seven school buildings have been bundled and given to the City of Detroit to pay an alleged water drainage debt,” Herrada said. “Art, music and math teachers have been cut from the budget. Teachers have had their pay cut and their health care benefits slashed. Take our children out of these oppressive warehouses!”

Speakers also expressed absolute opposition to the Senate bills.

“We vehemently oppose the Senate bills,” Board member Lamar Lemmons said. “They are nothing but a bait and switch tactic, giving the illusion of democracy with an ‘elected’ school board [answering to the State Financial Review Commission] in place of the duly elected board which now exists, which we call the ‘School Board in Exile’ because all our powers have been stolen under the EM.”

He added, “Both the Community School District and the Detroit Election Commission allow the Mayor to pick charter schools for his friends and campaign contributors. More millage dollars and construction dollars are involved in the plan. If these are such great ideas, why don’t they have them in Grosse Pointe? Don’t Jim Crow Detroit!”

Kathy Carthron (featured in Channel 7 video above) has an eight-year-old autistic son attending DPS, which has closed facilities for special needs students including the Oakman Orthopedic School and the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. DPS has merged their students with the general population of students, with teachers untrained in handling their needs.

“My son has been abused in Detroit Public Schools,” Carthron said. “They have left him sitting in a mess in diapers. He doesn’t have enough time to eat. This is against the law. ”

DPS parent Kathy Carthron speaks, with board members Ida Short and Tawanna Simpson to her right.

DPS parent Kathy Carthron speaks, with board members Ida Short and Tawanna Simpson to her right.

She said her son was “kidnapped” by Checker Cab after being left without a way home on a day when school ended early.

“This attack on public education is going on all across the country,” said Helen Moore, founder of the Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition. “Black and Brown children are being harmed irreparably by corporate interests who want to profit from public education.”

She cited in particular New Orleans, which now has the nation’s first all-charter school district, called the Recovery School District. Seventy percent of charter schools are operated for profit. Parents there have also filed a class-action lawsuit. (See video below.)

Meanwhile, a May 16 hearing has been scheduled in an ongoing state lawsuit titled, “The School District of the City of Detroit v. Detroit Federation of Teachers et al,” which targets teachers who earlier participated in a series of well-publicized sick-outs. The actions drew broad attention to the horrific conditions in what is left of Detroit’s public school buildings.

Large demonstrations have been held by teachers, parents and students outside the hearings, held at Cadillac Place on W. Grand Blvd., which houses the State of Michigan’s Detroit offices. (See video at top of story.) The sick-outs have received national coverage, including in the pages of Time Magazine. (See link below story.)

Protesters outside Cadillac Place during earlier hearing on lawsuit v. teachers who called in sick.

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens earlier denied the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against the walkouts. In ordering the May 16 hearing, to be held at noon,  Judge Stephens said, “The issue here is whether the defendants engaged in conduct which was in violation of the EM [order] 1-15 but protected by the First Amendment.”

Her order, at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/School-district-v-DFT-order.pdf, cites language from the Michigan Public Employee Relations Act (PERA), which says, “This act does not limit, impair, or affect the right of a public employee to the expression or communication of a view, grievance, complaint, or opinion on any matter related to the conditions or compensation of public employment or their betterment as long as the expression or communication does not interfere with the full, faithful, and proper performance of the duties of employment. [MCL 433.201.2].”

Chicago Teachers Union protest at Bank of America.

Chicago Teachers Union protest at Bank of America.

The Chicago Teachers Union has repeatedly struck and conducted informational rallies against the dismantling of schools in that city, taking a much stronger and more effective stance than the current DFT since its previously elected president Steve Conn was ousted for his militancy.

Singled out for attack in the lawsuit are Conn and Nicole Conaway, who taught at the now-privatized Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant students and their children. They became nationally known when they walked out to stop the dissolution of their school.

#SaveOurKids, #SaveOurChildren, #SaveDPS, #StopSchoolClosings, #MoneyforEducationnotforBanks, #MoneyforEducationnotforwar, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #BlackEducationMatters, #Beatbackthebullies, #StandUpNow, #StoptheWaronBlackAmerica, #DefendPublicEducation

Related stories:

From Time Magazine:

Detroit Teachers Explain Why They’re ‘Sicking-Out’

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/29/detroit-kids-in-danger-bills-end-dps-pay-off-banks-with-state-control-tax-levies-closings-charters/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/24/stop-snyder-recall-petitions-approved-campaign-begins-easter-sunday/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/04/01/chicago-teachers-walk-out-demand-funding-for-education-not-banks/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/09/10/chicago-teachers-on-strike-for-compensation-job-security-resources-for-students/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/23/detroit-retirees-demand-city-council-oppose-em-law-dps-re-structuring-support-rebuilding-flint/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/21/thousands-of-boston-public-school-students-walk-out/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/07/rhodes-rule-over-detroit-schools-ominous-as-bankruptcy-judge-he-dismantled-city-of-detroit/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/03/detroit-will-be-paying-for-school-bonds-until-year-2040-dismantling-of-dps-all-about-corporate-greed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/02/26/cancel-dps-debt-to-the-banks-quality-education-for-detroit-children-tune-in-whpr-sat-2271030-am/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/09/13/bank-of-new-york-mellon-controls-dps/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/11/26/bail-out-the-schools-not-the-banks-2/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/10/22/banks-bobb-school-board-collude-against-detroits-schoolchildren/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/09/13/dps-caught-in-devils-triangle/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/09/29/bings-detroit-the-next-new-orleans/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/09/02/save-our-schools-save-detroits-oakman-and-school-of-the-arts/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/08/26/detroit-joins-natl-coalition-to-call-for-moratorium-on-school-closings-rally-wed-aug-28-3-pm-dps-hq-fisher-bldg/

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DYING IN PRISON: MICHIGAN JUVENILE LIFERS GET NEW HOPE UNDER MONTGOMERY, STILL FACE OBSTACLES

Some of Michigan’s juvenile lifers: (l to r, top through bottom row), Cortez Davis, Raymond Carp, Dakotah Eliason, Henry Hill, Keith Maxey, Dontez Tillman, Charles Lewis, Jemal Tipton, Nicole Dupure, Giovanni Casper, Jean Cintron, Matthew Bentley, Bosie Smith, Kevin Boyd, Damion Todd, Jennifer Pruitt, Edward Sanders, David Walton (photos show some lifers at current age, others at age they went to prison).

Some of Michigan’s juvenile lifers: (l to r, top through bottom row), Cortez Davis, Raymond Carp, Dakotah Eliason, Henry Hill, Keith Maxey, Dontez Tillman, Charles Lewis, Jemal Tipton, Nicole Dupure, Giovanni Casper, Jean Cintron, Matthew Bentley, Bosie Smith, Kevin Boyd, Damion Todd, Jennifer Pruitt, Edward Sanders, David Walton (photos show some lifers at current age, others at age they went to prison).

U.S. Supreme Court ruled Jan. 25 in Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller v. Alabama decision declaring JLWOP unconstitutional is retroactive

But MICHISSIPPI’s  juvenile lifers still have “many rivers to cross” in state with 2nd highest number of JLWOPer’s in U.S., under Snyder administration

Another state juvenile lifer commits suicide after 23 years, says attorney

 “All but the rarest of children” are not incorrigible, and should not be left in prison to die, says USSC

BREAKING NEWS MAY 11, 2016: THE SIXTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS HAS ESSENTIALLY STRUCK DOWN MICHIGAN’S STATUTES REGARDING JUVENILE LIFER RE-SENTENCING POLICIES. SEE ORDER AT http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Sixth-Circuit-Hill-ruling-5-11-16.pdf

By Diane Bukowski

April 10, 2016

Henry Montgomery, 69, in Angola Prison in Louisiana since 1963

Henry Montgomery, 69, in Angola Prison in Louisiana since 1963

DETROIT – The fates of at least 364 Michigan prisoners sentenced to die in prison as juveniles, a/k/a to “life without parole,” hang in the balance after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Montgomery v. Louisiana ruling affirming the appeal of George Montgomery, a Black man who was 17 when charged with killing a white deputy sheriff in the deep South.

Almost four years after the court found such sentences unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual” in Miller v. Alabama, it finally ruled that Miller was fully retroactive across the U.S.  Courts in only four states, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota had persisted in declaring that Miller did not apply to already incarcerated prisoners, many of whom had already spent decades behind bars.

In Michigan, two-thirds of juvenile lifers have spent at least 25 years in prison. At least 70 percent are people of color, most of them Black. Michigan has the second highest number of juvenile lifers in the U.S. Under the current state administration, they still face “many rivers to cross” in the wake of the Montgomery ruling.

Edward Sanders at 17 with friends in Detroit.

Edward Sanders at 17 (r) with friends in Detroit.

“All praises are due to Allah,” Detroiter Edward Sanders said of the decision. He was 17 when he was convicted of first-degree murder in a 1975 drive-by shooting where he did not pull the trigger.

“I am thankful for our Lord’s Mercy,” Sanders continued. “The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Montgomery vs Louisiana is a great step back into our humanity; a child is never the same as an adult. I am thankful to the many people and groups that worked to this end. I prayed for this day.  First for myself . . . and then for others in my situation. The short time in which we went from juvenile courts to adulthood in our society as it reacted to very young children is sad. [Islamic law] says children are not adults and should not be addressed the same under the law. In Islam this is not a modern law, nor is it in this society.”

Sanders is now 58, and has spent the last 41 years in Michigan prisons. He is currently at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, classified at the low security level of two.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

During his time in prison, Sanders obtained his bachelor’s degree, and continued to study the law. He taught classes at Mound Road Prison in Detroit, and has functioned as a jail-house lawyer for many years, helping other inmates with their cases. He has said he wants to work with at-risk youth upon release.

“Henry Montgomery has spent each day of the past 46 years knowing he was condemned to die in prison,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Perhaps it can be established that, due to exceptional circumstances, this fate was a just and proportionate punishment for the crime he committed as a 17-year-old boy. In light of what this Court has said in Roper, Graham, and Miller about how children are constitutionally different from adults in their level of culpability, however, prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.” (See USSC decision at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/USSC-Montgomery-v-LA.pdf.)

Henry Montgomery booked at the age of 17 in East Baton Rouge, LA.

Henry Montgomery booked at the age of 17 in East Baton Rouge, LA, allegedy for killing Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Hurt; media called him “Wolfman.”

The court found that its 2012 Miller decision involved substantive, not procedural, issues under the Constitution and therefore was retroactive. It thus disagreed with  opinions by Michigan’s attorney general Bill Schuette, who filed an amicus brief opposing Montgomery’s appeal, and other state officials and courts.

“A State may remedy a Miller violation by extending parole eligibil­ity to juvenile offenders,” Kennedy said regarding implementation. “This would neither impose an onerous bur­den on the States nor disturb the finality of state convictions. And it would afford someone like Montgomery, who submits that he has evolved from a troubled, misguided youth to a model member of the prison community, the opportunity to demonstrate the truth of Mil­ler’s central intuition—that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.”

He noted further, “Although Miller did not foreclose a sentencer’s ability to impose life without parole on a juvenile, the Court explained that a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those whose crimes reflect ‘irreparable corruption.’”

Atty. Mark Plaisance argued case in front of USSC for Henry Montgomery.

Atty. Mark Plaisance argued case in front of USSC for Henry Montgomery.

Attorney Mark Plaisance of Baton Rouge, LA argued the case for Montgomery, as a representative of the Public Defender’s Office. He was backed by amicus briefs filed by dozens of other organizations.

“We were well pleased with the decision,” Plaisance told VOD. “It’s the next step in the court’s evolution on how it believes the justice system should address juvenile offenders, that they are not fully knowledgeable about what they are doing. The Supreme Court said it would leave [implementation] up to the states, but Justice Kennedy said based on the states’ arguments that reviewing all cases would be burdensome, it would be easily resolved by states just sending such prisoners straight to parole hearings. He dropped a big hint.”

Montgomery, a sophomore in high school, was two weeks past his 17th birthday in the rural South of 1963 when he was arrested for killing white deputy sheriff Charles H. Hurt of the East Baton Rouge Parish. Newspaper accounts at the time called Montgomery the “Wolfman.”

STILL SLAVERY IN PRISON: In this Aug. 18, 2011 photo, prison guards ride horses that were broken by inmates as they return from farm work detail at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

He was at first sentenced to death, but his conviction was overturned on an appeal alleging substantial racial bias at trial. He was retried and sentenced to life without parole. He has spent his time since then at Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison, named after the country from which many Africans were kidnapped to spend their lives as slaves in the area.

Plaisance said Montgomery remains in Angola more than two months after the Supreme Court decision, because the Louisiana Supreme Court has yet to respond to the high court’s order remanding the case to it for a compliant ruling.

Here in Michigan, most juvenile lifers remain in limbo as well, due to various state statutes and court rulings. Two exceptions are Cortez Davis and Raymond Carp, whose cases under Miller had already been heard and denied by the Michigan Supreme Court, on grounds that Miller was not retroactive.

USSC has remanded Juvenile lifer Cortez Davis’ case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

State records indicate the USSC remanded their cases to the MSC for re-consideration under the Montgomery ruling as of April 8.

But for other Michigan juvenile lifers, the situation is complex. The merciless attitude of the current administration under Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette was summed up in an amici curaie brief filed on behalf of Michigan “and 15 other states.”

“As guardians of the community’s security, the amici States note that these offenders are as a category some of the most dangerous,” Schuette’s brief says in part. “They committed the gravest crime—murder. And they have been incarcerated for virtually their entire adult lives. Requiring the States to resentence hundreds of offenders, many of whose crimes were committed decades ago, would undermine the community’s safety and would offend principles of finality.”

See Schuette brief at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/USSC-Montgomery-amici-curiae-Michigan-Schuette-et-al.pdf.

While the USSC suggested, but did not require, that all juvenile lifers be made parole eligible, Michigan’s legislature earlier enacted statutes mandating procedures for re-sentencing to long terms of years instead, if Miller was found to be retroactive.

Juvenile lifer Edward Sanders

Juvenile lifer Edward Sanders

Under MCL 769.25a, prosecutors in each county have 180 days from the date of the retroactivity decision to file a motion seeking re-imposition of LWOP in selected cases. If they do not file such a motion, the defendant must be re-sentenced to a minimum term of 25 to 40 years, with a maximum term set at 60 years. Prisoners who have served more than 20 years are given priority for re-sentencing. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Juvenile-lifers-mcl-769-25a.pdf.

“I look to be resentenced to a term of years,” Sanders reacted. “I am not considering the Michigan parole board who told me back in 1982-83 that it would support me in a commutation request that never happened due to the change in its policy to ‘life means life.’ I am willing to have a court reconsider my past 41 years in prison and the facts of the case plus I do have new evidence addressing intent in this case that show there was never a first-degree murder. However, I accept my actions . . . . [but] I am not the child of 1975, I am an adult of 2016.”

Stephen Marschke, parole board director under Engler.

Stephen Marschke, parole board director under Engler.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler

Michigan’s parole board under Governors since John Engler has had a merciless reputation. Engler converted the board from civil service employees to gubernatorial appointees. One of his first parole board directors, Stephen Marschke, a former Berrien County Sheriff with a brutal reputation, coined the phrase, “life means life.”

Prior to that, law and practice regarding parolable life was that a prisoner could apply for parole after 10 years. Afterwards, Michigan’s prison population skyrocketed, now taking up one-third of the state’s budget.

Anthony Shamont Jones remains in prison after 35 years despite the reduction of his sentence to parolable life in 2011.

In the first case in the U.S. after Miller, Anthony Shamont Jones, 17 when he was convicted of first degree murder in 1979, won a parolable life sentence in Kalamazoo County’s Ninth Circuit Court in Dec. 2011. He had run from the scene of a store owner’s killing and was not the shooter.

But almost five years later, he remains incarcerated at the Chippewa Facility in Kincheloe, MI, also at the low security level of II, like Edward Sanders.

His situation highlights the problems parolable lifers also face in merciless Michigan, now known as MICHISSIPPI to many in the wake of the state’s poisoning of the entire city of Flint under Governor Snyder’s Emergency Manager law, and the proposed abolition of the Detroit Public Schools district.

Michigan’s prosecutors including the likes of Wayne County’s Kym Worthy, Oakland County’s Jessica Cooper, and Berrien County’s Michael Sepic have in the past vehemently opposed giving juvenile lifers a “second chance” through any means, during hearings before Michigan’s legislature.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy testifies at state legislature with AP Richard Moran at her side.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy testifies at state legislature with AP Richard Moran at her side.

The Montgomery decision said, “a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those whose crimes reflect ‘irreparable corruption.’”

Assistant Defender Peter Van Hoek of the State Appellate Defender’s Office says it is a toss-up whether prosecutors will seek to re-impose JLWOP on a large or small number of prisoners.

“While no one yet knows in how many of the retroactive cases in Michigan . . . the prosecutor will file for LWOP sentencing, it is likely they will not keep that number down to only rare cases,” Van Hoek said in an email to VOD.

“Even if they file for LWOP sentencing in a particular case, it will still be open for negotiation,” Van Hoek went on. “If an agreement is not met to sentence to the 25-40 to 60 year term, then a full sentencing hearing, under the Miller factors, will have to be held before the decision is made whether to re-impose a LWOP sentence or a term of years.

Peter Van Hoek, Michigan State Appellate Defenders Office

Peter Van Hoek, of SADO

Such hearings will be very involved and detailed, comparable to that portion of a death penalty case where the decision is made to either impose the death penalty or a prison term.  While of course the defense will argue that the particular case does not fall within that rare number where LWOP sentences are appropriate, that decision will be up to either the judge or a new jury, depending on how a different line of cases is resolved in Michigan.”

Charles Lewis of Detroit was a musician and singer with his own band at the age of 17.  On the Facebook page set up by his sister Wendy, he says in part, “I’m a writer, a musician, a comedian, an actor and most importantly, a God fearing Black Man. My struggle is the struggle of thousands of Black men in America.” In an earlier letter, he said regarding Miller, “The U.S. Supreme Court . . . decided that no civilized country in the world sentences juveniles to prison for the rest of their lives. This is the only ‘civilized’ country in the world that sends children to prison forever at such an alarming rate.”

Lewis has always contended his innocence, which also presents a problem regarding whether the state statutes can accomplish justice. He said in a Jpay email as follows:

Charles Lewis at 17; Facebook photo

Charles Lewis at 17; Facebook photo

“As you may or may not know from reading the briefs and motions filed in the United States District Court, I’ve been locked up for the past thirty years without a conviction.  

I was arrested August 1, 1976 in the law office of attorney Gerald Lorence. I told Lorence that I was not involved in the case and was at the local 212 on the night of the murder. He assured me that I would be out in two weeks. That was nearly 40 years ago.

Gerald Lorence was removed from my case and . . . lawyer M. Arthur Arduin was appointed to represent me. Arduin . . . .came to see me one time in the County Jail prior to trial. . . . I was arrested, charged and eventually convicted of first degree murder for the murder of off duty Detroit Police Officer, Gerald Swpitkowski. Officer Swpitkowski’s partner Dennis Van Fleteren testified at two trials that he was actually talking to Swpitkowski when he was shot and killed. He testified that the shot that killed Swpitkowski came from the driver’s side of a white Mark IV that was driven by Leslie Nathanial. Van Fleteren testified that he was the best friend and partner of the deceased and started the night off with him.

Leslie Nathanial was arrested hours after the murder, and released, without explanation hours later.

JLWOP-states1

TRULY MICHISSIPPI

There are a million things that I would like to say regarding the juvenile life without parole situation. First, most people miss the real point. Most juveniles charged with first degree murder are poor and come from poor families. My parents could not afford to hire a lawyer to represent me. And, none of the juvenile lifers that I know had paid attorneys.

Charles Lewis today, after 41 years in prison since the age of 17.

Charles Lewis today, after 41 years in prison since the age of 17.

Here is the difference between a paid lawyer and a lawyer appointed by the State. Jeffrey Mulligan testified as my 15 year old co-defendant; he had a paid lawyer and did not do one day. His lawyer worked out a deal for him to testify against me in exchange for his freedom. Ronald Pettway testified that he was a 16 year old accomplice; his paid lawyer worked out a deal for him to testify against me in exchange for his freedom. Mark Kennedy testified that he was my 16 year old accomplice and his paid lawyer brokered a deal for him to testify against me in exchange for his freedom.

In my case a State lawyer was the difference between freedom and thus far, I’ve served a few months short of 40 years. Hell of a difference!”

(Also see Lewis’ written testimony to the Michigan State Legislature at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-letter-to-Michigan-Legislature-2009.pdf, and some federal documents at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-motion-for-relief-from-judgment.pdf, and http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-transcript-1.pdf and http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Charles-Lewis-transcript-2.pdf.)

Lewis and his attorneys have argued his case in both federal and state courts, on grounds  his innocence as well as seeking his release under Miller and now Montgomery. At one point in the process, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gershwin Drain ordered the charges against him dismissed (see below).

CharlesLewis

Lewis has a state “show cause” hearing scheduled in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard April 21 at 9am to address the matter. She has reportedly ordered that the file be produced for his hearing. Lewis contends strongly that he should be immediately released.

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett OMeara

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett OMeara

Also in play is a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara in January, 2013 that made all Michigan juvenile lifers eligible for parole, in the Hill v. Snyder case involving 13 juvenile lifers, brought by Attorney Deborah LaBelle for the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Although the case named particular plaintiffs, O’Meara intended his ruling to affect all of the state’s juvenile lifers.

“Indeed, if ever there was a legal rule that should – as a matter of law and morality – be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced in Miller,” O’Meara said in an eight page decision after lengthy hearings. “To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”

(See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/OMeara-final-ruling-on-Hill-v-Snyder.pdf.)

Snyder and Schuette have appealed O’Meara’s ruling, and it is still before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court. After the Montgomery decision, the state argued that the Hill case should be dismissed, in favor of enforcing the state statutes.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle

Attorney Deborah LaBelle

2 Miller-box-318x1024In pleadings on the case, LaBelle has argued that the state statutes do not conform with Miller or Montgomery because they do not provide for consideration of the 10 Miller factors. (See box.)

She reiterates that all Michigan juvenile lifers should be eligible for meaningful parole hearings taking  Miller into account.

“The parties have litigated this case for six years,” LaBelle wrote in a letter to the Sixth Circuit Court. “Defendants first argued that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for children was constitutional, and upon issuance of Miller they opposed relief based on a retroactivity argument that was subsequently rejected in Montgomery. They now make a bare assertion that untried legislation cures the constitutional violations found by the District Court. Recently, we have lost another youth who committed suicide on October 28, 2015, after serving 23 years on a sentence that offered no hope of release. This Court should affirm the District Court’s decision, which was not an abuse of discretion, and remand for the lower court to implement appropriate remedial orders without further delay.”

Other issues involve a Michigan court ruling that a jury, not a judge, must decide on sentencing matters under the state statute. (For fuller explanation, see article published by SADO at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/The-Status-of-Juvenile-Life-Without-Parole-Sentences-following-Montgomery-v-Louisiana.pdf.)

Related VOD articles:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/03/06/mich-supreme-court-hears-3-key-cases-today-re-ussc-ruling-barring-mandatory-juvenile-life-without-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/02/12/u-s-judge-rules-all-michigan-juvenile-lifers-eligible-for-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/02/12/juvenile-lifer-reflects-on-hill-ruling-by-judge-omeara/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/01/10/michigan-juvenile-lifers-justice-delayed-is-justice-denied-re-sentencing-in-key-detroit-case-cortez-davis-jan-25/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/10/28/michigans-juvenile-lifers-want-state-to-comply-with-u-s-supreme-court-ruling/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/10/28/michigans-juvenile-lifers/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/08/16/michigan-challenges-u-s-supreme-court-ruling-on-juvenile-life-without-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/us-supreme-courts-juvenile-lifer-decision-brings-hope-to-thousands/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/nations-high-court-ends-mandatory-life-without-parole-sentences-for-youth/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/03/18/us-supreme-court-to-hear-key-juvenile-lifer-homicide-cases-march-20-2012/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/03/04/juvenile-lifer-anthony-jones-wins-new-sentence-battle-for-justice-for-all-juvenile-and-parolable-lifers-still-needed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/11/12/us-supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-juvenile-lifer-cases-could-have-major-impact-in-michigan/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/11/11/why-michigan-has-more-juvenile-life-sentences-than-almost-any-other-state/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/09/06/battle-for-juvenile-lifers-picks-up-steam-in-michigan-california/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/03/06/voice-of-juvenile-defendants/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/11/24/aclu-lawsuit-challenges-life-without-parole-for-michigan-juveniles/

#StopJWLOP, #SaveOurChildren, #PrisonNation, #MassIncarceration, #SchooltoPrisonPipeline, #Breakdownthewalls, #Beatbackthebullies, #Blacklivesmatter, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #Blackkidslivesmatter#StandUpNow, #StopWaronBlackAmerica, #StopWaronourYouth, #Michissippigoddam


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MARCH ON TIGERS OPENING DAY TO RECALL SNYDER, SAVE DPS, FLINT, END EM’S: FRI. APRIL 8, 11 AM

Detroit Public Schools board also bringing lawsuit on behalf of  DPS students; press conf. Thurs. April 7, 11 a.m. Fisher Building

Fight like Tigers to recall Snyderopeningday

Click on http://www.stopsnyder.com to get recall petitions.

DETROIT ATTORNEY FILES CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT FOR DPS STUDENTS ON BEHALF OF SCHOOL BOARD

Press conference Thurs. Apr. 7, 11 am, Fisher Building 3011 W. Grd. Blvd.; Board of Ed members, DPS parents to attend

 Attorney Says State and Emergency Managers’ Failings of Detroit Public Schools is “Flint Crisis on Steroids”!

Lawsuit says Governor, other politicians, emergency managers and crooked vendors responsible for destroying life-long opportunities for thousands of impoverished DPS students.

 MEDIA CONTACT: Sal Giacona (Phone: 313-421-9108)

Student at Mumford High School, then part of the EAA, tells media about terrible conditions there May 28, 2013 as Board President Herman Davis and member Elena Herrada listen.

Student at Mumford High School, then part of the EAA, tells media about terrible conditions there May 28, 2013 as Board President Herman Davis and member Elena Herrada listen.

Detroit, MI., April 5, 2016 — A major announcement will be made at a press conference and media opportunity on Thursday April 7 at 11 a.m. (ET) outside the main entrance of the Fisher Building located at 3011 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48202.

The press conference will feature Detroit attorney Tom Bleakley (pronounced Blake-Lee) who will provide information regarding the class-action lawsuit being filed on behalf of the thousands of impoverished Detroit Public Schools (DPS) children.

The treatment of these students by state officials since taking control of the school district in 1999, and aggravated by three recent consecutive emergency managers, has caused profound life-long damage to the students thanks to uncertified and inexperienced teachers, overcrowded classrooms, rat-infested gymnasiums and hallways, closing of neighborhood schools, wasteful and dumb management practices, massive funding of worthless experiments and other acts have all moved the Detroit Public Schools from the best-performing school district of over 100,000 children in the country to the very worst.

Parents, teachers and students rally to save Oakman Orthopedic School, the only one of its kind in Detroit, built to serve special needs students, on Aug. 27, 2013. The school was later closed by Gov. Rick Snyder's EM Jack Martin.

Parents, teachers and students rally to save Oakman Orthopedic School, the only one of its kind in Detroit, built to serve special needs students, on Aug. 27, 2013. The school was later closed by Gov. Rick Snyder’s EM Jack Martin.

The callous indifference of State officials to the needs of the children, in all aspects of their educational experiences, rises to the level of constitutional violations. The Detroit Public Schools Board is bringing the lawsuit, along with several named parents who will serve as class representatives. Bleakley, Board members, and several plaintiffs will be available for personal interviews after the press conference.

The unwarranted and unjust state takeover of DPS originally occurred in 1999 as a result of skillful fiscal and academic management the Detroit schools enjoyed a multi-million-dollar surplus, and their student test scores were at the state midpoint and rising despite pervasive resident impoverishment and the city’s myriad of social problems.

DPS student Sasha Alford participates in protest against state-appointed CEO Kenneth Burnley June 16, 2005.

DPS student Sasha Alford participates in protest against state-appointed CEO Kenneth Burnley June 16, 2005.

“The filing of this action is being done with the intent of setting the record straight as to who is responsible for the current disastrous condition of the school district, as well as settling a longstanding score with the Michigan politicians for the benefit of the poverty-stricken children of the Detroit Public Schools.,” Bleakley said.

Bleakley is a trial lawyer who has represented thousands of children injured by drug products against the pharmaceutical industry, as well as cases involving constitutional issues. He is handling the case pro bono because he feels it is important for the children of the school district, unlike the governor and his underlings, to have a voice in these issues unsullied by big money interests.

Recent related VOD stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/04/01/chicago-teachers-walk-out-demand-funding-for-education-not-banks/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/29/detroit-kids-in-danger-bills-end-dps-pay-off-banks-with-state-control-tax-levies-closings-charters/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/07/rhodes-rule-over-detroit-schools-ominous-as-bankruptcy-judge-he-dismantled-city-of-detroit/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/23/detroit-retirees-demand-city-council-oppose-em-law-dps-re-structuring-support-rebuilding-flint/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/21/thousands-of-boston-public-school-students-walk-out/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/03/detroit-will-be-paying-for-school-bonds-until-year-2040-dismantling-of-dps-all-about-corporate-greed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/02/26/cancel-dps-debt-to-the-banks-quality-education-for-detroit-children-tune-in-whpr-sat-2271030-am/

#SaveDPS, #SaveOurChildren, #BeatBacktheBullies, #RecallSnyder, #StopSnyder, #RepealPA436, #DetroitKidsMatter, #FlintKidsMatter


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ACTIVISTS SAY WAYNE CO. TAX FORECLOSURES ILLEGAL, VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS, DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Protesting tax foreclosures at Wayne Co. Commission meeting March 17 were (l to r) Beverly Kindle-Walker, Kamala El, Queen Mother Nefertiti-El, Cornell Squires and

Protesting tax foreclosures at Wayne Co. Commission meeting March 17 were (l to r) Beverly Kindle-Walker, Kamala El, Queen Mother Dr. Nefertiti-El, and Cornell Squires.

 March 31st was deadline day for 30,000 County families currently occupying their homes to pay property taxes or face foreclosure and auction

Speakers tell Wayne County Commission March 17 that tax foreclosures illegal due to no value re-assessments; violate Indigenous Peoples rights

Protest held outside Wayne County Treasurer’s office March 23

Federal claims filed against County citing $100 billion in domestic terrorism insurance, by Squires, Schied, acting under law as private atty. generals

Alonzo Long, Jr. acquitted Feb. 1 on murder charges for defending his family against armed foreclosure bidders

By Diane Bukowski, Cornell Squires, and David Schied

April 4, 2016

Photo by Cornell Squires

Photo by Cornell Squires

DETROIT–Wayne County residents hit their government from all sides over the last two weeks to stop the pending tax foreclosures and auctions of 30,000 homes this year. Detroit and Wayne County homes have been virtually bombed out by such foreclosures for over 15 years, leaving neighborhoods looking like war zones, they say.

“Our property is being taken away, our school system is being taken away,” Kamala El told Commission members. “When are respect and human compassion going to manifest themselves in this city and county? Stop the corruption and thievery and give us our due!”

African Moors

African Moors

She cited common law rights under the Wayne County Charter, and the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, finally signed by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010. That declaration says in Article 26, “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.” (See UN Declaration at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/UN-Dec-Rights-of-Indigenous-Peoples-1.)

Many Black Detroiters have Native American ancestry. Many also claim indigenous sovereignty as descendants of the Moors, Black Africans who migrated to Europe and later the Americas independent of the slave trade.

El noted that no one currently occupies the office of Wayne County Treasurer, and called at least for a moratorium on all foreclosures until residents have elected a Treasurer.

James Cole flierAlso raising the issue of indigenous people’s rights has been activist and “attorney in fact” James Cole, Jr. who helps people fight foreclosures from his home. Cole and others have found numerous irregularities in the practices of the Wayne County Treasurer’s office regarding foreclosures, including the use of unauthorized personnel to sign and notarize “Sheriff’s Deeds” issued after foreclosure takes place.

The extent to which anger is rising in Detroit and elsewhere about the devastation of the area was shown Feb. 1, when a Wayne County Circuit Court jury found Alonzo Long, Jr. NOT GUILTY of second-degree murder and other counts.

Long had defended his family against a father and daughter who bought his uncle’s home at auction in 2013, then tried to force family members out at gunpoint as they were in the process of moving the uncle anyway. The erstwhile landlords had not gone to 36th District Court to carry out the eviction.

Alonzo Long, Jr. with friend.

Alonzo Long, Jr. with friend.

Attorney Lillian Diallo, who represented Long in an uphill battle, said that under the law, people have the right to self-defense and defense of others.

Cornell Squires, of We the People 4 the People, whose own home is on the foreclosure list, called the pending foreclosures nothing but domestic terrorism and violations of the RICO Act.

He presented the Commission with a “cease and desist” demand letter sent to then Wayne County Treasurer Richard Hathaway, Deputy Treasurer Eric Sabree and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans Feb. 23.

“We know that the County’s Treasury will soon hold public auctions of [properties], . . . many of which are being auctioned with the wrong tax bills, because the tax bills are not based on upon the true cash value. . .This poses a legal issue and the county treasury could be liable,” the letter reads in part.

Cornell Squires speaks at Wayne County Commission March 17, 2016.

Cornell Squires speaks at Wayne County Commission March 17, 2016.

“If you continue the auction of properties without notifying residents of this error on their tax bills . . . .residents will suffer irreparable harm.” (Read full letter at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Cornelltaxletter.)

Michigan law requires municipalities to conduct annual assessments of real estate values,  or at the very least, reassessments every five years. Detroit had not done so for 20 years, until current Mayor Mike Duggan conducted a partial re-assessment over the past year. But, Squires said, that is not sufficient to make up for the years residents have been overbilled.

“The County and the City owe US money, not the other way around,” he said.

(See MCL 211.1o, “Annual Assessment of Property,” at mcl-211-10 Annual assessment of property  and State Provisions for Property Reassessment. )

Instead, what the County has done is increase interest rates on delinquent taxes to 18 percent, while the City of Detroit is allowing wealthier neighborhoods like Palmer Woods and Sherwood to vote themselves additional tax assessments to qualify for better city services than other areas.

Protesters outside Treasurer

Protesters outside Treasurer’s office March 23, 2016.

On March 23, protesters from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition called for an immediate end to tax foreclosures outside the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office at 400 Monroe in downtown Detroit. Among the demands listed on their flier:

  • “We demand proper reassessment, and debt incurred by failure to properly assess be wiped clean! Stop Foreclosures and auctioning of homes based on “fraudulent” assessments!
  • Water bills are added to the property tax. Remove all water bill debt from property tax bills!
  • In a city where 43% live in poverty, the tax department does not notify people that they may be eligible for “poverty” or principal residence exemptions. Eligibility for “poverty” exemptions should be retroactive, and everyone needs to be informed of these exemptions!
Dan Gilbert: The Next Detroit.

THE NEXT DETROIT: Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, being sued by USDOJ for illegal mortgage practices.

“The State of Michigan has just received a new grant of $74 million in Federal Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner assistance,” the flier continues.

“These funds must be used to pay delinquent property tax bills for occupied homes, not be diverted for ‘blight removal’ as was done last year. Place an immediate moratorium on tax foreclosures . . .to allow families the opportunity to access these new Step Forward Funds. Make the Banks and Gilbert pay for the blight they caused through their predatory lending policies.”

On April 2, David Schied and Cornell Squires, acting under law as “private attorney generals,” filed updates to their federal claims against Wayne County’s $100 BILLION Domestic Terrorism insurance policy, asking to compensate taxpayers who have had their homes foreclosed on. Wayne County carries that policy through the infamous AIG (American International Group), whose collapse in 2008, losing $99.2 billion in assets, helped trigger that year’s global economic crisis. AIG was bailed out with an $85 billion loan from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Foreclosed and abandoned houses on Detroit's east side.

Domestic terrorism in Detroit: foreclosed and abandoned houses on the city’s east side.

Schied wrote VOD, “Yesterday, I filed two sets of major documents in the federal court . . . official “Article III Court of Record.”  First, was my “Response to….” the fraudulent filing of AIG insurance attorneys trying to get the $100 BILLION ‘domestic terrorism’ insurance policy and company out of this ongoing case.  http://cases.michigan.constitutionalgov.us/david-schied/2015_SchiedvJudgeKarenKhaliletalinUSDCEDM/033116_MyResp2PlunkettCooney&AIG-Mot4SummJudg/

“Second, was my filing – as a Private Attorney General (with the support of an over 50-page “Memorandum of Law in Support”. . . .) to add 14 more people with claims against Wayne County and the $100 Billion insurance contract with AIG, with sworn and notarized Affidavits from each of the 14 attesting as FACT that they were both witnesses and victims to the domestic terrorism being carried out by the agents of the Charter County of Wayne. http://cases.michigan.constitutionalgov.us/david-schied/2015_SchiedvJudgeKarenKhaliletalinUSDCEDM/033116_PAGsSchied&Squires_Joinderof-14-ClaimantsCrimeVictims/

The entire message is at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/100-BILLION-IN-DOMESTIC-TERRORISM-CLAIMS-AGAINST-WAYNE-COUNTY.pdf.

Schied and Squires, along with members of their groups We the People for the People, and RICOBusters, are recruiting those who have lost their homes to foreclosure to join the lawsuit. A special meeting will be held as follows:

JOIN $100 BILLION FEDERAL CLAIM VS. WAYNE COUNTY  DOMESTIC TERRORISM

 Compensation for Foreclosed Homeowners!

Saturday, April 9, 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Barton School

8530 Joy Road at Ohio, Detroit, Michigan.

For further information, call Cornell Squires at 313-460-3175

#BeatBacktheBullies, #HousingisaHumanRight, #BlackHomesMatter, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #SaveDetroit, #SaveOurChildren, #StandUpNow, #StopForeclosuresandEvictions, #JailDanGilbert, #JailRickSnyder, #JailCorruptWayneCoOfficals

RELATED STORIES:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/06/09/tax-protesters-block-street-at-treasurers-office-as-evans-commission-debate-bank-debt-payoff/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/03/29/unprecedented-katrina-of-tax-foreclosures-to-hit-detroit-wayne-county-march-31/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/29/detroit-kids-in-danger-bills-end-dps-pay-off-banks-with-state-control-tax-levies-closings-charters/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/10/26/we-charge-genocide-detroit-water-shut-offs-foreclosures-focus-of-un-visit/

Alonzo Long, Jr. stories 

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2016/02/02/man-acquitted-eviction-shootings/79718930/ 

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/12/19/two-dead-one-wounded-one-youth-facing-life-in-prison-for-defense-against-armed-eviction-attempt/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/01/05/statement-long-jr-acted-in-self-defense-in-piedmont-killingstook-wounded-girl-to-hospital/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/01/01/stop-tax-evictions-drop-charges-vs-alonzo-long-jr-come-to-hearing-fri-jan-2-1-pm/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/01/13/alonzo-long-jr-22-bound-over-on-all-charges-in-detroit-foreclosed-home-shoot-out/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/08/13/pack-the-court-fri-aug-14-to-support-alonzo-long-jr-stop-illegal-tax-foreclosures-and-evictions/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/09/04/alonzo-long-jr-faces-re-trial-in-2014-tax-eviction-deaths-as-30000-more-homes-face-foreclosure/


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CHICAGO TEACHERS WALK OUT; DEMAND FUNDING FOR EDUCATION, NOT BANKS

Chicago teachers rally, march through Loop after walkout

VODVOD editor: What is WRONG with our unions, politicians, preachers and others in Detroit and Michigan? Here, teachers unions support the final dismantling of the Detroit Public Schools, while Chicago Teachers demand the banks repay billions in interest swap deals and funds for Chicago Public Schools instead! (See link to VOD related story #1 on Chicago pensions below this story.)

ABC 7 Team Coverage

CHICAGO (WLS) — The Chicago Teachers Union took their battle against Chicago Public Schools to the streets Friday with a one-day strike at schools across the city before rallying downtown during the evening rush hour. Following the rally, thousands of teachers and their supporters left the Thompson Center to march through downtown. The group marched north on Clark, east on Wacker, south on Michigan Avenue and east on Monroe towards Grant Park. Teachers and their supporters descended on the Thompson Center to rally after a day of picketing that began early Friday morning. CTU members were joined by a number of labor organizations, students and activists who share the goal of mobilizing people to force Illinois lawmakers to fund public education.

TEACHERS PICKET OUTSIDE SCHOOLS ACROSS CITY

Chicago teachers on the move April 1, 2016.

Chicago teachers on the move April 1, 2016.

Returning to the high school where she taught for several years, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis began her day visiting a vocal picket line Friday morning at King High School. Lewis hopes shutting down the nation’s third largest school district will wake up Springfield to provide more revenue.

With several unions supporting the one-day strike, the action is also an attack on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-union positions.

“We have had a dormant labor union for many, many years and it will not get better if the labor movement doesn’t move,” Lewis said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was also a target in several school pickets, with many blaming him for the lack of funding and failed CTU contract negotiations – even though teachers rejected what Lewis called a “serious offer” back in January.

Teachers target Rahm Emanuel during protest where they occupied the Bank of America and withdrew CTU funds from the bank.

Teachers target Rahm Emanuel during earlier protest where they occupied the Bank of America and withdrew CTU funds from the bank.

“I hope they can come to the table and we can work something out and everybody work together instead of fighting against each other,” CPS teacher Marlene McGowan said. Emanuel visited students at one of CPS’ 200 contingency sites, where he criticized the strike but defended last Friday’s furlough.

“I don’t think the kids should pay a price for a political message. And there’s a difference between the economic hardships the city’s school district faces versus taking a political action and our kids paying a consequence,” Emanuel said. In response to what he called an “illegal” strike, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said Friday afternoon he has taken legal action against the teachers union by filing a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“We think it’s important that it be clearly established that whether children are in school and being educated is not subject to the whims of the Chicago Teachers Union leadership,” Claypool said.

Claypool said he is seeking a preemptive injunction against the teachers union for any similar strikes going forward, and is also asking that the union reimburse CPS and their partners for expenses incurred during the one-day strike. Calling the complaint “bogus”, a CTU spokesperson said in a written statement: “This was a one day job action. Their charges were filed after the fact and they seek to enjoin us from doing something [we] have no intention of doing again. We call on CPS to join us in fighting for more revenue for schools.”


CPS STUDENTS MARCH IN SUPPORT OF TEACHERS

Wendell Phillips High Senior Cameron Miller led dozens of CPS students who support Chicago teachers and are fed up with Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Rauner, and CPS leaders.

“It seems like the adults are actually acting like children and we’re the only ones mature enough to try and find a solution to our issues,” Miller said.

Teachers protest state attack on public schools.

Teachers protest state attack on public schools.

With no state budget and no teachers’ contract, these CPS students said leaders are failing to lead on all levels.

“They belittle us. They slash our budget, they close our schools, they tell us we’re not good enough by their actions – and that’s why we’re here,” said Nidalis Burgos, a senior at Lincoln Park High School.

They marched downtown from the Thompson Center, to CPS Headquarters, to City Hall, where they delivered a symbolical pink slip to the mayor.

“The Board of Ed, the CEO of CPS, they only answer to Rahm Emanuel because they’re appointed by him, so they don’t care about us. They don’t value our voice. That’s how we feel, how teachers feel,” said Charles Kotrba, a senior at Whitney Young High School. 


CALL FOR EDUCATION FUNDING HEARD ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

Supporters of the teachers’ one-day strike also gathered on two Chicago college campuses Friday to call attention to the education funding problems.

After marching at Roosevelt High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, teachers held a rally at Northeastern Illinois University where they held a symbolic outdoor funeral to “mourn the death of public education.”

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner--taking a cue from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder?

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner–taking a cue from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder?

The teachers then joined hundreds of others for a rally at Chicago State University, which may have to close its doors because of major budget cuts. CSU counts on money from the state, but the state is still without a budget, so their future is unknown.

“We have been dealing with this since last July, it’s getting out of control and it’s very stressful on the students,” said Jack Ferguson, a CSU senior. The groups are determined to fight for change: more funding with less cuts to schools and teachers. Service and fast food workers also joined in, saying they want the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. At virtually every rally, teachers and their supporters named Gov. Rauner as the principal villain withholding state education funding from public schools and colleges.

“This governor has abdicated his responsibility to the people of Illinois,” said Randi Weingarten, of the American Federation of Teachers. “We have a governor who is trying to take down the state of Illinois and all of its people with him,” said Roberta Lynch of AFSCME.

The Republican governor, who took office 14 months ago, appeared unimpressed. In a statement, he described the strike as “shameful” and “breaking the law,” adding “it’s the height of arrogance from those we’ve entrusted with our children’s futures.”

“Governor’s been there for a year now? And the governor is somehow responsible because CPS is on the verge of bankruptcy? I don’t think that makes sense,” said Michael Lucci of the Illinois Policy Institute. The Illinois General Assembly resumes its regular session next week. There’s no word whether the House or Senate will consider any bills related to CPS.


STRIKE IMPACT ON CPS FAMILIES

More than 340,000 children were out of the classroom Friday as a result of the walkout. The district opened more than 200 contingency sites for students during the one-day strike, including 107 schools, city libraries and park facilities, which offered free activities and lunch to CPS students. Many families in Chicago rely on CPS not only to teach their children, but also to keep them safe during the day.

At By the Hand Club for Kids in the city’s Austin neighborhood, an after school program became an alternative for CPS families during the strike.

By the Hand Club for Kids was alternate site during one day teachers' walk-out.

By the Hand Club for Kids was alternate site during one day teachers’ walk-out.

“It’s critical that they have somewhere safe to go, and also a lot of parents have to go to work. So they need somewhere where they know their kids are safe,” said Bethany Arvan, By The Hand Club for Kids. Many students at Kennicott Park, one of the CPS contingency sites in North Kenwood, said they support their teachers. Some even planned to rally with the teachers on Friday afternoon.

“I think we should all fight for what we believe in. If something isn’t fair, we should all fight for something that is fair,” said Gayun Cannon, an 8th grader. “It’s kind of a lesson for me because the teachers are standing up for themselves and fighting for what they believe in,” said Emily Biggs, an 8th grader. “We have school for a whole year, I think one day won’t hurt that much, right?” said Sydney Thach, a 7th grader. Despite the one-day strike, teachers and students were in class Friday at more than 100 CPS-funded charter schools across the city. Charter school teachers are not a part of the Chicago Teachers Union and therefore, they did not take part in the strike. About 60,000 Chicago students are enrolled at charter schools.

Related from VOD:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/30/illinois-sc-rules-chicago-pension-attack-unconstitutional-as-it-did-on-state-pensions/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/29/detroit-kids-in-danger-bills-end-dps-pay-off-banks-with-state-control-tax-levies-closings-charters/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/23/detroit-retirees-demand-city-council-oppose-em-law-dps-re-structuring-support-rebuilding-flint/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/21/thousands-of-boston-public-school-students-walk-out/

#education #cps #chicago teachers union #strike #union contract #school funding #general assembly #Chicago – Downtown


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ILLINOIS SC RULES CHICAGO PENSION ATTACK ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL,’ AS IT DID ON STATE PENSIONS

Chicago Teachers Union President rallies municipal workers to stop pension cutbacks.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis rallies municipal workers to stop pension cutbacks. The CTU led a militant strike earlier with a chief demand to stop school closings.

Illinois high court cites constitutional language virtually identical to that in the Michigan Constitution, which Detroit bankruptcy judge ignored

Wall Street calls the shots again, citing pension debt but ignoring bond debt to its own banks

Court Ruling Leaves Chicago Empty-Handed on Pensions

By Yvette Shields

March 24, 2016

Bloomberg News

CHICAGO – The Illinois Supreme Court sent Chicago back to the drawing board to fix two pension funds that account for half of a $20 billion unfunded pension burden that has dragged down the city’s credit.

In an 18-page opinion released Thursday, the state’s high court upheld Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak’s July ruling that declared the 2014 overhaul of the city’s municipal employees’ and laborers’ funds unconstitutional because of benefit cuts imposed on retirees and employees.

“As we have explained, under the [constitution’s pension] clause, a public employee’s membership in a pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship, and the employee has a constitutionally protected right to the benefits of that contractual relationship,” the court wrote. “Thus, under its plain and unambiguous language, the clause prohibits the General Assembly from unilaterally reducing or eliminating the pension benefits conferred by membership in the pension system.”

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote the unanimous decision,

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote the unanimous decision; 2 justices recused themselves.

The high court rejected a state employees’ pension overhaul in 2015, also citing the pension clause.

The plan was to have put the two funds on course to achieving a 90% funded ratio in 40 years through benefit cuts and higher contributions from the city and employees. The city’s contributions were to rise from $177 million in 2014 to a projected $650 million in 2021.

The legislation phased in a shift to an actuarially required contribution from the current statutory requirement in which employees pay 8.5% of their salary and the city’s payment is based on a percentage of the total employee payments.

Those contribution levels have long fallen short of what’s needed to keep the funds solvent.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly Obama's Secretary of Education. He is a strong advocate of charter schools.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly Obama’s Secretary of Education. He is a strong advocate of charter schools.

The ruling gives the city a near-term boost by freeing it of the requirement to make a nearly $100 million higher payment to the funds this year. The long-term repercussions are more profound because both funds are on track to exhaust their assets in the next 10 to 13 years.

“In the short run it buys them some relief and time but the city has had time to prepare for the decision and the market is going to expect a quick reaction from the city on what its contingency plan is,” said Richard Ciccarone, president of Merritt Research Services LLC.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered little detail on potential solutions.

CTU rally: will they starve the schools to profit the rich?

CTU rally: will they starve the schools to profit the rich?

“My administration will continue to work with our labor partners on a shared path forward that preserves and protects the municipal and laborers’ pension funds, while continuing to be fair to Chicago taxpayers and ensuring the city’s long-term financial health,” his statement said.

Any prolonged setback in tackling the city’s pension ills could drive further downgrades and impact the trading value of its debt and future borrowing rates. Chicago’s ratings plummeted over the last several years, primarily due to the pension strain.

Wall Street bull shows its a-- to pensioners.

Wall Street bull shows its a– to pensioners.

It carries a junk-level rating of Ba1 from Moody’s Investors Service, with a negative outlook; BBB-plus ratings from both Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s with both assigning negative outlooks; and is rated A-minus with a negative outlook by Kroll Bond Rating Agency.

Moody’s recently warned that a “failure of the city to develop and implement an alternate plan to fund non-public safety pensions should the Illinois Supreme Court rule the city’s 2014 reform statute unconstitutional” could drive a downgrade.

“Moody’s will continue assessing Chicago’s actions to address unfunded pension liabilities,” Moody’s analyst Matthew Butler said in a statement after the ruling, “including any initiatives specifically aimed at the plans affected by today’s court decision.”

Fitch has since cut the city’s ratings to the lowest level. See http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-fitch-rating-chicago-20160328-story.html.

THE OPINION

The court rejected both arguments laid out the city.

The city portrayed its reforms as preserving the pension funds rather than damaging them and argued that union acquiescence through negotiation at the time rendered the changes legal. The two were labeled the “net benefit” and the “bargained for exchange” claims.

Workers rally to protect pensions.

Workers rally to protect pensions.

“Ultimately, the city’s ‘offsetting benefit’ theory rests on the proposition that what it deems as ‘modest diminishments’ are necessary to prevent insolvency in the future. Although we recognize that fiscal soundness is important, the General Assembly may not utilize an unconstitutional method to achieve that end,” justices wrote.

The court rejected the city’s contention that the legislative changes awarded stronger protections to annuitants’ benefits because of guaranteed funding provisions that made clear the city was on the hook for their retirement benefits.

“As we have explained, the Illinois Constitution mandates that members of the funds have ‘a legally enforceable right to receive the benefits they have been promised’ — not merely to receive whatever happens to remain in the funds,” the court said. “Since participants already enjoy that legal protection, we reject the notion that the promise of solvency can be ‘netted’ against the unconstitutional diminishment of benefits.”

The language appears to cast doubt that the city could successfully argue that it’s not on the hook should the funds exhaust their assets.

In Detroit's bankruptcy, AFSCME Council 25 DID bargain away not only pensioners' rights, but nearly all the assets of the City of Detroit. Here AFSCME Co. 25 President Al Garrett confronts protesters after he said AFSCME was withdrawing its 6th Circuit Court appeal of the Detroit bankruptcy eligibility decision. That decision represented the first time a bankruptcy judge overruled the State Constitution's protection of pension rights.

In Detroit’s bankruptcy, AFSCME Council 25 DID bargain away not only pensioners’ rights, but nearly all the assets of the City of Detroit. Here AFSCME Co. 25 President Al Garrett confronts protesters after he said AFSCME was withdrawing its 6th Circuit Court appeal of the Detroit bankruptcy eligibility decision. That decision represented the first time a bankruptcy judge overruled the State Constitution’s protection of pension rights.

The court said it considered the city’s characterization of the reforms as a “bargained for exchange” of benefits allowed under laws governing contracts, but concluded the agreement with a majority of unions failed to meet the needed threshold.

The members bringing the lawsuit had countered that all funds members and retirees were not necessarily represented by those at the negotiating table.

“Even taking as true the facts advanced to support the city’s claim, we hold that as a matter of law, members of the funds did not bargain away their constitutional rights in this process,” the court wrote. “In this case, it is undisputed that the unions were not acting as authorized agents within a collective bargaining process….the individual members of the funds have done nothing that could be said to have unequivocally assented to the new terms or to have ‘bargained away’ their constitutional rights.”

Lawmakers are looking to the court’s opinions for a roadmap on what reforms that could pass muster and the opinion appeared to leave the door open for changes that stem from a formal collective bargaining process.

The group "Reboot Illinois" has proposed numerous state constitutional amendments, including one to repeal the pension protection clause.

The group “Reboot Illinois” has proposed numerous state constitutional amendments, including one to repeal the pension protection clause.

“The fundamental point here is that determination must be made, if at all, according to contract principles by mutual assent of the members, and not by legislative dictates,” the opinion said.

At the state level, lawmakers later this year or next are expected to consider a pension reform plan that would ask members to accept annual cost-of-living-adjustment cuts in exchange for pay raises being counted toward pensionable salary.

The Civic Federation of Chicago warns that the ruling “limits the options available to financially strained local governments throughout the state and points to the need for a constitutional amendment to clarify the State’s pension protection clause.”

“This should be yet another wakeup call to every member of the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor that they need to come together and work without delay to pass a balanced budget that will stabilize the state of Illinois financially and begin to address the pension and debt crises of the City of Chicago and so many local governments in our State,” the federation added.

GOING FORWARD

“It’s long past time for elected officials to stop trying to end-run the constitution and shirk their duty. Pension funding challenges require funding solutions that must be constitutional and fair to all,” the four unions that mounted the successful challenge said in a joint statement.

Chicago faces a significantly bigger jump in contributions to rescue the funds from insolvency without union concessions, but will be hard-pressed to come up with a palatable revenue source. The city already enacted a $543 million annual property tax hike last year to cover rising contributions owed to the police and fire funds, which account for the other half of the city’s unfunded liabilities.

“The fact is taxes cannot be the only part of the solution,” Ciccarone said, saying some cuts are also needed and other forms of union concessions. “We are in store for higher taxes but I think the next area the city has to bargain on is issues of pay.”

Occupy Oakland marches in California against the banks.

Occupy Oakland marches in California against the banks.

The need for a new fix comes as uncertainty remains over whether the state will give final approval to Emanuel’s proposal to re-amortize the payment schedule on the city’s police and firefighters funds.

The big property tax hike is being phased in and this year falls $220 million short of what’s needed to cover rising payments on an actuarial basis because the city assumed the state would sign off on reamortization. That change has been caught in state political gridlock.

The city’s challenges are exacerbated by the overlapping burden on the tax base of the park district, Cook County, and the Chicago Public Schools’ – all with their own pension and/or budget headaches.

“In addition to growing leverage, we also continue to assess the role that fiscal stress of Chicago Public Schools plays in the city of Chicago’s credit challenges,” Moody’s said Thursday.

The judgment was unanimous among participating Justices Robert Thomas, Mary Jane Theis, Thomas Kilbride, Lloyd Karmeier, and Chief Justice Rita Garmen.

Justices Charles Freeman and Anne Burke recused themselves.

It marked the court’s third ruling that has affirmed the strength of the pension clause’ protections, first in a ruling that the clause applies to state employee retiree healthcare benefits and then in the 2015 decision voiding state pension reforms.

The city overhaul legislation — Public Act 98-0641 — was to take effect Jan. 1. The case is Jones, et al. v. Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, et al. The city’s four funds are collectively 34% funded.

VODVOD editor:

What is never mentioned by advocates of pension cuts is that the real robbers of government funds are the banks themselves.  In Illinois, according to a report from Ballotpedia, Illinois state debt in 2012 was $321.4 BILLION. Chicago’s current debt load is $63.2 billion, of which $31.2 billion comes from pensions, while long-term bonded debt is $26.1 billion. Much of state and city debt is due from Wall Street-sponsored interest swap agreements that went south after the 2008 global economic crash. See chart below which shows the rate of Illinois state payments on swaps compared to the declining load on banks.Illinois swaps

The International Business Times reported, “With the state’s financial woes deepening, banks — including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup — stand to take in as much as $1.45 billion on interest rate swap payments by 2033. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the ReFund America Project, which tabulated the costs stemming from the swaps weighing on the state’s books.”

The Chicago Monitor said, “According to a report from ReFund America Project, Chicago has paid or authorized $296 million in termination penalties, on top of a half-billion dollars in swap payments through 2015. Curtis Black in The Chicago Reporter stated ‘In 2012 Baltimore filed a class action lawsuit against JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, and others charging that their artificial manipulation of LIBOR – a benchmark interest rate that was used in many of Chicago’s swaps – robbed their clients of millions of dollars in returns on investments such as interest rate swaps. In 2013, Philadelphia filed a similar suit. The banks being sued by Baltimore and Philadelphia include those that sold big swaps to Chicago and Illinois.’”

The Chicago Teachers Union and supporters occupy Bank of America Feb. 6, 2016, sustaining arrests. The union also withdrew

The Chicago Teachers Union and supporters occupy Bank of America Feb. 6, 2016, sustaining arrests. The union also withdrew $726 million of its funds from BOA as part of the challenge.

The Chicago Teachers Union, unlike unions in Detroit and Michigan including the UAW, AFSCME, and the American Federation of Teachers, which have capitulated regularly to demands for concessions, has taken on the banks in its battle to preserve its members’ rights, and to preserve schools and services for residents of Chicago.

The Monitor said, “More than three thousand teachers, staff, parents, students, and their supporters marched in Chicago yesterday for a fair contract for the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The protest was in response to the threat of $100 million in cuts by CPS the day before. The protest centered on the Bank of America office on LaSalle Street to highlight the CTU demand for CPS to renegotiate toxic interest swap agreements with the bank. The day before members of the CTU visited the bank and withdrew $726 million of union funds deposited there. While protestors circled the building, sixteen union members sat down in the bank lobby and chanted. All were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing and detained for six hours at CPD District One headquarters.”

Illinois Supreme Court ruling protecting Chicago city pensions:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Illinois-SC-ruling-on-Chicago-municipal-pension.pdf

Related Links from Bloomberg:

Credit Draw Highlights Chicago Pension Problems

Moody’s Keeps Chicago in Place

Chicago Pension Arguments Aired Before Court

Chicago’s Pension Liabilities Seen Swelling Despite Efforts

Related Links from other sources:

https://ballotpedia.org/Illinois_state_budget_and_finances

http://www.ibtimes.com/illinois-budget-crisis-big-banks-arent-sharing-state-debt-woes-2271159

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20151014/NEWS02/151019939/taxpayer-tab-to-exit-swap-agreements-nearly-300-million  

http://chicagomonitor.com/2016/02/chicago-teachers-union-supporters-march-and-occupy-bank-of-america-for-fair-contract/

Related Stories from VOD:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/05/31/illinois-supreme-court-constitution-nixes-pension-cuts-ruling-invigorates-detroit-retiree-appeals/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/01/04/the-black-and-white-of-education-in-chicago/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/09/10/chicago-teachers-on-strike-for-compensation-job-security-resources-for-students/

#Beatbackthebullies, #Handsoffmypension, #ExecuteWallStreet, #Canceldebttothebanks, #StopWaronBlackAmerica, #Saveourchildren, #StandUpNow, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #DAREA, #JailSnyder, #StopSnyder, #RecallSnyder, #RepealPA436, #Detroitbankruptcyunconstitutional, #IllinoisSupremeCourt, #Saveourstateconstitutions, #MaketheBanksPay

 


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DETROIT KIDS IN DANGER: BILLS END DPS, PAY-OFF BANKS WITH STATE CONTROL, TAX LEVIES, CLOSINGS, CHARTERS

DAREA Pres. Bill Davis denounces new DPS EM Judge Steven Rhodes outside his house March 12, 2016. Gov. Snyder, in jail outfit, calls, "Stevie, come on down."

DAREA Pres. Bill Davis denounces new DPS EM Judge Steven Rhodes outside his Ann Arbor area home March 12, 2016. Gov. Snyder puppet, in jail outfit, calls, “Stevie, come on down.”

State Senate bills would eliminate Detroit Public Schools, largest Black district in U.S. July 1; create “Community District” including charters

Current DPS bond debt of $2.9 billion to be paid off by new property tax levies

‘Elected’ board of  ‘Community District’ will answer to State Financial Review Commission, State School Reform/Redesign Office

‘Detroit Education Commission’ only advisory, gets $1M/year for making school siting recommendations; members appointed by Mayor Duggan

By Diane Bukowski

 March 28, 2016

DPS execution date set for July 1, 2016.

DPS execution date set for July 1, 2016.

DETROIT – Bills in the Michigan Legislature which purport to “rescue” the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district from an alleged $3.9 billion in debt that has been foisted on it under state control since 1999 would actually destroy DPS for good. The execution date is set for July 1, 2016.

DPS would be replaced by a “Community District” including charter schools attended by Detroit children. Its nine-member board be would elected this August by district, but have no real independence. It would answer to the State Financial Review Commission (FRC),  which currently governs Detroit under the city’s bankruptcy plan. The FRC would appoint the Community District’s Superintendent and its Chief Financial Officer.

Under terms of the bills, which are SB 0710, SB 0711, and SB 0819, Detroiters’ school property taxes would soar to pay off $2.9 billion in current bond debt to the banks.

Michigan School Reform/Redesign Office website, now in Dept. of Management and Budget.

Michigan School Reform/Redesign Office website, now in Dept. of Management and Budget. Home page photo shows all Black students, who are being targeted, and hypocritically uses a quote from the late South African Pres. Nelson Mandela.

More public schools will close under orders from the State  School Reform/Redesign Office, which has moved from the Department of Education to the Department of Management and Budget, if they are among the lowest five percent in “performance.” At least 20 to 25 schools are already on the chopping block for this year. (See website for new office at http://www.michigan.gov/sro/.)

Charter schools would be given time to correct their performance before  their private authorizers close them, under advisement of a “Detroit Education Commission (DEC).” The DEC, whose board would be appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, would recommend the “siting” of new schools.

Current DPS board member Elena Herrada leads chants through DPS EM Rhodes' neighborhood.

Current DPS board member Elena Herrada leads chants through DPS EM Rhodes’ neighborhood. New state legislation would abolish current board, elected only last November.

“This would complete the disempowerment of the largest majority-Black city and the largest majority-Black school district in the country,” current DPS board member Elena Herrada told VOD.

“All we want is the same thing the white districts have for their governing structure, the power to appoint a  superintendent, and decide on opening and closing of schools as well as curriculum and all policies. We urge our Detroit delegation to stand with us in restoring the governance rights of our city. We urge them to do this even if they don’t believe we can win.”

Richard Clay, a former teacher at Northwestern High School, said, “Under these bills, the future of Detroit’s school children is very bleak. It’s unnecessary as well as unprecedented to totally close a large school district in the name of helping it. The new district would be nothing but a state takeover in sheep’s clothing.”

Richard Clay (r) marches with Jan Frazier at Rhodes protest March 12, 2016.

Richard Clay (r) marches with Jan Frazier at Rhodes protest March 12, 2016.

He said he believes the final goal of the re-structured district is to completely close all public schools in Detroit, replacing them with charters, as happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

In 2010, then U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “This is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘We have to do better.’ ”

Rev. Wendell Anthony, a co-chair of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit’s Schoolchildren (CFDC), responsible for the DEC idea, responded to claims that the legislation seeks to eliminate charter schools.

In fact, it encourages opening of charter schools, 70 percent of which are for-profit in Michigan, in a city which already has the second highest number of charter schools in the nation.

“I’ve been around education reform for a long time, but I have never seen this kind of ideological truth-bending on such an important issue,” Anthony said on the CFDC Facebook page. “We’re talking about the future of 100,000 children. I wish there were referees who could blow whistles on these types of flagrant fouls, and eject dirty players.” 

One hundred thousand children? DPS’ 2015 enrollment was 47,380, down from 173,000 in 1999. The Detroit charter enrollment figure for 2014 was 58,612, or 55 percent of Detroit students, the second highest number in the U.S., trailing only New Orleans, which now has an all-charter school district. http://charterschools.org/press-room/1420-december-2-2014-new-report-shows-growth-in-charter-school-enrollment-in-michigan.

NAACP Pres. Wendell Anthony with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Corporation Counsel Butch Hollowell at Freedom Fund dinner. Hollowell met with Judge Michael Hathaway ex parte to stop 36th District Court verdict on water shut-offs protesters.

NAACP Pres. Wendell Anthony with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Corporation Counsel Butch Hollowell at Freedom Fund dinner. Hollowell met illegally with Judge Michael Hathaway ex parte to stop 36th District Court verdict on water shut-offs protesters. Anthony is also a trustee of the Detroit General Retirement System, which withdrew its appeal of the Detroit bankruptcy eligibility decision from the Sixth Circuit Court.

An article on the CFDC Facebook page says, “The DEC is designed to make it easier for proven charter operators to enter Detroit and for existing high-performing schools to replicate. Also, any denial of opening can be appealed to the State Superintendent, who can overrule the DEC’s decision. . . .

“The facts are that Detroiters have more than 50 different school operators to choose from under 14 different authorizers – we have for-profits, nonprofits, districts … there is no shortage of choice – but there is a clear shortage of quality. The DEC would ensure families have quality choice.” 

Herrada said the Coalition should be called “The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Contractors.”

The bills, which the Michigan Senate is likely to take a final vote on this week, are a devious attempt by state and city officers and religious and community “leaders” to deceive residents of the largest majority-Black city in the U.S. where 59 percent of the children live in poverty into accepting not just second, but third class citizenship.

Following are key terms of the bills, including SB 0710, SB 0711, and SB 0819. Texts of the bills are included in links below articles.

DPS DECEIT #1 (MO’ TAXES, MO’ $$ FOR BANKS) 

Detroit bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes is now DPS EM.

Detroit bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes is now DPS EM.

The Detroit Public School (DPS) district would be tossed in the dustbin of history after it pays off a total of $3.4 billion in outstanding debt. That includes $2.9 billion in BOND debt paid by creating new voter-approved property tax levies.  If voters do not agree to the levies, their constitutionally-required vote could be overturned by a state judgment levy.

That is because DPS currently operates under the control of state-appointed “transitional” (read “emergency”) manager Steven Rhodes, the former bankruptcy judge whose plan obliterated public ownership of the City of Detroit using the State Dictator’s Public Act 436, which has invalidated voting rights and stolen assets in Michigan’s majority-Black cities.

Protest at Wayne County Treasurer's Office March 23, 2016 against tax foreclosures pending for 30,000 Detroit families.

Protest at Wayne County Treasurer’s Office March 23, 2016 against tax foreclosures pending for 30,000 Detroit families. Geo. Errol Jennings holds front sign.

A Senate Fiscal Analysis of SB 710 says, “the bill would allow a district, with the approval of the State Treasurer, to issue ‘school financing stability bonds’ for the purpose of eliminating an operating deficit or refunding or refinancing outstanding State aid anticipation notes issued through the Michigan Finance Authority; to pledge as security for repayment State school aid payment, school operating tax revenue, or other revenue; and to enter into an agreement with the Department of Treasury or the Michigan Finance Authority for direct payment of school aid to the Authority or a designated trustee.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and others have primarily discussed paying off $515 million in DPS’ current OPERATING debt, plus $250 million in start-up costs for a new “community district,” through current state per-pupil revenue over the next 10 years. In 2015, 40 percent of state per-pupil aid for Detroit went to pay off DPS debt to the banks, at one point, in 2007, it was 90 percent.

Rhodes' house, at 1610 Arborview Blvd. is hidden in the backwoods behind working-class homes near Ann Arbor. According to Zillow, it is worth over $600.000. Rhodes doesn't have to worry about foreclosure!

Rhodes’ house, at 1610 Arborview Blvd. is hidden in the backwoods behind working-class homes near Ann Arbor. According to Zillow, it is worth over $600.000. Rhodes doesn’t have to worry about foreclosure!

Under terms of state law, DPS cannot declare bankruptcy. Its debts are a liability of the state, including the $2.9 billion in bond debt, most of it engineered through the Michigan Finance Authority, says a recent state treasury report. The report says that if the state paid off district debts, it would cut funds available for other municipalities and school districts. As in the Detroit bankruptcy, the report puts most of the blame for $1.3 billion of the debt on DPS pensioners, who are paid through a state-run school pension fund.

This deceit is being perpetrated as 30,000 Detroit families face property tax foreclosures March 30, meaning even less revenue for Detroit and less per-pupil aid from the state (which is based on property tax revenue).

DPS DECEIT #2 (STATE REIGNS SUPREME) 

The “community district” which would replace DPS would be governed by a nine-member board elected this August for initial staggered terms of three, five, and seven years, under what is being touted as a return to Detroit electoral control.  Rhodes will decide a month before the election which districts get the longer terms.

State Financial Review Commission for Detroit would also oversee DPS. Members shown here are Detroit “Mayor” Mike Duggan; Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones; State Treasurer Kevin Clinton; State Budget Director John Roberts; Darrell Burks former senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Stacy Fox, former deputy EM under Kevyn Orr, Dupont Senior VP, Roxbury Real Estate; Lorron James ,VP of James Group Int’l, military contractor with Lockheed Martin; Bill Martin, founder of First Martin Corp., a real estate, construction, and development firm; Tony Saunders, former director at Conway McKenzie law firm, prime player in Detroit bankruptcy. DPS commission would replace Detroit officials with Community District officials.

State Financial Review Commission for Detroit would also oversee both DPS and its replacement Community District. Members are Detroit “Mayor” Mike Duggan; Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones (who would be replaced by district Superintendent and board chair); State Treasurer Kevin Clinton; State Budget Director John Roberts; Darrell Burks former senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Stacy Fox, former deputy EM under Kevyn Orr, Dupont Senior VP, Roxbury Real Estate; Lorron James ,VP of James Group Int’l, military contractor with Lockheed Martin; Bill Martin, founder of First Martin Corp., a real estate, construction, and development firm; Tony Saunders, former director at Conway McKenzie law firm, prime player in Detroit bankruptcy.

On financial matters, however, the board would answer to the same state Financial Review Commission (FRC) which governs the City of Detroit under its bankruptcy plan. The community district superintendent and board chair would be added to the FRC membership as regards DPS matters, just as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and City Council President Brenda Jones sit on the FRC for Detroit.

“A community district is subject to financial oversight by a Financial Review Commission to the extent provided under the Michigan Financial Review Commission Act, 2014 PA 181,” Sec. 387 of Senate Bill 710 (substitute), reads. “The appointment of a chief financial officer for the community district is subject to the approval of the Financial Review Commission . . .” SB 711 says the district superintendent would also be appointed by the FRC.

Hanneman Elementary School, one of 210 DPS schools already closed since 1999.

Hanneman Elementary School, one of 210 DPS schools already closed since 1999. The near west side community where it was located is now bereft of all schools neighborhood children can walk to.

The FRC would approve all school budgets, deficit plans, contracts including those with DPS workers, loans from the banks and the state, school openings and closings, and other financial matters. The Senate version of the bills do not include House provisions to replace teachers’ contractual seniority requirements with “merit,” or  hire non-certified teachers, likely a concession to the Michigan and Detroit Federations of Teachers, which have endorsed the Senate package.

However, charter schools are not required to hire certified teachers, and they are not subject to union contracts with the DFT.

The current DPS, called a “qualifying school district” under the legislation, would also be subject to FRC control, and it appears likely that no current school board member could run for the new community district board.

SB 0170 reads, “a member of a school board for a qualifying school district [meaning the current Detroit district] may not also serve as a member of a school board for a community district that has the same geographic boundaries as the qualifying school district.”

Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights participates in protest calling for cancellation of Detroit and DPS debt to the banks, on May 9, 2012.

Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights participates in protest calling for cancellation of Detroit and DPS debt to the banks, on May 9, 2012.

Until its dissolution upon debt pay-off, the current school board’s responsibilities would consist only of “Certifying and levying taxes for satisfaction of the debt in the name of the qualifying school district, conducting school district elections, doing all other things relative to the repayment of the outstanding debt, including levying or renewing a school operating tax or refunding or refinancing debt at a lower rate, and doing all other things relative to the dissolution of the district.”

The community school district would also seize control of Detroit’s public libraries.

Wall Street is calling the shots here.

 Crain’s Detroit Business reported March 10, “Moody’s Investors Service said Thursday it is keeping a negative outlook on the district’s Caa1 general-obligation bond rating, a view it said rests on the ‘challenge to remain financially viable absent state intervention and does not assume passage of any new legislation.’ That rating is seven steps below investment grade.”

But of more concern to the state are threats from Wall Street that would affect Michigan’s credit ratings. During Detroit bankruptcy proceedings, while Detroit’s ratings were in the sub-sub-basement, Michigan’s ratings soared as Wall Street cheered the bankruptcy.

Joe O'Keefe of Fitch Ratings and Stephen Murphy of Standard and Poor's sell a pig in a poke to the Detroit City Council Jan. 31, 2005: $1.5 BILLION in so-called pension obligation certificates. The amount later rose to $2.8 billion due to defaults, late fees and other penalties and was instrumental in the Detroit bankruptcy.

Joe O’Keefe of Fitch Ratings and Stephen Murphy of Standard and Poor’s sell a pig in a poke to the Detroit City Council Jan. 31, 2005: $1.5 BILLION in so-called pension obligation certificates. The amount later rose to $2.8 billion due to defaults, late fees and other penalties and was cited as a factor in the Detroit bankruptcy. Photo by Diane Bukowski.

“Looming financial emergencies in Flint and the Detroit Public Schools have caused Standard & Poor’s to lower its outlook on Michigan’s outstanding debt,” Crain’s reported March 18.

The S&P outlook decreased from positive, meaning future upgrades are likely, to stable, meaning the ratings of AA- for the state’s general obligation debt and its A+ rating for appropriation-backed debt will not change.

S&P credit analyst Carol Spain told Crain’s, “The revised outlook reflects our view that rising costs tied to the Flint water crisis and (DPS’) distressed financial position will limit the state’s ability to build reserves over the next two fiscal years.”

DPS DECEIT #3:

A “Detroit Education Commission” would co-exist with the community district board, primarily in an advisory role. It would make recommendations on the “siting” of new schools in the community district, with a strong emphasis on creating more charter schools, which already educate more students in Detroit than do public schools, siphoning off state per-pupil funding.

The commission would be funded by up to $1 million a year for up to 10 years.

Agnes Hitchcock speaks at last year's "Blackinaw Island" convention outside her north end home in Detroit.

Agnes Hitchcock speaks at last year’s “Blackinaw Island” convention outside her north end home in Detroit. “This is nothing but the Next Detroit” she said of Detroit school bills.

“An education commission is subject to the leadership and general supervision of the state board over all public education,” SB 0170 reads. “An education commission may accept and retain money or other assets from any public or private source for the purposes of performing its functions and satisfying its obligations under this act and creating and providing incentives for public schools to locate in areas identified as priority zones . . .In distributing funds or assets to public school ENTITIES, the Education Commission shall not discriminate between classes of public school entities.”

Those entities include charter schools.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan would appoint the board of the education commission. It is to include two members with experience in running “public school academies,” (a/k/a charter schools), two with experience in running public schools, one parent of a student in a charter school, one parent of a student in a public school, and one member with “experience in public school accountability systems and school improvement.”

“The schools they are setting up are for the Next Detroit’s children,” Call ’em Out leader Agnes Hitchcock said. “The children are gone; the last twenty years of education has been like trash. What can the kids do? What do they know—uneducated as they have been by DPS under state control?”

Wendell Anthony at podium of Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children.

Wendell Anthony at podium of Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children.

 

The “education commission” is the brainchild of the “Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.” Herrada said the Coalition should be called The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Contractors,

The Coalition is co-chaired by the NAACP Detroit President Rev. Wendell Anthony, Skillman Foundation CEO Tonya Allen, Michigan American Federation of Teachers President Dave Hecker, Walbridge Aldinger CEO John Rakolta (a close ally of Gov. Snyder), and Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation CEO Angela Reyes.

Others represented are the Detroit Regional Chamber, Quicken Loans, Cornerstone Schools (infamous in Benton Harbor for privatizing schools there), General Motors, the UAW, DTE, New Detroit, The Boggs Center, Charlie Beckham of Mayor Mike Duggan’s office, former DPS EM Roy Roberts, current DPS board member Lamar Lemmons, State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, and a variety of other corporations and individuals including a smattering of teachers. (Click on http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Coalition-for-the-Future-of-Detroit-Schoolchildren.pdf for a full list.)

Selling Detroit school children down the drain.

Selling Detroit school children down the drain.

“Any so-called progressive Black leaders supporting this legislation are traitors to our Detroit schoolchildren,” Clay said. “They’ve sold them down the drain.”

Helen Moore, leader of Keep the Vote No Takeover, said on Facebook, “Without an education that we control we still have second class citizenship. Join us at meetings for  the new freedom school movement in Detroit at 11825 Dexter (at Elmhurst). Enough is Enough: a plan promoted by the governor and his racist war on our children. Anyone who supports this dismantling of our schools is our children’s enemy. You are targeted by us. Don’t run for dog catcher. You will not win even with the payoff money and promises they give you. We will post your names for all to see. It is up to us to end the tyranny.”

Shahidah Muta added, “We have always had many of our own who secretly supported what our government has always done. Importantly, many of our church leaders are in on the game too, either by their silence or becoming operators of schools themselves. I’ve always said that for this dismantling to take shape, we have plenty of feeders opening the doors for them. This dismantling has to be stopped on this end, and until that happens we are spinning our wheels.”

Shahidah Muta with new grandbaby. What future is there for the children of Detroit?

Shahidah Muta with new grandbaby. What future is there for the children of Detroit? Facebook photo.

Jeffery Gields, a former DPS worker and activist through the last decade of attacks on DPS, had a more sinister take in his Facebook comment.

“The people are weak, lack will and sacrifice,” he said. “The Black organizations (i.e. NAACP, Urban League and others) have sold their souls to the devil.

The ‘dry run’ is complete. The state takeover of our schools, PA 436, right-to-work, pension cuts, poisoned water and the elimination of straight party ticket voting all done without one fight, skirmish, mass direct action, nor a grape being thrown reflects very poorly on the people. Next up, from the oppressors, more foreclosures, more charters, increased taxes, more redlining, more devastating legislation and eventually premature death because of stress, lack of knowledge, lack of organization and fight.”

State bills and fiscal analyses:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/2016-SEBS-0710.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/2016-SIB-0711.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/2015-SFA-0711-G.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/2015-SFA-0819-G.pdf

SB 0710 has already received a third reading and been sent to the appropriations committee. Other bills are in similar processes. Further information on them can be found on the Michigan Legislature website at

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(lqchld0znv0t50ifujazt5mc))/mileg.aspx?page=home

Recent related stories:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/24/stop-snyder-recall-petitions-approved-campaign-begins-easter-sunday/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/23/detroit-retirees-demand-city-council-oppose-em-law-dps-re-structuring-support-rebuilding-flint/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/21/thousands-of-boston-public-school-students-walk-out/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/07/rhodes-rule-over-detroit-schools-ominous-as-bankruptcy-judge-he-dismantled-city-of-detroit/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/07/rhodes-rule-over-detroit-schools-ominous-as-bankruptcy-judge-he-dismantled-city-of-detroit/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/03/03/detroit-will-be-paying-for-school-bonds-until-year-2040-dismantling-of-dps-all-about-corporate-greed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/02/26/cancel-dps-debt-to-the-banks-quality-education-for-detroit-children-tune-in-whpr-sat-2271030-am/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2015/08/31/10-years-after-katrina-new-orleans-all-charter-school-system-has-proven-a-failure/

#DetroitPublicSchools, #DPS, #StopDPSStateTakeover, #Beatbackthebullies, #StandUpNow, #Saveourchildren, #JailSnyder, #Blacklivesmatter, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #NED, #NewEraDetroit, #SaveDetroit, #StopForeclosuresEvictionsUtilityShutoffs


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STOP SNYDER! RECALL PETITIONS APPROVED; CAMPAIGN BEGINS EASTER SUNDAY

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DETROIT RETIREES DEMAND CITY COUNCIL OPPOSE EM LAW, DPS RE-STRUCTURING; SUPPORT REBUILDING FLINT

DAREA members settle in to confront Detroit City Council March 22, 2016.

DAREA members settle in to confront Detroit City Council March 22, 2016.

DAREA members present position paper to City Council during Committee of the Whole

DAREA has appealed bankruptcy to the Sixth Circuit Court

Civil rights lawsuit vs. PA 436 appealed to Sixth Circuit Court

CONNECT THE DOTS: CRIMES COMMITTED THROUGH THE EMERGENCY MANAGER LAWS 

DAREA (Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association) Statement to Detroit City Council

March 22, 2016

Detroit City Council members hear DAREA demands.

Detroit City Council members hear DAREA demands at Committee of the Whole March 22, 2016.

The crimes that have been committed against Flint’s residents were made possible by the right wing Republican Legislature and Governor Snyder through Public Act 436 of 2012, the Emergency Management Law that replaced PA 4 voted down 37 days earlier by Michigan voters. This is the same act used to take Detroit into bankruptcy and steal the City of Detroit retirees and active employee’s pensions, health insurance, cost of living and annuity savings fund, without any representation by Detroit’s democratically elected officials.

This same act enables Governor Snyder through his emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, to privatize Detroit’s Water Department, Public Lighting, Health Department, Human Services, Planning and Development, Workforce Development and most other departments.

DAREA Pres. William Davis begins presentation to City Council; dozens of members took turns reading it to the end.

DAREA Pres. William Davis, a DWSD retiree, begins presentation to City Council; dozens of members took turns reading it to the end.

The City of Detroit has been privatized under PA 436! City government has been contracted out to private entities and/or authorities. The City of Detroit’s civil service system and unions have been diminished and/or destroyed under PA 436.  Employees live under the constant threat of dismissal for no reason other than policies imposed by, first the State’s Consent Agreement of 2012, and later Emergency Manager directives and orders.

Democracy has not been restored and current elected officials are carrying out the bankruptcy plan of adjustment and executive orders of the EM and a Financial Review Committee appointed or approved by the governor that will continue to provide oversight for the next ten years. The current mayor continues to follow the plan imposed by the Emergency Manager, which allows him to issue no bid contracts, hire his own people and eliminate city employees. Job descriptions are being rewritten with the sole purpose of disqualifying current employees.   Fair labor practices are not being practiced in the City of Detroit.

Slavemaster Snyder attacks Michigan's majority-Black, poor cities through EM law.

Slavemaster Snyder attacks Michigan’s majority-Black, poor cities, school districts through EM law.

Under Governor Snyder’s reign, emergency managers have been imposed on Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Saginaw, Highland Park, Flint, Detroit and Detroit Public School System.

What do these cities and school system have in common? They are all former manufacturing cities and a system that were abandoned by the industries.  These industries created the middle class, which sustained the municipalities and institutions.  The state government also abandoned these cities and school districts long before the financial crisis was exacerbated by the state.

The State of Michigan government refused to pay revenue sharing to its cities which is one major factor contributing to revenue shortfalls. Over $732 million dollars in revenue sharing funds were cut from Detroit since 2003.  One major responsibility of State government is to ensure that municipalities are financially solvent, not to cause financial insolvency.

DAREA members line up to speak during Council public comment session March 22, 2016.

DAREA members line up to speak during Council public comment session March 22, 2016.

All of the cities and school systems placed under PA 436 Emergency Management Act are majority African-American and a large percentage of the residents live below the poverty line.

Flint Water Crisis

Flint’s water was allegedly switched from Detroit to the Flint river to save about $5 million by a state appointed emergency manager. This switch will now cost the city of Flint, State of Michigan and the Federal Government several hundred million dollars to repair.  The state was slow to accept responsibility, and declare a state of emergency to get needed assistance.  Even today state legislators are still debating what to pay for the infrastructure repairs.  Lives have been changed and many damaged forever; people have died.  This is one of the worst crimes that a government can commit against its unsuspecting citizens.

The entire population of Flint was poisoned by lead in the water, killed by Legionnaire's Disease, under Gov. Snyder and EM Darnell Earley.

The entire population of Flint was poisoned by lead in the water, killed by Legionnaire’s Disease, under Gov. Snyder and EM Darnell Earley.

The poisoning of Flint water is the worst crime committed against Michigan residents under PA436; let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse. Flint’s water crisis was committed by Governor Snyder against the people of Michigan under the authority of PA 436 EM dictator law. However, it is not the only crime that has been committed against Michigan residents under PA 436 Emergency Management Law and it won’t be the last if this law is not legislatively eliminated.

If we fail to connect the dots, the crimes committed through the use of PA 436 EM Law, Governor Snyder, the State of Michigan and its officials will not truly be held accountable. This law was imposed on selective de-industrialized cities with high concentrations of African Americans and workers who primarily vote democratic.  The intent of PA 436 was to transfer all wealth from the working class through privatization of public assets, union busting, and gentrification of urban areas.  Government officials and local control is eliminated through PA 436 and a state appointed Emergency Manager has total control over all finances and decisions made for the cities or school districts.

Detroit Public School System (DPS)

DAREA’s Yvonne Jones speaks to City Council.

From 1999 to present, the State of Michigan has controlled DPS with the exception of three years. DPS went from almost a $100 million surplus in fiscal year 1999-2000, to a $763.7 million deficit in fiscal year 2013-2014 fiscal year. Student enrollment in 1999 was 173,848; today it is approximately 47,800.

Emergency Managers have not made anything better at Detroit Public Schools.  Under Emergency Management most neighborhood public schools have closed, enrollment is at all-time low, classroom sizes are at all-time high, and physical conditions of the schools are in disrepair, putting children’s lives at risk.

On the other hand, under Emergency Management, administration salaries have sky rocketed, no bid contracts have flourished, unions are being busted, certified teachers laid off and non-certified non-union teachers have been hired.

Charter schools are replacing Detroit’s Public Schools and are allowed to hire non-certified teachers from Teach for America.  In Detroit under PA 436, the EM created an alternative district, the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) for allegedly under achieving public schools. The facts show under this alternative district the neediest students have received a substandard education. The EAA has only served to increase the DPS deficit.  The EAA has proven to be an abysmal failure and further produced lower achievement scores for its students.

Parents, students and supporters rally in front of Detroit Public School HQ in protest of closing Oakman Elementary/Orthopedic School in Detroit — which serves disabled students. Photo: James Fassinger, STILLSCENES

Parents, students and supporters rally in front of DPS HQ to protest closing Oakman Elementary/Orthopedic School in Detroit — which served disabled students. Oakman was closed anyway, one of 210 DPS schools closed under state emergency managers. Photo: James Fassinger, STILLSCENES

Steven Rhodes was the federal judge who presided over the Detroit bankruptcy, ruling that Emergency Managers are allowed to take the same action as elected officials, which included taking a city into bankruptcy. He also ruled that pensions could be diminished and impaired, which is in conflict with the State constitution and the language in PA 436 related to protecting pensions.  Former Judge Rhodes has now been appointed the Emergency Manager of DPS.  His appointment, if not a conflict of interest, is morally and ethically corrupt.  We must connect the dots.

Detroit’s Bankruptcy

Detroit was taken into bankruptcy by Emergency Manager, Kevin Orr / Gov. Snyder with deception and misinformation:

DAREA Walter Knall takes his turn at CC podium March 22, 2016.

DAREA’s Walter Knall takes his turn at CC podium March 22, 2016.

The level of Detroit’s debt was first alleged to be $4.5 Billion, the amount of debt continued to increase until it reached the figure of $18 Billion. The actual debt reduction for Detroit was approximately $7 billion at the bankruptcy confirmation, of which $ 3.85 Billion came from retirees and active employee’s health insurance, another $1.7 Billion came from retiree’s pension checks and employee wage reductions, cost of living allowances were eliminated for general fund retirees, and to add insult to injury the General Fund retirees and employee’s annuity funds were looted by another 15.5%, between the years of 2004-2013.

A total of $5.5 billion, or 78% of the total bankruptcy relief was on the backs of retirees and employees.  However, the Banks and lending institutions were given something in exchange for the small amount of debt that was reduced from them.  They were given river front property, revenue for 30 years from the tunnel to Windsor Ontario, parking lots and other city owned properties.

Detroit retirees and their supporters protest outside bankruptcy hearing April 1, 2014. Dozens of such protests were held.

Detroit retirees and their supporters protest outside bankruptcy hearing April 1, 2014. Dozens of such protests were held.

Retirees and employees got nothing and live with the threat that if the city can’t pay its debt they can come back on the retirees and employees for a greater reduction. The level of funding of the general fund retirement system was never proven. During the three years that the City was under the Consent Agreement and Emergency Management, no payments were made to the General Retirement Fund however, the Funds never went below a 70% funding level.  This level of funding is higher than the State of Michigan, Wayne County and many public service pension funds.

During the Mayor’s State of the City Address, he stated that the Emergency Manager underestimated the city’s pension obligation by over $450 million. This mayor was consulted prior to selection of and throughout the appointment of the EM Kevyn Orr. The ink is barely dry on the bankruptcy plan of adjustment and underfunding of pension obligations is being discussed. Remember the “grand bargain” does not hold the city responsible for pension shortfalls and pension obligations are not due until 2024. The mayor felt it necessary to address possible future underfunding of the pension fund with no proof, suggesting to the listeners that legacy cost will continue to be Detroit’s’ problem.

DAREA members pack CC audience March 22, 2016.

DAREA members, in distinctive “Hands off my pension!” T-shirts, pack CC audience March 22, 2016.

Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA) believes crimes were committed against retirees, active workers and Detroit ‘s citizens in general.

DAREA believes the bankruptcy was orchestrated by Governor Snyder using disaster capitalism and implemented by the Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr to eliminate health care for retirees and workers, to privatize the city of Detroit’s assets and services and to transfer the remainder of Detroit’s wealth.

Did Detroit have financial problems? Yes, like many deindustrialized cities in the rust belt. Possible solutions offered by unions and local officials were rejected by the state.

Was it necessary to bankrupt Detroit to solve its financial problems? No, it was not necessary!

EM protesters demand return of Detroitrevenue sharing March 14, 2013 outside state building in Detroit

EM protesters demand return of state revenue sharing March 14, 2013 outside state building in Detroit

Does the Plan of Adjustment address the leading causes for falling revenue (cash flow) in Detroit? Which are:

  1. Falling State Revenue sharing, not addressed.
  2. Falling property taxes (foreclosure crisis), not addressed
  3. Increasing legacy cost, addressed.
  4. Of the three leading causes of Detroit’s falling revenue only one was addressed in the Plan of Adjustment, retirees’ cost. Legacy cost was blamed for the majority of Detroit’s debt.

Were Wall Street’s COPS and illegal SWAPS and City financing of bonds to unnecessarily refinance of DWSD debt held accountable for Detroit’s cash flow crisis?

Were predatory lending and the mortgage financial crisis held accountable? Were the banks made to pay?

DAREA members participate in tax foreclosure protest outside Register of Deeds office.

DAREA members participate in tax foreclosure protest outside Register of Deeds office.

Under a Blight Task force that only addresses demolition, no plans are being made to help Detroiters keep or regain houses lost during the mortgage crisis; the majority of federal hardest hit funds are being used for demolition and not to help people stay in their homes.

No solutions to address houses being incorrectly assessed causing thousands of people to lose homes to tax foreclosures causing more loss revenue to the city.

Massive water shut offs enforced to increase revenue to the City on citizens who do not have it to pay. No real affordable plan made available to keep people in their homes.

On March 22, 2016 we are calling for a full investigation of Detroit’s bankruptcy and Public Act 436. We demand that State of Michigan legislators and Governor Snyder be fully investigated for their actions against citizens of Michigan, for imposing Public Act 436 on the people after a very similar Act (PA4) had been recently voted down in a state wide election. 

We demand that the State of Michigan beheld liable for Detroit’s financial problems due to its refusal to pay revenue sharing.

DAREA member brings rousing close to presentation. City Council meetings are seen on TV across Detroit, making them a perfect forum to reach out to the people.

DAREA member brings rousing close to presentation. City Council meetings are seen on TV across Detroit, making them a perfect forum to reach out to the people.

The State of Michigan’s constitution didn’t matter, nor did our no votes. More than 50% of retirees and active employees in Class 11 did not vote. Many believed that if they voted for this illegal action that they were legitimatizing the recommended cuts and would give up their legal rights to sue and for due process under the law.

DAREA believes that PA 436 is the anti-democratic dictator law that has taken away the rights of the aforementioned cities and school districts, is the common denominator used to take Detroit into bankruptcy, take over and privatize school districts, and is responsible for the lead poisoning of many of the residents of Flint, Michigan. All of these acts are crimes to the detriment of the citizens affected.

DAREA is requesting that this Detroit City Council pass a resolution in opposition to the continued imposition of PA 436, through the Executive Orders and directives left by the emergency manager, oppose mayoral control of DPS, restore the elected board, and support actions to resolve the Flint water crisis that include repairing the system and providing safe water to every home.

In memoriam: DAREA corresponding secretary Belinda Myers Florence, who battled to the end.

In memoriam: DAREA corresponding secretary Belinda Myers Florence, who battled to the end.

All of these actions were state-initiated through PA 436, which ignores the “State Constitution Article on Home Rule,” for the municipalities affected by a far reaching Republican Legislature, in some cases with local compliance and support.

DAREA demands that our pensions be restored. The State of Michigan Constitution Article IX Section 24 guarantees that public service pensions cannot be diminished or impaired.  Because of PA 436 and the imposition of the Emergency Manager Detroit was taken into bankruptcy and democracy eliminated.

Some of the dozens of DAREA members who presented position statement on EM law and its dire consequences to City Council March 22, 2016.

Some of the dozens of DAREA members who presented position statement on EM law and its dire consequences to City Council March 22, 2016.

DAREA PRESS CONFERENCE FEATURED BELINDA MYERS-FLORENCE:

DAREA has continued its court battle to overturn the entire Detroit Chapter 9 bankruptcy, appealing to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Dec. 28, 2015 and following up with a reply brief Feb. 12, 2016. Latest action has been that City of Detroit attorney filed notice of dates of unavailability for oral argument on March 8, 2016. DAREA has vowed to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be. Read 6th Circuit Court briefs at

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DAREA-Sixth-Circuit-Appeal-brief-12-28-2015.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DAREA-APPELLANTs-REPLY-BRIEF.compressed.pdf

CONTACT DAREA: DETROIT ACTIVE AND RETIRED EMPLOYEE ASSOCIATION (DAREA)

P.O. Box 3724 Highland Park, MI 48203 

313-649-7018

Detroit2700plus@gmail.com Dareafights.blogspot.com

DAREA MEETS THE FIRST WEDNESDAY OF EVERY MONTH AT 5:30 PM at St. Matthews and St. Joseph Church at Woodward and Holbrook, and the THIRD MONDAY OF EVERY MONTH at Nandi’s Knowledge Café, 12511 Woodward, Highland Park.

DAREA: We fight because we’re right!

Civil Rights Attorneys Challenge Michigan Law That Led to Poisoning of Flint Water

May Day protest against Detroit takeover May 1, 2014.

May Day protest against Detroit takeover May 1, 2014.

March 14, 2016, Flint, MI Civil rights attorneys from the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, National Lawyers Guild, Sanders Law Firm, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed an appeal in Phillips v. Snyder, a 2013 federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s controversial emergency manager law, Public Act 436.

The appeal urges the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to reinstate claims that the law discriminates on the basis of income and race, deprives thousands of Michigan citizens of their fundamental right to vote, freedom of speech and association, and the Voting Rights Act.

See full brief at http://sugarlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Sixth-Circuit-Brief.pdf.

Flint kids join protest against poisoning of their city's water.

Flint kids join protest against poisoning of their city’s water.

The law allows the state to replace locally-elected mayors, city and town councils, and school boards in so-called “financially-distressed” municipalities and school districts with unelected emergency managers. Emergency managers in the city of Flint were directly responsible for switching the source of the city’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River, poisoning the city’s population.

Emergency mangers have been imposed almost exclusively upon low-income communities of color throughout the state. Fifty percent of Michigan’s Black residents have been placed under emergency manager rule, compared to only two percent of the state’s white population.

“To see the danger of Michigan’s emergency manager law, we need only to look at the tragedy in Flint, where unelected emergency managers unaccountable to the city’s residents made decisions that have caused grave harm to the lives and health of thousands of people, most of them low income people of color and many of them children,” said attorney Herb Sanders, a member of the Plaintiffs’ legal team.  

Attorney Herb Sanders

Public Act 436 shifts all legislative and executive power from locally-elected officials to state- appointed emergency managers. The case argues that the law violates federal constitutional rights to due process of law and discriminates on the basis of income by depriving residents of financially-struggling cities and towns throughout Michigan of the right to vote to elect the officials that govern them.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that the law has been applied in a racially-discriminatory manner that overwhelmingly targets majority-Black communities for emergency manager rule and thus violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).

A lower court allowed the Equal Protection racial discrimination claim to proceed, but dismissed the due process, income discrimination, freedom of speech, Voting Rights Act and republican form of government claims, ruling that the Constitution does not recognize a fundamental right to vote and that the VRA only protects the right to cast a ballot. 

CCR attorney Darius Charney

CCR attorney Darius Charney

“This case aims to vindicate one of, if not the most fundamental rights afforded to citizens of this country: the right to elect those who represent us in government,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Darius Charney. “What good is the right to cast a ballot if those you elect are powerless to govern? Emergency manager laws have effectively canceled democracy for low-income and Black people in Michigan.” 

Michigan’s previous emergency manager law enacted in 2011, was repealed in a statewide voter referendum in 2012. One month later, the Michigan legislature enacted the new emergency manager law challenged today.  

Michigan’s law is unprecedented, the first such measure enacted anywhere in the United States that shifts all legislative and executive power from elected officials to appointed officials. Phillips follows an earlier case, Brown v. Snyder, that challenged Michigan’s previous emergency manager law. That case was rendered moot when the law was repealed.  

Protest during Detroit bankruptcy hearings.

Protest during Detroit bankruptcy hearings.

“Michigan’s emergency manager law is profoundly undemocratic and discriminatory. The ongoing crisis in Flint and in Detroit’s school system show the perils that this form of nontransparent and unaccountable governance invites,” said John Philo, Executive and Legal Director of the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice. “We are confident that the Court of Appeals will find in our favor and if the legislature is unwilling to repeal the law, that it will be struck down by the courts.”

The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, the National Lawyers Guild/Michigan-Detroit Chapter, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), along with several Michigan civil rights lawyers filed both cases.

 The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice

 National Lawyers Guild

 The ACLU

 The Center for Constitutional Rights


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THOUSANDS OF BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS WALK OUT

Boston Public School students who walked out March 7 gathered on the Boston Commons.

Boston Public School students who walked out March 7 gathered on the Boston Commons.

Liberation logo

By Nino

Mar 09, 2016

http://www.liberationnews.org/thousands-boston-public-school-students-walk/

(VOD article on the pending complete dismantling of the Detroit Public Schools will be out shortly. This article is published here as an example of what can be done in Detroit.)

O'Bryant student  Sarai Ortegon shouts out as she sits on the shoulders of Woyekson Lorves (both cq) .  Students from Boston schools protest proposed budget cuts by staging a walkout and marching on the State House on Monday, March 7, 2016. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

O’Bryant student Sarai Ortegon shouts out as she sits on the shoulders of Woyekson Lorves. Students from Boston schools protested proposed budget cuts by staging a walkout and marching on the State House on Monday, March 7, 2016. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

BOSTON–On March 7,  thousands of Boston Public School students made history when they autonomously self-organized a “walkout” rally on Boston Commons and at the Massachusetts State House in protest against millions of dollars being cut to Boston Public Schools while General Electric receives corporate welfare in the form of tax breaks.

Over the past three years, the budget has been cut by $140 million. Boston students passed out a flier in preparation for the protest stating why the budget cuts to their schools matter, saying:

“The education you are going to be provided with would be an education which would make it difficult, and maybe even impossible, to get into the college of your dreams. Plus, BPS runs on test scores, your intelligence is based on these tests too. You won’t be able to learn at full capacity if you don’t have the classes you need. If students are engaged in school, there would be less cracks for our youth to even look towards violence. We have lost too many young lives already.”

Police lined up on Washington St at Downtown Crossing. Monday,March 7, 2016. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

Police lined up on Washington St at Downtown Crossing. Monday,March 7, 2016. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

The #BPS walkouts rallied at Boston Common where students gave electrifying speeches and chants of “Student Power” and “Save BPS.” The students came out and showed their unity as well as the diversity that is Boston Public Schools. Afterwards, the students rallied at the Massachusetts State house despite intimidation from Boston school officials, bureaucrats and police. The Boston police reportedly arrested one student towards the end of the protest.

As former Black Panther Huey P. Newton once said, “The revolution is always in the hands of the young, the young always inherit the revolution.” What the Boston Public School students demonstrated by displaying their militancy, consciousness, organization and unity is essential to any progressive and revolutionary movement. Budget cuts to the public school system are a symptom of a larger problem—capitalist-imperialism. As public schools and the public sector in general are de-unionized, privatized and penetrated by corporate “free market” deregulation, all the ills of a white-supremacist capitalist system become more egregious.

Unequal and segregated

Forty-two percent of children in areas of Boston live under the poverty level.

Forty-two percent of children in areas of Boston live under the poverty level.

According to the Brookings Institute, Boston ranks #1 in America for income inequality. In addition, it ranks seventh out of the top ten most segregated cities in the nation. Boston Public schools are facing further re-segregation amidst deep budget cuts, which disproportionately affect students of color and poor working-class students in general. As the capitalist-imperialist system continues to decay and decline, forcing breakneck privatization of public goods, draconian austerity measures, and the expansion of the police state, the youth are rising to seize the time by mobilizing and beginning to organize in opposition.

It was clear that the students were aware of the severity of the budget cuts and the connections with charter schools and the corporate welfare for General Electric. Many donned stickers that read, “Cranes in the skies, cuts in our schools,” “Keep the cap” (referring to the cap on the expansion of charter schools), and “Millions for GE, budget cuts for our schools.” The budget cuts would severely affect students with special needs and disabilities and those seeking to engage in extracurricular activities.

Charter schools siphoning funds

BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang favors charter schools.

BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang favors charter schools.

One cause of the $18.6 million budget deficit is the failure to fully reimburse Boston Public Schools for the funds that charter schools are siphoning from the state budget. The state of Massachusetts is supposed to reimburse BPS for the charter school costs, but it hasn’t even covered half the expenses in the last school year. Superintendent of BPS Tommy Chang, who made his career in Los Angeles as a proponent of neoliberal measures and charterizating public schools, recently proposed cuts of $20 million from the central office budget and $10 million to $12 million from the per-student funding formula that affects budgets of individual schools—this in an effort to close a shortfall of up to $50 million. Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker were unavailable for comment as they were at a “Forbes Under 30” event at Faneuil Hall, where some students marched only to find that they were no longer on the scene.

Although the capitalist system is inherently unstable and the #BPSbudgetcuts are reflective of this, we can count on the radical energy and rising consciousness of the younger generations to combat this system. Students spoke later in the day at the English High School about linking the budget cuts to white supremacy, mass incarceration and gentrification. These are all phenomena of the latest stage of capitalism trying to squeeze as much as it can from the working class, primarily people of color.

Thousands have protested in Ireland around many issues, including water charges.

Thousands have protested in Ireland around many issues, including water charges.

The school committee has a March 23 deadline to vote on the budget cuts. Even if it votes them down, the struggle will need to continue as that is not a guarantee that the $140 million lost over the past three years will be restored, that Boston Public Schools will be fully funded, or that the neoliberal austerity measures will stop. As many students chanted “They say cut back, we say fight back!” and “I believe that we will win,” they shone a ray of light for the struggle forward. If students, parents, teachers, the teachers union and other allies of the working class and poor can unite and organize autonomously as the students did, that collective power can become an unstoppable force for saving BPS and putting the brakes on privatization.

To understand the extent of the budget cuts, look at this list compiled by the Boston Latin School parents in collaboration with the Citywide Parent Council Budget Subcommittee. (see list at Why the BPS walkout.) 


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