WE CHARGE GENOCIDE! DETROIT WATER SHUT-OFFS, FORECLOSURES FOCUS OF UN VISIT

UN Rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquerque (speaking) and Leilani Farha (to her left) interview east side Detroit resident about her experience with water shut-offs Oct. 19, 2014.
UN Rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquerque (speaking) and Leilani Farha (to her left) interview east side Detroit resident about her experience with water shut-offs Oct. 19, 2014.

 UN reps tour Detroit neighborhoods, interview residents Oct. 19

Mass town hall meeting at Wayne Co. Community College

Press conference Oct. 20: rapporteurs denounce water shut-offs 

By Diane Bukowski

October 25, 2014

DETROIT – BUS TOUR

Residents who spoke with United Nations rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha about water shut-offs, during their visit to Detroit last weekend, painted a devastating picture of mass inhumanity directed at the poor and mostly Black population of Detroit.

Rapporteurs speak with Rochelle McCaskill in her home.

Rapporteurs speak with Rochelle McCaskill in her home.

During a bus tour Oct. 19, Rochelle McCaskill invited the representatives into her east-side home, where she, three daughters, and a grandbaby live.

“I was washing my hands recently when the water went off,” she said during an interview in her living room. “My daughter looked out the window and saw a man turning our water off. She ran out to stop him. I have a note from my doctor that says I must have water, which I turned in to the water department. But they said I was still 60 days past due.”

McCaskill said she suffers from MRSA, a contagious antibiotic-resilient infection that causes sores and boils and can become life-threatening. It is becoming more common in communities, although it originated in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and other institutions where people reside in close quarters.

Valerie Burris, who assisted McCaskill, points out blue "mark of shame" left on sidewalks where water is slated to be shut off.

Valerie Burris, who assisted McCaskill, points out blue “mark of shame” left on sidewalks where water is slated to be shut off.

McCaskill said she must bathe three times a day and frequently wash her clothing to prevent infecting her loved ones. She said she almost died from sepsis last year.

McCaskill told the rapporteurs she receives $672 a month in SSI benefits, while the rent for her tiny home is $600. “I can’t pay my water bill all the time, which is $60 to $85 a month,” she said. “I relax on weekends but hate to see Monday coming, because I know that people may be out there for the rest of the week to turn off my water, heat and lights. They need to make another category for people like me.”

Valerie Burris, who referred McCaskill for assistance, pointed out the blue mark on McCaskill’s sidewalk, that water contractors use to designate homes set for shut-offs.

“It’s like the scarlet letter of shame,” she said. “No one should have to live like this.”

Calvert resident speaks to rapporteurs and bus occupants.

Calvert resident speaks to rapporteurs and bus occupants.

Tour guides Cecily McClellan, who lives on Detroit’s near west side, and Valerie Jean, who stays nearby on the east side of Woodward, described massive housing problems in addition to the water shut-offs.

McClellan said the city is selling 6,000 foreclosed homes at once in “blight bundles,” for which the minimum bid is $1 million. The bus toured Calvert and Glynn Streets, an area of stately solidly-built homes.

“They’re knocking houses down on these streets which can be repaired,” she said, pointing to various vacant lots. “That what the Detroit Futures Project on Glynn Court is for. They refurbished one home with public money for $532,000, then sold it to a white professor for $80,000 who was moving back from Oregon.” She said many foreclosed homes are being sold to whites, and include payment forgiveness arrangements.

Woodland water march 7 31 14

Valerie Jean directed the bus down Woodland, where she lives. Jean, who has three children, ran a water contractor from Homrich away when he came to her home, but said he still succeeded in shutting water off to every home within three blocks. She said she has set up a water station in her front yard, where residents can get water and food, since they can’t cook without water.

A resident in that area said the water department claims she owes $4,000. “They’ve charged me for two years I already paid,” she said. “All my bills are paid through 2012. There are 11 residents on this block, and they owe a total of $50,000 in water bills for one year alone. One of the main problems is the sewage bills. They are three times more than what we pay for water.”

Water shut-off notice shows large discrepancy between sewerage and water charges, to penalize poor Detroiters for delinquencies.

Water shut-off notice shows large discrepancy between sewerage and water charges, to penalize poor Detroiters for delinquencies.

During the Kwame Kilpatrick administration, suburban interests who wanted the water department pressured the city into an agreement that Detroit residents would be disproportionately charged for sewerage, because their rate of delinquent payments was higher. Published reports indicate that spikes in Detroiters’ water bills in recent months occurred because the department neglected to charge the discriminatory sewerage rate to all Detroit residents earlier.

Marian Kramer, a Highland Park resident and leader of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, along with another Highland Park resident, said that under Detroit’s bankruptcy plan to regionalize the water department, Highland Park’s system is being merged into DWSD. Now residents of Highland Park, a city within the boundaries of Detroit, get TWO water bills a month, one from each agency. They said most Highland Park residents are senior citizens living on fixed incomes who can’t afford to pay.

Detroiter explains travails with water bills to UN delegates.

Detroiter explains travails with water bills to UN delegates.

A resident of the Sherwood/Seven Mile neighborhood with three children said her water was shut off with no warning notice and without even a knock on the door. “They knew there were children here,” she said, pointing to kids’ chairs on her porch.

“After they shut mine off, I saw them going down the street, shutting off water,” she added. “If you’re behind on your bill, notice or not, they shut it off. In addition to the fee to shut it off, there was a fee to turn it back on. I couldn’t get an appointment for assistance for two weeks. I didn’t have the income to pay it. I was laid off from my job.”

Organizer Russ Bellant, who also lives in the neighborhood, said a total of 11 homes had their water shut off that day, and that there are 60 vacant foreclosed homes in the area. Ten were demolished within a couple of months, he said.

TOWN HALL MEETING AT WAYNE COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Massive crowd at Wayne County Community College applauds the UN delegates Oct. 19, 2014.

Massive crowd at Wayne County Community College applauds the UN delegates Oct. 19, 2014. Long-time activist Gwendolyn Gaines is in center in MWRO shirt.

Later that day, at least 600 people packed the auditorium at Wayne County Community College’s downtown campus to address the UN rapporteurs, as well as a panel of community leaders.

Monica Patrick on bus Oct. 19

Monica Patrick on bus Oct. 19

Monica Patrick, a host of the forum along with the coalition that brought the UN rapporteurs to Detroit, brought to audience to its feet with repeated cries of  “We charge genocide!”

The sponsors of the tour and meeting included MWRO, the Michigan ACLU, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, the People’s Water Board, AFSCME Local 207, Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association, Food and Water Watch, the Detroit School Board in Exile, Michigan Human Rights Coalition, St. Peters Ecumenical Church, and many others.

Prof. Charles Simmons, one of the panelists, said, “I am outraged by the inhumanity, by the suffering of our people. It is immense, callous and intentional. Every human being has the right to water. There must be a national and international fight in the streets. We must remember that the UN is not the final solution, because the same people who run the UN also run the corporations.”

Rapporteurs introduce themselves to panel and audience. Prof. Charles Simmons at right.

Rapporteurs introduce themselves to panel and audience. Prof. Charles Simmons second from right.

Speaker after speaker testified about the suffering Simmons referred to.

“The principal of Denby High School opened up his school at 5 a.m. so students could come in, wash up, and wash their clothes,” said Tawanna Simpson, a member of the Detroit Board of Education in Exile. (The board has been stripped of its powers under PA 436, the Emergency Manager law.) “But now that the school has been taken over by the Educational Achievement Authority, that no longer happens.”

Gregory Price

Gregory Price

Gregory Price, a young man from the southwest side, said, “My neighborhood is heavily dilapidated. At least two or three people there have lost their homes because they could not pay their water bills, which were then attached to their taxes. The water bills and payment plans are monstrosities. People cannot afford to pay them.”

(See sample payment plan letter at DWSD plan.)

He said those who lose their homes go to shelters or remain in the homes with no utilities, while the state cuts off assistance to the families, who no longer have valid addresses.

Nicole Hill said her water bill is now $6,000. She testified that her water was recently shut off from May 15 to July 14, 2014, on top of previous water shut-offs in the past. Her first shut-off was in May, 2011. On October 7 of this year, she said, after a brief respite during Detroit bankruptcy proceedings, they shut it off again. She said the department is steadily cutting off others in her neighborhood as well, at one point shutting off a whole block.

Nicole Hill

Nicole Hill

“I’ve been battling the water department for two and a half years,” she said. “They’ve billed me at a previous address from 2009, although I had moved, and they keep claiming I have leaks but they haven’t found any.”

Mignon Jennings, a disabled GM worker as well as a former city worker, said her recent bill was $395 for sewerage, and $195 for water. “I’m the only one in my family,” she said, wondering how her bill could be so high. My home is in jeopardy of being taken. I hope you have a Plan B to provide assistance.”

Another woman testified that her water bill went up $600 in one month because she allowed neighbors whose water had been shut off to come to her house to get that necessity of life. Others testified about having elders and children in their homes when their water was shut off, and about being forced to go to suburban Wyandotte for water assistance since the shutdown of the Detroit’s Human Services Department and the dismantling of the Water Affordability Program.

Demeeko Williams after press conference on Great Lakes Water Authority,

Demeeko Williams after press conference on Great Lakes Water Authority,

Demeeko Williams of the Detroit Water Project said the ‘entire system is to blame for the savage water shut-offs in Detroit.

“They’ve shut down transportation, closed all our schools, fired Dad and Mom, and stolen our international waterway at Belle Isle,” he cried out. “Now Governor Snyder and Detroit EM Kevyn Orr are committing genocide by stealing the water department and regionalizing it.”

In 200 days, according to Mayor Mike Duggan and representatives from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, they expect to have the “Great Lakes Water Authority” in place, pursuant to the Detroit bankruptcy. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has said he plans to announce whether he will confirm the bankruptcy plan in two weeks. Any negotiation or agreement reached now with DWSD and the UN would be null and void under that plan anyway.

A young man who appeared to be about twelve years old said emphatically, “I believe that water should be free.”

Sharon Moore said her 80-year-old mother’s water bill has increased 100 percent every month, while water is running down the street from a nearby abandoned building.

John Rakolta, CEO of Walbridge Aldinger, a major DWSD contractor and a major contributor to Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign.

John Rakolta, CEO of Walbridge Aldinger, a major DWSD contractor and a major contributor to Gov. Rick Snyder’s campaign.

A single mother with three children said she would not allow the water department to install a remote meter because of possible negative health effects, which have been broadly publicized, so they shut her water off. She said she finally allowed them to install the meter but is still plagued by payment problems.

The meters are being installed under a four-year $153 million contract with Detroit Meter Partners, comprised of Walbridge-Aldinger and Weiss Construction. Customers are forced to pay large installation fees.

Walbridge CEO John Rakolta is a top campaign supporter of Gov. John Engler, for whom his daughter also works. He has also been involved in the Detroit schools takeover.

Police on watch outside Water Affordability Fair.

Police on watch outside Water Affordability Fair.

“I went to the Water Affordability Fair the city advertised,” the single mother said. “They had a tank and four or five police officers there in case of trouble.”

Michelle McCray, a homeless woman, pointed out that the denial of water and other necessities to the poor has been happening for a long time in Detroit and elsewhere. “I’ve been homeless since 1999, and I’m in a homeless shelter,” she said. “They put you out all day without any access to water or bathrooms. The restaurants won’t let you use their bathrooms. That means all day in the hot sun with no water. This has been going on for at least 25 years.”

Michelle McCray describes conditions for those living in shelters, deprived of water and sanitary facilities during the day,

Michelle McCray describes conditions for those living in shelters, deprived of water and sanitary facilities during the day,

McCray, along with several people who wanted to speak on behalf of indigenous people, was cut short, while others were refused access to the microphone by some conference organizers, who said they wanted to focus only on water and foreclosures.

Richard Johnson El-Bey, of the Moors Coalition on Police Brutality was one of those prevented from speaking. Several other Moors were also present in the audience. Johnson El-Bey told VOD he is now homeless because he relied on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People without success. That Declaration says in part,

“Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.

States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.” (Entire declaration at UN Dec Rights of Indigenous Peoples.)

Richard Johnson El-Bey, with fellow Moor, shows his skilled trades licenses.

Richard Johnson El-Bey, with fellow Moor, shows his skilled trades licenses.

Showing a photo of his great-grandmother’s sister and other documents related to his heritage, he said, “I am Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee. My people pre-date the existence of the United States of America on their land. We have a right to individual sovereignty. I’ve sued the United Nations and the United States to no avail, and I’ve gone to the City Human Rights Department with the same results.”

Johnson El-Bey said he has repeatedly been denied work despite having 44 years of experience in 17 skilled trades, because he cannot get requested documentation due to his refusal to acknowledge citizenship in the U.S. The UN Declaration says another right guaranteed is “that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.”

Although Johnson El-Bey has African looks, Native American tribes for many centuries accepted tens of thousands of kidnapped Africans (“slaves”) into their lands and intermarried. A large proportion of “African-Americans” today have indigenous blood.

UN RAPPORTEURS REPORT OUT AT PRESS CONFERENCE

Final press conference Oct. 22; (l to r) Lila Cabbell, People's Water Board, Catarina De Albuquerque, UN Rapporteur, Jerry Goldberg, Moratorium NOW!, Maureen Taylor, MWRO, Leilani Farha, UN Rapporteur, UN aide, Attorney Alice Jennings, Marian Kramer, MWRO, UN aide.

Final press conference Oct. 22; (l to r) Lila Cabbel, People’s Water Board, Catarina De Albuquerque, UN Rapporteur, Jerry Goldberg, Moratorium NOW!, Maureen Taylor, MWRO, Leilani Farha, UN Rapporteur, UN aide, Attorney Alice Jennings, Marian Kramer, MWRO, UN aide. Photo: Cornell Squires

“Detroit’s water shut-offs target the poor, vulnerable and African-Americans”

Human rights to water, sanitation and housing take precedence over financial concerns

By Diane Bukowski

October 25, 2014

Council Pres. Brenda Jones speaks about DWSD 10-point plan, with Mayor Mike Duggan at far right, and his chief of staff Alexis Wiley at left.

Council Pres. Brenda Jones speaks about DWSD 10-point plan, with Mayor Mike Duggan at far right, and his chief of staff Alexis Wiley at left.

DETROIT —  After meeting with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and City Council members in a closed session the morning of Oct. 22, representatives of the UN Office of the High Commission for human rights roundly denounced conditions faced by Detroit’s majority population, and expressed disappointment with City plans to remedy them.

“This is a man-made Perfect Storm,” said Catarina De Albuquerque, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She is also a Professor of Law at the Universities of Brage, Coimbra and the American University’s Washington College of Law, and a senior legal advisor at the UN Prosecutor General’s office. She called the shut-offs “the most extensive” in the U.S.

“We found that 57,000 households have been shut-off this year,” she said. “They have no water to drink, bathe, flush toilets, and keep their clothes and houses clean. The city doesn’t even have data on how many households are affected [and their demographics]. People have a right to life, and not to be discriminated against and stigmatized by these shut-offs.”

UN rapporteurs receive testimony from packed Wayne County College Auditorium on how water shut-offs are affecting Detroiters.

UN rapporteurs receive testimony from packed Wayne County College Auditorium of Detroit residents on how water shut-offs are affecting them. In the United Kingdom and other countries, water shut-offs are barred by law due to public health concerns.

She went on, “There is a disproportionate impact on low-income African-Americans in Detroit, where 80 percent of the population is African-American and 40 percent of African-Americans live below the poverty level. They are being asked to face impossible choices—to pay their rent or their water bill, to pay their medical expenses or their water bill. These are not choices we expect people to have to make in one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the world.”

She noted the U.S. has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the right to life and security of the person, the provision of housing and water in a non-discriminatory fashion, and the elimination of racial discrimination.

“The human right to water and sanitation is explicitly recognized,” she added. “This does not mean that water has to be free. Nobody we saw asked us for free water; they just want affordable and fair bills. In many of the other 15 countries I have visited, they do want free water, but here all they want is justice and affordability.”

Downtown Detroit rally against water shut-offs.

Downtown Detroit rally against water shut-offs.

She said disconnection of water services is only acceptable if it can be shown that the resident can pay.

“The rich are able to pay their bills, therefore the burden should be on the authorities to make sure that happens,” she went on. “We met with the Mayor and City Officials and are aware of their measures [the 10 point plan], but these are insufficient. The Mayor does not consider chronically low-income people’s ability to pay.”

Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to non-discrimination in this area. She is also a lawyer and Executive Director of the NGO Canada Without Poverty.

Detroit woman testifies angrily about her experiences with DWSD.

Detroit woman testifies angrily about her experiences with DWSD  during WCCC town hall meeting.

“Unaffordable housing leads to constructive eviction,” Farha said. “Affordability and security of tenure are key standards, which give the feeling that you’re not going to have to leave unexpectedly. We talked to residents who don’t know how long they will be able to maintain their housing. They also have to right to non-discrimination, to information, to justice, to access to remedies and to due process. They have the right to live without fear. What impressed me the most was that people fear their kids are going to be taken away.”

The two rapporteurs laid out the following recommendations:

  • The City of Detroit must restore water connections to all residences and neighborhoods.
  • Stop any further disconnections to those who are unable to pay.
  • We urge the city, state and federal government to adopt mandatory affordability standards.
  • Special policies must be set up to ensure these measures are tailored to the needs of the people.
  • The international standard for an individual’s need for water is 100 liters per person per day. [One liter is approximately .26 gallons; so the need is at least 26 gallons per person per day.]
  • Authorities must make an urgent assessment of public health consequences of the water shut-offs.
  • Appropriate investments must be made to determine if there is a disproportionate impact on people of color. For the homeless, the City of Detroit must take urgent steps to ensure they are housed with adequate supplies of water.
  • Residents should be ensured of access to administrative and legal remedies to challenge shut-offs if they are unable to pay, the amounts of their bills, and the affordability of water in the City of Detroit.
Make Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and U.S. President Barack Obama pay,

Make Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and U.S. President Barack Obama pay,

Newscaster Paula Tutman asked the rapporteurs in an unusually strident fashion how the city would be able to afford water services if people don’t pay their bills.

“If the city does not have enough,” DeAlbuquerque said, “then there are other levels of government here. The state and the federal governments must step in to support the human right to water, sanitation and housing. The Water Department can talk with many actors throughout the world. There are cities that charge more to those who can pay, such as industry and commerce. There are solutions. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. For each dollar investment in the right to water, you save $9 in other areas.”

The Rapporteurs cautioned that international law such as that embodied in numerous UN instruments is also about national law. They said that international human rights law should be incorporated in every policy, every program, every human rights condition. They said they will bring their findings to the attention of the U.S. representative to the UN, Susan Rice.

Bankruptcy protest against EM Kevyn Orr's Plan of Adjustment  at Federal Courthouse April 1, 2014.

Bankruptcy protest at Federal Courthouse April 1, 2014.

Regarding actions by Detroit’s Emergency Manager and the banks. profit from the city’s bankruptcy, they replied, “Having an emergency manager does not exempt them from human rights obligations. Human rights have precedence over financial and credit concerns. Human rights are primary. There is a whole group and class of people whose human rights are at stake.”

Tangela Harris asked, “How do citizens stand up when democracy is not standing up for them?” She obviously referred to Michigan Emergency Manager law, which has disenfranchised at least 51 percent of Black residents in the state. It was not clear if the UN Rapporteurs had been adequately briefed on this issue.

Through his chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, Mayor Duggan expressed disappointment and scorn towards the UN Rapporteurs’ efforts, after meeting with them for 90 minutes that morning.

Mayor Mike Duggan and chief of staff Alexis Wiley, a former newscaster.

Mayor Mike Duggan and chief of staff Alexis Wiley, a former newscaster.

“It’s disappointing but it’s kind of scary that you can have such a heavy name of the United Nations — that is such a responsibility — and to not live up to that responsibility, to come really without an interest in information,” Wiley said in published reports. “No one’s saying we’re perfect. But if you want to work together, let’s work together and make sure policy is built on facts. It’s not built on an agenda.

“As we went through each of the things they raised and made it clear they had incorrect information, they were visibly upset, and now I know it’s because they knew they had to go and change their press release. That’s what’s really disappointing is that they called this a fact-finding mission. If this is really going to be a fact-finding mission then you should actually ask for the facts.”

The UN formal press release, “Detroit’s water shut-offs target the poor, vulnerable, and African-Americans,” is available at UN Detroit water report . It includes phone numbers, email addresses, websites, and social media connections for UN Human Rights agencies.

The City’s “10-point Plan,” which does not guarantee affordability or bar shut0ffs, is at Detroit Water and Sewerage Department 10 point Plan. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes declared this plan adequate and said he had no power to ensure affordable water anyway. He is expected to announce his decision on confirmation of the bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment, which includes the elimination of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, and its replacement by the regional Great Lakes Water Authority, next week.

Related:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/09/10/detroit-bankruptcy-great-lakes-water-authority-to-steal-largest-asset-of-largest-u-s-black-city-4/


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DETROIT: THE DISPERSAL OF URBAN BLACK AMERICA BEGINS

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, hands encompassing Detroit on map, explains plans to hand the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department over to a regional authority.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, hands encompassing Detroit on map, explains plans to hand the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department over to a regional authority.

“The water department is determined to solve its financial problems – and change the city’s demographics – by ejecting the poor from the grid.”

 BAR logo 2Submitted by Glen Ford on Wed, 10/22/2014 – 15:09

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford 

(Hands-on coverage by VOD of UN Detroit neighborhood bus tour, town hall meeting, and press conference upcoming.)

The two United Nations Special Rapporteurs have seen human rights violations around the world, but Detroit’s massive water shut-offs are uniquely upsetting. “We were deeply disturbed to observe the indignity people have faced and continue to live with in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in a city that was a symbol of America’s prosperity,” said Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, in a joint statement.

UN Rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquergue and Leilani   at town hall meeting Oct. 19, 2014.

UN Rapporteurs Catarina de Albuquergue (standing) and Leilani Farha at town hall meeting on Detroit water shut-offs and evictions, Oct. 19, 2014.

An “unprecedented” 27,000 households have been disconnected from the pipes that sustain life and dignity – most of them Black and poor, according to the rapporteurs’ observations, although the city doesn’t bother to maintain records on the race and income of those it casts into purgatory. The water department is deliberately blind to the shut-offs’ “disproportionate impact on low-income African Americans.”

Detroit, an 82 percent Black city, run for four decades by Black mayors and Black city councils, and presided over for the past year and a half by a Black state-appointed emergency financial manager, may well be in violation of the United Nations Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “which explicitly prohibits and calls for the elimination of racial discrimination in relation to several human rights directly affected by water disconnections, including the right to housing and the right to public health,” wrote Albuquerque and Farha.

Richard Johnson El-Bey, ready to address issues of indigenous people, and Michelle McCray, a homeless shelter occupant for years, at mike to explain their problems to rapporteurs.

Richard Johnson El-Bey, ready to address issues of indigenous people, and Michelle McCray, a homeless shelter occupant, at mike to explain their problems to rapporteurs. McCray said those in homeless shelters have been deprived of water and sanitation, including toilet facilities, for years.

The poor are not asking for a free ride, said Albuquerque. “In the three days we were here, nobody asked us for free water. People want to pay their bills within their possibilities…they want affordable and fair bills.” However, the water department is determined to solve its financial problems – and change the city’s demographics – by ejecting the poor from the grid. Albuquerque was compelled to remind Detroit that the city’s bankruptcy drama “doesn’t exempt it from human rights obligations.”

“We have decided to foreclose on everything.”

High water bills and cascading shut-offs have added to the flood of forced evictions. “Our conclusion is that you have here in Detroit a man-made perfect storm,” said the UN officials.

Occupy Detroit and Moratorium NOW at site of pending foreclosure in Detroit.

Occupy Detroit and Moratorium NOW at site of pending foreclosure in Detroit.

More precisely, a corporate-made vortex of ethnic and class cleansing, to make way for a new, gentrified city. Just as the water shut-offs are “unprecedented,” so too is the pace of county home foreclosures, which have now targeted one of every five properties in Detroit. Wayne County is notifying 70,000 Detroit households that they have been caught up in the foreclosure frenzy. “We have decided to foreclose on everything,” said Wayne County chief deputy treasurer David Szymanski. He claims the foreclosure proceedings are for the occupants’ own good, since they might then be eligible for federal housing aid.

It is obvious that the water disconnections and housing foreclosures are coordinated prongs of a hyper-aggressive gentrification pincer movement. While emergency manager Kevyn Orr completes the financial restructuring of the city under bankruptcy proceedings, the bureaucracy clears the land of unwanted populations.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans housing and public sector including schools; man made storm is Detroit is having same effects.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans housing and public sector including schools; man made storm is Detroit is having same effects.

Back in September, the mayor and city council could have peremptorily dismissed Orr, whose term of authority under the emergency manager law had expired. Instead, they kept him on, so that he can complete the corporate handover of the city in bankruptcy court. The city council reclaimed its powers to award contracts and Mayor Mike Duggan, the first white person to occupy that office since 1974, took responsibility for the day-to-day duties of pushing out the poor.

“You have here in Detroit a man-made perfect storm.”

Mayor Duggan resents the two young UN rapporteurs’ interference with Detroit’s race and class makeover project. Aid Alexis Wiley claims the city is in possession of facts that were not taken into account. “It’s disappointing but it’s kind of scary that you can have such a heavy name of the United Nations — that is such a responsibility — and to not live up to that responsibility, to come really without an interest in information,” said Wiley. “No one’s saying we’re perfect. But if you want to work together, let’s work together and make sure policy is built on facts. It’s not built on an agenda.”

Pres. Obama with Robert Wolf of UBS, a leading Obama campaign fundraiser. UBS is responsible for illegal $1.5 billion debt city incurred in 2005-06.

Pres. Obama with Robert Wolf of UBS, a leading Obama campaign fundraiser. UBS is responsible for illegal $1.5 billion debt city incurred in 2005-06.

Certainly, not on a human rights agenda. One wouldn’t want that, would one?. After all, Detroit still has big dreams – it’s just that poor Black people have no place in the plan.

Albuquerque and Farha recommended “that the Federal Government immediately undertake an investigation into the water shut-offs to determine if they are having a disproportionate impact on African Americans and other groups protected against discrimination” – an idea that will be flushed into the nearest Oval Office toilet. The Obama administration is a full partner in transforming Detroit into the model for urban “renaissance” across the country, having signed off on the city’s financial restructuring and acquiesced in the effective disenfranchisement of Detroit – and half of all Black voters in Michigan – under the emergency manager regime.

The Great Black Urban Dispersal is set to accelerate.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Source URL: http://blackagendareport.com/node/14482


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ROSA PARKS’ GODCHILD MAILAUNI WILLIAMS FOUND; JUDGE GEORGE, GUARDIAN ROWAN REMOVED FROM CASE

Lennette Williams (in white top) with her attorney Allison Folmar behind her; (l to r) supporters Elaine Steele, Anita Peek, Arnetta Grable/Photo by Cornell Squires

Lennette Williams (in white top) with her attorney Allison Folmar behind her; (l to r) supporters Elaine Steele, Anita Peek, Arnetta Grable after pending victory in court Oct. 9, 2014/Photo by Cornell Squires

Mailauni secretly kept with Rowan aide, then sister; no court order

 Judge Terrance Keith says he will reunite Mailauni with mother after interim guardianship by sister

 Attorney Allison Folmar working to finalize return by Nov. 12 

Mailauni Williams

Mailauni Williams

DETROIT — Saying, “True love never fails against the greatest obstacles,” Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith removed attorney Mary Rowan as guardian for Mailauni Williams, 32, and appointed her sister Monique Williams as “interim” guardian. He said his ultimate intent is to send Mailauni back home with her mother Lennette Williams, with whom she has spent her entire life.

Grosse Pointe Farms police seized her from her home in May, after a cursory visit by Adult Protective Services, but no evident court order.

Mailauni was born with cerebral palsy and other injuries resulting from medical malpractice at her birth, which also caused permanent physical damage to her mother. Henry Ford Hospital agreed to a settlement that, spread over the years, would amount to $30 million.

“I love my daughter and have always taken care of her,” Williams tearfully told Judge Keith. “I need my daughter back and she needs me. I would die for my daughter. She is my hero. There are those who thought the hospital settlement was too much for people of color.”

(L to r) Mailauni and Lennette Williams, Arnetta Grable, Cornell Squires were among many who testified at Board of Police Commissioners about police brutality. Mailauni, with her mother, has been active in many such activities all her life.

(L to r) Mailauni and Lennette Williams, Arnetta Grable, Cornell Squires were among many who testified at Board of Police Commissioners about police brutality. Mailauni, with her mother, has been active in many such activities all her life.

Judge Keith said he had seen records indicating that doctors expected Mailauni to live only two and a half years at most, and that he was impressed both by Lennette Williams dedication in nurturing her daughter to adulthood, and by her professional pro see court filings in response to court-appointed attorneys and guardians attempts to take her away for 20 years.

“I used to take her to the doctor, and he told me I did not have an M.D.,” Williams said. “But I have something better called love. God was working through me. Mailauni walked at 5, and danced to the music of Michael Jackson.” Mailauni later graduated from Grosse Pointe High School. Her graduation portrait is proudly displayed on the mantel of her home in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Mailauni began visiting civil rights icon Rosa Parks at the age of five. Parks adopted her as her godchild.  Elaine Steele and Anita Peek of the Raymond and Rosa Parks Foundation have been active in advocating for her return to her mother. Arnetta Grable of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and Cornell Squires of We the People for the People are also close friends supporting Mailauni’s return home.

Wayne County Chief Probate Court Judge Milton Mack, Jr.

Wayne County Chief Probate Court Judge Milton Mack, Jr.

Macomb County Judge Kathryn George

Macomb County Judge Kathryn George

For the last eight years, Macomb County Judge Kathryn George presided over the case, at the request of Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack, Jr.

Subsequent to a bizarre hearing in June during which George appointed Rowan as guardian with for at least a year, jailed Lennette Williams, eliminated estate payments for hers and Mailauni’s needs, and had her own court clerk testify as a sworn-in witness, Attorney Allison Folmar got George removed from the case. George had previously been removed as Macomb County Chief Probate Judge after well-publicized allegations of financial malfeasance. She was barred then from dealing with cases involving estates and trusts.

George had also threatened to jail Folmar during the June hearing.

Keith asked Rowan Oct. 9 how she had come to be appointed as guardian. During the June hearing, Mailauni’s sister Monique Williams asked to be appointed as an alternative to foster care home placement. Her mother and a court-appointed attorney said guardianships should go to family members if possible, and the sister said she was confident that Mailauni would also do well with her mother.

Mary Rowan (seated in blue) grabs Maulauni's arm after court hearing in June, one day before she and an aide took her to unknown locations for three months.

Mary Rowan (seated in blue) grabs Maulauni’s arm after court hearing in June, one day before she and an aide took her to unknown locations for three months.

“I was contacted by the Court Administrator’s office and asked to step in,” Rowan told Keith. Rowan was seen by this reporter handling several other probate hearings two days earlier, prior to the hearing on the Gayle Robinson case, where Rowan was also appointed temporary guardian. (Story on that below.)

The day after her appointment, Rowan and her aide went to the Faith Connections home on E. Grand Blvd. where Mailauni had been staying, and according to staff there, alleged they were going to take her shopping. They had no court order to remove her.

Mailauni then disappeared. Her mother said she was frantic, not knowing if her daughter was receiving her medications and other care. During the June hearing, Mailauni had begged to go home and said she was worried about her mother after police had damaged her home when she was taken.

As guardian, Rowan would only allow visits with her sister “in a public place,” but no one knew where she was living until three months later, on Sept. 6, attorney Folmar said.

Wayne Co. Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith

Wayne Co. Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith

At Keith’s direction, Rowan and others met with Folmar prior to the hearing. Folmar was finally told that Mailauni first stayed with Rowan’s assistant, who they alleged was qualified because she has an autistic son. Then she was moved to her sister Monique’s home in Hazel Park. Rowan allegedly exacted a pledge from the sister not to reveal her whereabouts, under threat of removing her again.

Monique Williams did not bring Mailauni to this hearing, although a Faith Connections worker brought her to the June hearing, where she expressed her desire to go home to her mother. During the Oct. 9 hearing, Rowan and her aide asked to see Mailauni even if Rowan was no longer the guardian, based on their brief acquaintance, evidently.

Keith did not rule on that request. He said the original order by George was illegal, because a change in guardianship can only be barred for a period of six months, and therefore he was dissolving that order.

He asked Folmar to file a motion for funds to be released from a State of New York settlement of the bankruptcy filed by the insurance company handling the Williams settlement, in the amount of $869,000. Folmar and Williams said the funds were needed for urgent repairs to the stove, refrigerator, and other portions of the 30-year-old home, to allow Mailauni to return to adequate housing.

Keith said that once a satisfactory inspection was done of the home was done, he would order Mailauni Williams brought back home to her mother and cancel outside guardianships. A hearing on that matter is set for Wed. Nov. 12 at 11 a.m.


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SERIAL KIDNAPPER? ATTY. MARY ROWAN TAKES SECOND ADULT WARD FROM HOME WITHOUT COURT ORDER

Gayle L. Robinson, 83, seized from home Oct. 1 against her wishes  

Medicated at Botsford Hospital for eight days before return home with son

Rowan recently removed as guardian in case of Mailauni Williams 

By Diane Bukowski 

Mary Rowan (seated in blue), grabs Mailauni Williams' arm (standing in blue) after being appointed guardian last May. She took Mailauni from her court-ordered placement and kept her for months away from her family and friends.

Mary Rowan (seated in blue), grabs Mailauni Williams’ arm (standing in blue) after being appointed guardian last May. She took Mailauni from her court-ordered placement and kept her for months away from her family, friends and attorney at undisclosed locations, also without a court order.

Oct. 18, 2014 – Shocking videos show Westland police and Katie McDonald, alleged assistant to temporary guardian/conservator Mary Rowan, seizing Gayle Robinson, 83, from her home Oct. 1 without a court order. In the videos, Mrs. Robinson says she does not want to go and does not like attorney Rowan. After two hours of debate, the officers and assistant took her to a location not disclosed to her son Randy Robinson, who lives with her, or her daughter Deborah Fox, who was present during the seizure.

Rowan is the same attorney involved as temporary guardian in the Mailauni Williams case, which VOD has been covering. She has since been removed after it came to light that she was appointed by disgraced former Macomb County Chief Probate Judge Kathryn George. At the request of Wayne County Probate Chief Judge Milton Mack, George had been serving in Wayne County on the Williams case for eight years. She is no longer there.

After an Oct. 7 probate court hearing regarding Mrs. Robinson in front of Judge Terrence Keith, VOD asked Sgt. Randall Thivierge of the Westland Police (tall bald man seen talking at length in video above) whether he had a court order to seize Mrs. Robinson. He said, “I didn’t need one. She came willingly.”

But the videos show at least two hours of discussion, with Mrs. Robinson stating clearly, “I don’t like Mary Rowan,” and that she did not want to leave. An Adult Protective Services worker and her former court-appointed attorney Ella Bully-Cummings testified during the hearing that Mrs. Robinson told them she wanted to remain in her home and that she did not have a problem with her son Randy staying there.

Attorney Ella Bully-Cummings

Attorney Ella Bully-Cummings

“What I can say is that when I talked to [Mrs. Robinson] she was calm and not agitated,” Cummings said. “She did indicate she wants to be at home, and that she doesn’t want a guardian. She said her children had stolen money from her. But she said neither Randy nor [daughter] Deborah had.”

According to testimony, Mrs. Robinson was taken to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills afterwards, where she was held in the psychiatric ward. She was not immediately admitted because she did not want to be, and due to alleged “paperwork” problems. In the meantime, she has since told her son Randy, she stayed overnight in a hotel.

At an earlier show cause hearing, Keith ordered that Robinson not be removed from her home without his express order. On Oct. 7, he ordered that she be returned promptly to her home after a medical evaluation was completed by Dr. Marlana Geha, a psychologist, but did not sanction Rowan or the police for earlier removing her without his order.  He ordered that a home health care nurse visit Mrs. Robinson at her home, and that Geha see her in her office, subsequent to her return home.

He denied requests by other siblings present to evict Randy Robinson from the home.

Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith and his book "Sunrise on the Detroit River"

Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith and his book “Sunrise on the Detroit River”

“I stand firm that she is not to be placed in a nursing home or other facility without the court’s prior written order,” Keith said. In response to references to a dispute over a home equity loan taken out by another sibling on Mrs. Robinson’s house, he ordered that any funds taken involuntarily from Mrs. Robinson by her children be returned at once.

Randy Robinson, who has petitioned the court numerous times to remove Rowan as guardian, told VOD later, “They brought my mother home Oct. 9 without any notice; they didn’t even know if I was home. She didn’t have her keys and wouldn’t have been able to get in. Just luckily I was there.”

He said that his mother appeared to have been drugged at the hospital, although she prefers natural remedies, and is suffering from the trauma of her removal. Westland police had assured her she was only going for a check-up and would be back shortly. He also told VOD that the home’s electricity was recently shut off for non-payment of its DTE bill by Rowan and that other bills remain unpaid.

Normally, according to several probate attorneys, a family member is the first choice for guardianship for an individual deemed to be legally incapacitated and a “protected person.”

At the Oct. 7 hearing, Keith said he had ordered an “Independent Medical Evaluation” (IME) of Mrs. Robinson and was angry that it had not been carried out. However, he reviewed medical documentation of an evaluation from Henry Ford Hospital physicians, where her son Randy had taken her at the recommendation of his mother’s family doctor.

Case of Robert Kilgore, Jr. posted on Stop Guardian Abuse website; photo of Dr. Marlana Geha in lower right corner.

Case of Robert Kilgore, Jr. posted on Stop Guardian Abuse website; photo of Dr. Marlana Geha in lower right corner.

The HFH records showed her to be competent and in good mental health. But Judge Keith ordered that another evaluation, including her past history, should  be completed by Dr. Geha. There had been claims she was earlier diagnosed with dementia.

Geha was involved in an earlier questionable case listed on the STOP GUARDIAN ABUSE website at http://stopguardianabuse.org/RobertKilgoreJr.htm. In the case of Robert Kilgore, Jr., now 81, Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack appointed Dr. Geha as guardian and Robert Findling as conservator.

According to a complaint filed with the Court Ombudsman’s office, Geha moved Kilgore from his home in Sumpter Township to the Belle River Pines Adult Foster Care Home in Memphis, Michigan, 77 miles away from his close friends and the VA facility where he was receiving care. The move was supposedly temporary. But Mack authorized the sale of his house for $76,000 in 2009 without Kilgore’s knowledge, and Kilgore said $162,600 in assets disappeared. He had been receiving income from Social Security, the VA, and a GM pension, but was left without money even for personal needs, according to the complaint.

Judge Keith did not rule on Randy Robinson’s most recent motion to remove Rowan as his mother’s guardian.

During the hearing, Rowan insisted several times that she would have Mrs. Robinson visit with her other children in “public places,” and would “see to it that she gets to the doctor’s office” for follow-up care. Mrs. Robinson, however, states clearly in the video above that she does not want to see her other children because they have stolen money from her.

From Rowan’s recent behavior in the case of Mailauni Williams, there is reason for alarm here.

One day after her appointment as Williams’ guardian by Judge Kathryn George, Rowan and an assistant took Mailauni from her court-ordered placement in a Detroit adult foster care home, claiming they were taking her shopping. She disappeared for months, with her mother Lennette Williams and Mailauni’s attorney Allison Folmar not informed of her whereabouts. After getting the case transferred from George to Keith, Folmar met with opposing parties and discovered that Mailauni had been staying for a while with McDonald, who is not licensed for adult foster care, then was moved to her sister’s house. There is no court order for either placement on the record. (See updated report on that case in story to follow.)

The next hearing in Gayle Robinson’s case is set for Tues. November 25.

Related stories, in case where Mary Rowan was also the guardian, appointed by disgraced former Macomb County Probate Court Chief Judge Kathryn George:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/07/21/amber-alert-rosa-parks-godchild-mailauni-williams-missing-judge-kathryn-george-loots-estate-bars-mortgage-payments-on-her-home/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/16/shady-probate-judge-kathryn-george-jails-mom-seizes-daughter-and-estate/

VOD update coming shortly on Mailauni Williams case.


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KEEP FORECLOSURE KING DAVID TROTT OUT OF CONGRESS

Trott


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AMERICANS FACE POST FORECLOSURE HELL AS WAGES GARNISHED, ASSETS SEIZED

beware-bankstersBanks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac chase the already dispossessed for more

By Michelle Conlin

Reuters

 October 10, 2014

NEW YORK – Many thousands of Americans who lost their homes in the housing bust, but have since begun to rebuild their finances, are suddenly facing a new foreclosure nightmare: debt collectors are chasing them down for the money they still owe by freezing their bank accounts, garnishing their wages and seizing their assets.

ZOMBIE DEBTS

ZOMBIE DEBTS

By now, banks have usually sold the houses. But the proceeds of those sales were often not enough to cover the amount of the loan, plus penalties, legal bills and fees. The two big government-controlled housing finance companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as other mortgage players, are increasingly pressing borrowers to pay whatever they still owe on mortgages they defaulted on years ago.

Using a legal tool known as a “deficiency judgment,” lenders can ensure that borrowers are haunted by these zombie-like debts for years, and sometimes decades, to come. Before the housing bubble, banks often refrained from seeking deficiency judgments, which were seen as costly and an invitation for bad publicity. Some of the biggest banks still feel that way.

But the housing crisis saddled lenders with more than $1 trillion of foreclosed loans, leading to unprecedented losses. Now, at least some large lenders want their money back, and they figure it’s the perfect time to pursue borrowers: many of those who went through foreclosure have gotten new jobs, paid off old debts and even, in some cases, bought new homes.

Detroiters commemorate anniversary of MLK March on Washington Aug. 28, 2011

Detroiters commemorate anniversary of MLK March on Washington Aug. 28, 2011, demand moratorium on evictions and foreclosures

“Just because they don’t have the money to pay the entire mortgage, doesn’t mean they don’t have enough for a deficiency judgment,” said Florida foreclosure defense attorney Michael Wayslik.

Advocates for the banks say that the former homeowners ought to pay what they owe. Consumer advocates counter that deficiency judgments blast those who have just recovered from financial collapse back into debt — and that the banks bear culpability because they made the unsustainable loans in the first place.

“SLAPPED TO THE FLOOR”

Borrowers are usually astonished to find out they still owe thousands of dollars on homes they haven’t thought about for years.

In 2008, bank teller Danell Huthsing broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of the concrete bungalow they shared in Jacksonville, Florida. Her name was on the mortgage even after she moved out, and when her boyfriend defaulted on the loan, her name was on the foreclosure papers, too.

Danell Huthsing/Facebook photo

Danell Huthsing/Facebook photo

She moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she managed to amass $20,000 of savings and restore her previously stellar credit score in her job as a service worker at an Amtrak station.

But on July 5, a process server showed up on her doorstep with a lawsuit demanding $91,000 for the portion of her mortgage that was still unpaid after the home was foreclosed and sold. If she loses, the debt collector that filed the suit can freeze her bank account, garnish up to 25 percent of her wages, and seize her paid-off 2005 Honda Accord.

“For seven years you think you’re good to go, that you’ve put this behind you,” said Huthsing, who cleared her savings out of the bank and stowed the money in a safe to protect it from getting seized. “Then wham, you get slapped to the floor again.”

Bankruptcy is one way out for consumers in this rub. But it has serious drawbacks: it can trash a consumer’s credit report for up to ten years, making it difficult to get credit cards, car loans or home financing. Oftentimes, borrowers will instead go on a repayment plan or simply settle the suits — without questioning the filings or hiring a lawyer — in exchange for paying a lower amount.

The clawbackThough court officials and attorneys in foreclosure-ravaged regions like Florida, Ohio and Illinois all say the cases are surging, no one keeps official tabs on the number nationally. “Statistically, this is a real difficult task to get a handle on,” said Geoff Walsh, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

Officials in individual counties say that the cases, while virtually zero a year or two ago, now number in the hundreds in each county. Thirty-eight states, along with the District of Columbia, allow financial institutions recourse to claw back these funds.

“I’ve definitely noticed a huge uptick,” said Cook County, Illinois homeowner attorney Sandra Emerson. “They didn’t include language in court motions to pursue these. Now, they do.”

“A CURSE”

Three of the biggest mortgage lenders, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co., all say that they typically don’t pursue deficiency judgments, though they reserve the right to do so. “We may pursue them on a case-by-case basis looking at a variety of factors, including investor and mortgage insurer requirements, the financial status of the borrower and the type of hardship,” said Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Goyda. The banks would not comment on why they avoid deficiency judgments.

BIGGEST ZOMBIE DEBT PURSUERS.

BIGGEST ZOMBIE DEBT PURSUERS, NOW RUN BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Perhaps the most aggressive among the debt pursuers is Fannie Mae. Of the 595,128 foreclosures Fannie Mae was involved in – either through owning or guaranteeing the loans – from January 2010 through June 2012, it referred 293,134 to debt collectors for possible pursuit of deficiency judgments, according to a 2013 report by the Inspector General for the agency’s regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

It is unclear how many of the loans that get sent to debt collectors actually get deficiency judgments, but the IG urged the FHFA to direct Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, to pursue more of them from the people who could repay them.

It appears as if Fannie Mae is doing just that. In Florida alone in the past year, for example, at least 10,000 lawsuits have been filed — representing hundreds of millions of dollars of payments, according to Jacksonville, Florida-based attorney Chip Parker.

Parker is about to file a class action lawsuit against the Dallas-based debt collection company, Dyck O’Neal, which is working to recoup the money on behalf of Fannie Mae. The class action will allege that Dyck O’Neal violated fair debt collection practices by suing people in the state of Florida who actually lived out of state. Dyck O’Neal declined to comment.

Atty. Chip Parker is fighting zombie foreclosure debts in Florida class action lawsuit.

Atty. Chip Parker is fighting zombie foreclosure debts in Florida class action lawsuit.

In Lee County, Florida, for example, Dyck O’Neal only filed four foreclosure-related deficiency judgment cases last year. So far this year, it has filed 360 in the county, which has more than 650,000 residents and includes Ft. Myers. The insurer the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Company has also filed about 1,000 cases this past year in Florida alone.

Andrew Wilson, a spokesman for Fannie Mae, said the finance giant is focusing on “strategic defaulters:” those who could have paid their mortgages but did not. Fannie Mae analyzes borrowers’ ability to repay based on their open credit lines, assets, income, expenses, credit history, mortgages and properties, according to the 2013 IG report. “Fannie Mae and the taxpayers suffered a loss. We’re focusing on people who had the ability to make a payment but decided not to do so,” said Wilson.

Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German said the decision to pursue deficiency judgments for any particular loan is made on a “case-by-case basis.”

The FHFA declined to comment.

But homeowner-defense lawyers point out that separating strategic defaulters from those who were in real distress can be tricky. If a distressed borrower suddenly manages to improve their financial position – by, for example, getting a better-paying job – they can be classified as a strategic defaulter.

Dyck O’Neal works with most national lenders and servicing companies to collect on charged-off residential real estate. It purchases foreclosure debts outright, often for pennies on the dollar, and also performs collections on a contingency basis on behalf of entities like Fannie Mae. “The debt collectors tend to be much more aggressive than the lenders had been,” the National Consumer Law Center’s Walsh said. Continue reading


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WHY THE POOR ARE PAYING FOR DETROIT’S BANKRUPTCY

Former Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept. worker Derek Grigsby and family participate in protest against bankruptcy,

Former Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept. worker Derek Grigsby and family participate in protest against bankruptcy,

Detroit’s bankruptcy is a model for how wealthier and whiter Americans escape the costs of public goods they’d otherwise share with poorer and darker Americans. Are Detroit, its public employees, poor residents, and bondholders the only ones who should sacrifice when ‘Detroit’ can’t pay its bills? Or does the relevant sphere of responsibility include Detroit’s affluent suburbs?

 By Robert Reich, Robertreich.org 

September 8, 2014

Rich suburban families prosper while Black Detroit families suffer.

Rich suburban families prosper while Black Detroit families suffer.

Detroit is the largest city ever to seek bankruptcy protection, so its bankruptcy is seen as a potential model for other American cities now teetering on the edge.

But Detroit is really a model for how wealthier and whiter Americans escape the costs of public goods they’d otherwise share with poorer and darker Americans.

Judge Steven W. Rhodes of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is now weighing Detroit’s plan to shed $7 billion of its debts and restore some $1.5 billion of city services by requiring various groups of creditors to make sacrifices.

Recommended: How skewed is America’s income inequality? Take our quiz.

Among those being asked to sacrifice are Detroit’s former city employees, now dependent on pensions and healthcare benefits the city years before agreed to pay. Also investors who bought $1.4 billion worth of bonds the city issued in 2005.

Both groups claim the plan unfairly burdens them. Under it, the 2005 investors emerge with little or nothing, and Detroit’s retirees have their pensions cut 4.5 percent, lose some health benefits, and do without cost-of-living increases.

Home on Carroll Lake, Oakland County, MI

Home on Carroll Lake, Oakland County, MI

No one knows whether Judge Rhodes will accept or reject the plan. But one thing is for certain. A very large and prosperous group close by won’t sacrifice a cent: They’re the mostly-white citizens of neighboring Oakland County.

Oakland County is the fourth wealthiest county in the United States, of counties with a million or more residents.

In fact, Greater Detroit, including its suburbs, ranks among the top financial centers, top four centers of high technology employment, and second largest source of engineering and architectural talent in America.

The median household in the County earned over $65,000 last year. The median household in Birmingham, Michigan, just across Detroit’s border, earned more than $94,000. In nearby Bloomfield Hills, still within the Detroit metropolitan area, the median was close to $105,000.

Lahser HIgh School, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Lahser HIgh School, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Detroit’s upscale suburbs also have excellent schools, rapid-response security, and resplendent parks.

Forty years ago, Detroit had a mixture of wealthy, middle class, and poor. But then its middle class and white residents began fleeing to the suburbs. Between 2000 and 2010, the city lost a quarter of its population.

By the time it declared bankruptcy, Detroit was almost entirely poor. Its median household income was $26,000. More than half of its children were impoverished.

That left it with depressed property values, abandoned neighborhoods, empty buildings, and dilapidated schools. Forty percent of its streetlights don’t work. More than half its parks closed within the last five years.

Foreclosed home in Detroit.

Foreclosed home in Detroit.

Earlier this year, monthly water bills in Detroit were running 50 percent higher than the national average, and officials began shutting off the water to 150,000 households who couldn’t pay the bills.

Official boundaries are often hard to see. If you head north on Woodward Avenue, away from downtown Detroit, you wouldn’t know exactly when you left the city and crossed over into Oakland County — except for a small sign that tells you.

But boundaries can make all the difference. Had the official boundary been drawn differently to encompass both Oakland County and Detroit – creating, say, a “Greater Detroit” – Oakland’s more affluent citizens would have some responsibility to address Detroit’s problems, and Detroit would likely have enough money to pay all its bills and provide its residents with adequate public services.

Oakland Co. Exec. L. Brooks Patterson at press conference announcing selloff of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to regional authority, under current bankruptcy plans.

Oakland Co. Exec. L. Brooks Patterson at press conference announcing selloff of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to regional authority, under current bankruptcy plans.

But because Detroit’s boundary surrounds only the poor inner city, those inside it have to deal with their compounded problems themselves. The whiter and more affluent suburbs (and the banks that serve them) are off the hook.

Any hint they should take some responsibility has invited righteous indignation. “Now, all of a sudden, they’re having problems and they want to give part of the responsibility to the suburbs?” scoffs L. Brooks Paterson, the Oakland County executive. “They’re not gonna’ talk me into being the good guy. ‘Pick up your share?’ Ha ha.”

Buried within the bankruptcy of Detroit is a fundamental political and moral question: Who are “we,” and what are our obligations to one another?

Are Detroit, its public employees, poor residents, and bondholders the only ones who should sacrifice when “Detroit” can’t pay its bills? Or does the relevant sphere of responsibility include Detroit’s affluent suburbs — to which many of the city’s wealthier resident fled as the city declined, along with the banks that serve them?

Judge Rhodes won’t address these questions. But as Americans continue to segregate by income into places becoming either wealthier or poorer, the rest of us will have to answer questions like these, eventually.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (center) at one-sided forum Oct. 10, 2012, one year before bankruptcy trial. Forum featured (l to r) Frederick Headen of state treasurer's office, who boasted he had put dozens of cities under state control; Edward Plawecki; Douglas Bernstein and Judy O'Neill, both trainers of EM's, O'Neill also a co-author of EM law PA 4; Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, chief witness for Detroit EM Kevyn Orr at bankruptcy trial.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (center) at one-sided forum on Emergency Managers and Chapter 9 bankruptcy, on Oct. 10, 2012, one year before bankruptcy trial. Forum featured (l to r) Frederick Headen of state treasurer’s office, who boasted he had put dozens of cities under state control; Edward Plawecki; Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Neill, both trainers of EM’s, O’Neill also a co-author of EM law PA 4; Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, chief witness for Detroit EM Kevyn Orr at bankruptcy trial.


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INJUSTICE IN DETROIT: SUPPORT CHICAGO PALESTINIAN LEADER IN DETROIT FEDERAL COURT OCT. 21, TRIAL NOV. 4

Rasmea_0001

Click on Rasmea-Flyeract to download the complete flyer, with support activities.

Injustice in Detroit: Ruling paves way for repressive climate at Rasmea Odeh trial; pack Judge Drain’s court, October 21, 231 W. Lafayette, Rm. 110, support esteemed Palestinian leader Oct. 21

By Rasmea Defense Committee

October 18, 2014

U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain
U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain

On October 16, Judge Gershwin Drain made an important ruling in the case of Palestinian American leader Rasmea Odeh. At issue was a bizarre motion by the prosecution that characterized the efforts of the Rasmea Defense Committee as “jury tampering” and “almost certainly criminal.”

While we are pleased that Judge Drain rejected the “Anonymous Jury” motion from the prosecution, we are still very concerned about the ruling to allow partial sequestration. The decision to have the jury meet at a secret location, and drive to the courthouse in a sealed van, creates a militarized and security state atmosphere that will cause apprehension amongst the jury members, and prompt them to believe that Rasmea is somehow dangerous. She is innocent, and this ruling does not guarantee her a fair trial.

Rasmea has done nothing wrong and the trumped up immigration charges against her should be dropped. She is an iconic leader in the Palestinian community of Chicagoland, the U.S., and the world. Forty-five years ago, she was jailed and tortured by the Israeli authorities. That she is facing jail again, this time at the hands of Detroit’s U.S. Attorney, Barbara McQuade, is nothing short of shameful.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade at Detroit police press conference June 30, 2013. The FBI, under the Justice Dept., had just assassinated Black Muslim leader Imam Luqman Abdullah in Dearborn in 2009.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade at Detroit police press conference June 30, 2013. The FBI, under the Justice Dept., had just assassinated Black Muslim leader Imam Luqman Abdullah in Dearborn in 2009.

The prosecution’s talk about “jury tampering” is an attempt at intimidation and an act of desperation. McQuade’s office is trying to criminalize activities protected by the first amendment, like protesting outside the courthouse and calling the Department of Justice to demand the charges against Rasmea be dropped.

We urge all supporters of civil liberties and Rasmea Odeh to join us in Detroit for her next hearing October 21 at 11 a.m. before Judge Drain in the U.S. District Court at 231 W. Lafayette, Room 110. Rasmea’s trial starts November 4. Let’s pack the courtroom!

Drop the charges against Rasmea Odeh!

www.uspcn.organd www.stopfbi.net for more information

Media Contact: Hatem Abudayyeh, 773.301.4108, hatem85@yahoo.com

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UNITED NATIONS TOWN HALL MEETING ON WATER SHUT-OFFS SUN. OCT. 19 WCCC

UN water meeting Detroit
MWRO STATEMENT ON BANKRUPTCY COURT DENIAL OF DETROIT HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER

 Monday, September 29, 2014

MWRO’s statement on today’s decision by the federal bankruptcy court NOT to stop residential water shut-offs, restore water to residential customers without water, NOR implement a water affordability based on fixed incomes for low-income seniors, families with children and persons with disabilities:

Of course, we are not surprised that our capacity to seek relief from the Federal Courts no longer exists! The fact that low income customers were ushered into court and testified how miserable their lives were because water was cut-off without an option for them to make arrangements with the DWSD could not have impacted the Court because the Court concentrated on what the 1% needed to continue their reign of terror tied to the Emergency Manager and this bankruptcy ploy.

International protest against Detroit water shut-offs in downtown Detroit July 18, 2014.

International protest against Detroit water shut-offs in downtown Detroit July 18, 2014.

This is the humanitarian crisis of our times here in America, where every step we take is being analyzed to see which fights we launch as the corporate class encroaches on our standard of living. Denying specific populations access to clean drinking water was today deemed legal even though rich and wealthy water customers receive a different standard of treatment. Millions are owed by these corporate pirates while $150 and two months behind is the rule applied to our constituency — a position clearly supported by the Federal Court. 

Poor people, their children, seniors, the disabled, veterans — it doesn’t matter — if you can’t pay for water, you can’t have it. Go to the river with a bucket and get what you need still remains the sentiment by this draconian class and they have no shame in taking this position. This sham court-case was just that…a plot to look like justice would prevail if we just had a chance to plead our case. The answer was always going to be NO!!!

So what are we going to do…give up the fight for social justice? We think not!

Protesters block water shut-off trucks from leaving Homrich facility July 18, 2014.

Protesters block water shut-off trucks from leaving Homrich facility July 18, 2014.

In the movie, The Untouchables, the question was asked, “What are you prepared to do about this??” When brilliant lawyers went to court to file suit against slavery, and against lynching, at first the Court said “NO”…there is no enforceable right to not be lynched if that is the custom in that area of the country! The Court’s explained that with the laws on the books at that time, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, women, children, and other oppressed folks should be able to manage their lives and avoid pain and suffering, and if not, they had every right to return to Court! Madness and Madness today!

Our case demonstrated great attorneys, courageous plaintiffs, determined advocates versus conservative, corporate courts who prefer the company of the rich & famous and will not rock the “status quo.” We march on…

Maureen D. Taylor

State Chairperson – MI Welfare Rights Org 

RELATED:

DB adversary complaint water shutoffs 7 21 14

DB DAREA objection re water shutoffs

BANKRUPCY JUDGE SAYS NO ENFORCEABLE RIGHT TO FREE AND AFFORDABLE WATER–By Curt Guyette

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/08/26/detroiters-ask-judge-to-bar-water-shut-offs-until-lawsuit-resolved-hearing-tues-sept-2/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/08/03/detroit-water-shut-offs-city-takeover-still-on-full-blast/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/07/16/detroit-bankruptcy-bombshells-water-shut-offs-false-retiree-ballots-natl-rally-july-18-court-july-21/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/07/10/pastors-community-leaders-arrested-blocking-homrich-gates-to-stop-detroit-water-shut-offs/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/25/stop-water-shut-offs-detroiters-take-demand-to-united-nations/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/05/28/mass-water-shut-offs-mass-incarceration-at-mound-road-prison-for-protesters/

People's Water Board Coalition protests outside Water Board building in downtown Detroit in 2012.

People’s Water Board Coalition protests outside Water Board building in downtown Detroit in 2012.

PEOPLE’S WATER BOARD COALITION CALLS REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY AN ASSAULT AGAINST DEMOCRACY AND THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER

 Community calls for protection and representation for all region’s residents

Lynna Kaucheck, Food & Water Watch, (586) 556-8805

Tawana Petty, People’s Water Board, (313) 433-9882

Sept. 10, 2014 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, flanked by officials from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, announces plan to take DWSD from people and workers of Detroit.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, flanked by officials from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, announces plan to take DWSD from people and workers of Detroit. Photo: Diane Bukowski

Detroit, Mich. – The People’s Water Board decried Mayor Mike Duggan’s plan to create a regional water authority as undemocratic and a threat to the human right to water for many in the region. We have access to the largest body of surface freshwater in the world, so it would seem abundance and access should not be an issue. However the manner of governing this valuable resource as responsible environmental stewards for the world has left many communities without trust.

The deal was negotiated behind closed doors without any input from the public and is the next step on the pathway to privatization. It takes away the rights of both the Detroit City Council and the citizens of Detroit to have input on big decisions impacting the system.

“Suburban customers should not be fooled into thinking that this deal gives them more control or influence over the water system,” said Lynna Kaucheck of the People’s Water Board. “The new authority will be made up of unelected officials who are accountable to no one. People need to know that this deal doesn’t take privatization off the table.”

Protesters demand a stop to water privatization.
Protesters demand a stop to water privatization.

Veolia Water North America, the largest private water company operating in the United States, has been hired to evaluate the management of the system and clearly has a vested interest in privatization. Privatization typically results in skyrocketing rates, decreased service quality and the loss of jobs. In fact, corporate profits, dividends and income taxes can add 20 to 30 percent to operation and maintenance costs, and a lack of competition and poor negotiation skills can leave local governments with expensive contracts. In the Great Lakes region, large private water companies charge more than twice as much as cities charge for household water service. This is not the solution for Detroit or the region.

 “The regionalization plan is unacceptable. We need a system that is accountable and transparent and that works for all its customers,” said Tawana Petty of the People’s Water Board. “We want an elected board of water commissioners. We want to reduce costs for the region through bulk purchasing and resource sharing. And we want to implement the Affordability Plan as passed by Detroit City Council in 2005. Detroit and suburban leaders need to protect residents and democratize the system.”

The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water, and promotes awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources.

The People’s Water Board includes: AFSCME Local 207, Baxter’s Beat Back the Bullies Brigade, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Green Party, Detroit People’s Platform, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Food & Water Watch, FLOW, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Matrix Theater, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War& Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy, Voices for Earth Justice and We the People of Detroit.

Related:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/09/10/detroit-bankruptcy-great-lakes-water-authority-to-steal-largest-asset-of-largest-u-s-black-city-4/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/08/21/near-catastrophic-failure-of-detroit-sewage-pumps-caused-detroit-floods-toledo-water-crisis-city-retirees-say/


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DETROIT BANKRUPTCY: CREDITOR FGIC TO GET JOE LOUIS ARENA, BILLIONS BASED ON FRAUDULENT POC DEAL

Lawyers and financial advisors for the City of Detroit (meaning EM Kevyn Orr, seated center) and creditor FGIC, gather with mediator Judge Gerald Rosen (to left of Orr) after reaching proposed deal, at 2 a.m. Oct. 16, 2014.

Lawyers and financial advisors for the City of Detroit (meaning EM Kevyn Orr, seated center) and creditor FGIC, gather with mediator Judge Gerald Rosen (to left of Orr) after reaching proposed deal, at 2 a.m. Oct. 16, 2014. Bloomberg did not even identify Orr in this courtesy photo.

DETROIT CREDITORS SEEKING CASH WILL SETTLE FOR “THE JOE”

By Steven Church and Chris Christoff

Oct 16, 2014 5:47 PM ET Bloomberg

 (Headline at  very top is by Voice of Detroit. VOD analysis in the works. These creditors should instead be going to jail under the RICO act for conspiracy to commit fraud, along with lenders UBS, BOA, SBS Financial, and various others. Former Detroit CFO Sean Werdlow among other city officials should also be indicted. The creditors’ claim is based on the  disastrous $1.5 billion COPS loans of 2005-06. As part of this deal, the “City” –meaning Kevyn Orr/Jones Day–will withdraw its lawsuit against the loan, in which it called the deal “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable.” In an independent analysis, Wallace Turbeville of DEMOS concurred, and went further to declare the Detroit bankruptcy a hoax.)

Joe Louis Arena (bottom) on valuable Detroit riverfront property.
Joe Louis Arena (bottom) on valuable Detroit riverfront property.

DETROIT — A milestone agreement in Detroit’s record bankruptcy requires its last major creditors to help revitalize the city’s downtown in return for cutting their losses from a $1.4 billion pension deal that went sour.

Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. would indirectly own and pay to redevelop the riverfront site of Joe Louis Arena — home of the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings — which will be demolished in 2017 when a new arena opens a mile away. FGIC would also get a share of $141.4 million in new notes in a deal announced today in federal court in Detroit.

The agreement brings the city closer to resolving its $18 billion bankruptcy, and would put a group of creditors that includes Aurelius Capital Management LP and and BlueMountain Capital Management LLC, owed about $1.1 billion, in charge of building a hotel and retail space in a downtown that city leaders view as a linchpin of economic recovery.

“There wasn’t any more cash,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in an interview. “They made an assessment that their best chance for a return was to participate in Detroit’s redevelopment.

Mike Duggan gives away DWSD, announcing regional authority Sept. 9, 2014. Photo: Diane Bukowski
Mike Duggan gives away DWSD, announcing regional authority Sept. 9, 2014. Photo: Diane Bukowski

‘‘The more successful their development is, the more of their claim they get back. It’s great for both of us.”

The deal is modeled on one the city struck with another bond insurer, Syncora Guarantee Inc. Both companies insured $1.4 billion of pension debt that won’t be repaid under the city’s debt-cutting proposal.

Instead, the bond insurers would collect cash, notes and land that they would use to help pay the pension debt holders. Depending on the structure of the final deal, Aurelius and the other investors would indirectly own from 83 percent to more than 90 percent of the land under the FGIC deal.

No Deal

The debt holders have not yet agreed to a deal, but may do so in the next few days, said their attorney, Thomas Moers Mayer.

Requiring creditors to invest more in the city is at least rare, and may be unprecedented in a municipal bankruptcy, attorney James E. Spiotto said in an interview. The deal resembles a corporate restructuring, he said.

“To some degree it’s a lot like Chapter 11, where they are giving them a chance to buy equity in the debtor,” Spiotto said. “They have to put something into it to get something out.”

Mayer said the arena and its parking garage would be owned by a trust for the benefit of the debt holders and managed by FGIC.

‘The Joe’

Statue of Joe Louis at Cobo Hall, also given away to regional authority, with back turned to wealthy elite celebrating Auto Show Jan. 18, 2013.
Statue of Joe Louis at Cobo Hall, also given away to regional authority, with back turned to wealthy elite celebrating Auto Show Jan. 18, 2013.

Nicknamed “The Joe,” the hulking, windowless edifice was built by the city in the late 1970s to keep the Red Wings from moving to a suburb. It was host for the 1980 Republican National Convention, where Ronald Reagan was nominated candidate for president.

Built as part of a downtown revitalization plan, it now will give way to another one 35 years later.

The redeveloped site would book-end a commercial-entertainment district with a $650 million development anchored by the new hockey arena to the north. That project, led by billionaire Mike Illitch, owner of the Red Wings, also would include a hotel, residential housing and retail establishments.

While Detroit continues to lose population, 10,800 jobs have been added in the central business district since 2010, when 52,100 employees worked in the area, according to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Clearing Blight

Sculpture in black of Joe Louis' fist in downtown Detroit. To many Black Americans, Joe Louis represented the defeat of white supremacy.
Sculpture in black of Joe Louis’ fist in downtown Detroit. To many Black Americans, Joe Louis represented the defeat of white supremacy, now embodied in “blight (Black) removal” plans.

The settlement would enable Detroit to carry out a rebuilding program that calls for spending of at least $440 million clearing blight from troubled neighborhoods.

During the hearing, Mayer told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes that the hedge funds pulled out last night when they learned of a last-minute change in the proposal.

Mayer said in an interview that his clients were ready to join the deal last night when they learned that an upfront cash payment of about $171 million would instead be spread out over several years.

Whether the hedge funds get the payment up front or over time, they are still getting more than what Detroit had initially proposed, Mayer said. The city had estimated pension bondholders would get back no more than about 10 percent of the $1.4 billion they are owed.

FGIC and the bondholders would have three years to build a hotel and the retail center on the site. The development may be completed by 2022, said Corinne Ball, a lawyer for the city.

Three Approvals

FGIC was taken over by the State of New York in 2011, after earlier declaring bankruptcy.

FGIC was taken over by the State of New York in 2011, after earlier declaring bankruptcy.

The deal needs at least three approvals before it’s final. New York state regulators that oversee FGIC must sign off, as must the Detroit city council or, if the council rejects it, a Michigan loan board that helps oversee Detroit’s finances. Rhodes has the final say on the settlement and the overall plan, which would shed about $7 billion of debt.

Detroit already reached settlements with other creditors, including public pension systems, under court-supervised mediation in the past year.

Rhodes scheduled a hearing for next week, saying he still plans to hear testimony from a court-appointed expert hired to examine the city’s proposal.

Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July 2013, following decades of decline. The city listed $18 billion in liabilities and said it couldn’t meet its financial obligations while still providing necessary services to the public.

At the center of the plan is an agreement with the state of Michigan and large philanthropies to protect Detroit’s art collection in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up public pension funds. Some opponents said the art should be sold or used to secure loans to repay creditors.

FGIC agreed to drop all its objections to the plan under the deal.

“We are happy to report what has seemed like Detroit’s own version of the Gordian knot has been cut,” Ball said today in court. “We now have it done.”

The case is In re City of Detroit, 13-bk-53846, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).


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