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Blockade at Homrich and Following the Shutoff Truck when the Blockade was Broken from Kate Levy on Vimeo.

Numerous protests, courageous blockades and arrests, bring 15-day ‘pause’ with conditions, not ban on shut-offs of life’s necessity

“Water should be free”–Homrich security guard

Orr hand-off of Water Dept. to Duggan meaningless; U.S. District Judge Sean Cox severed city’s control in 2011 

Bankruptcy mediation on privatization/sale of Dept. proceeds; water bondholders will reap over $5 billion from Plan of Adjustment  

By Diane Bukowski 

August 1, 2014 

UPDATE: The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department has announced it is extending the “freeze” on shut-offs from Aug. 6 to Aug. 24, to allow for customers to pay their grossly inflated bills.

DETROIT – The water wars here continue unabated, despite declarations of at least partial victory by some advocates and media.

Massive march against Detroit water shut-offs downtown July 18, 2014.

Massive march against Detroit water shut-offs downtown July 18, 2014. National Union of Nurses, others participated during convention.

The issue has been brought to the United Nations. International protests against thousands of shut-offs to poor families, seniors, and disabled people have included deliveries of water by a Canadian caravan and by West Virginia coal miners, a rally of thousands in Hart Plaza led by the National Nurses Union, and the first discussion of the water shut-offs in Bankruptcy Court.

Courageous protesters have twice blockaded the gates at Homrich Wrecking, putting their bodies on the line to stop the shut-off trucks from rolling. Water brigades have established community water supply hubs, going door to door in the neighborhoods.

(L to r) Baxter Jones, Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman, and Marian Kramer (at far end of banner) were among those arrested during second Homrich water shut-offs blockade July 18, 2014.

(L to r) Baxter Jones, Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman, and Marian Kramer (at far end of banner) were among those arrested during second Homrich water shut-offs blockade July 18, 2014.

Most recently Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said he was handing control of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) over to Mayor Mike Duggan. Along with DWSD’s 15-day “pause” in shut-offs and a “water fair,” some have declared significant progress.

In an article titled, “Water warriors say Orr’s hand off to Duggan is a victory,” the Michigan Citizen quoted Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. She termed Orr’s announcement a “pretty good victory . . . [the EM] dropped the water issue like a hot potato. It was a smart move.”

The paper did qualify the story, citing doubts about Duggan’s stance.

Flush water shutoff criminals Kevyn Orr and Mike Duggan (center) and (clockwise) Judges Rosen, Rhodes, Roger Homrich, Gov Rick Snyder, BOWC chair Walter Fausone, DWSD Director Sue McCormick, down the toilet of history.

Flush water shutoff criminals Kevyn Orr and Mike Duggan (center) and (clockwise) Judges Rosen, Rhodes, Roger Homrich, Gov Rick Snyder, BOWC chair Walter Fausone, DWSD Director Sue McCormick, down the toilet of history.

“We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in community outreach to tell our residents how to access those funds.”

But he still blamed customers delinquent in their payments, which can be as high as $70 a month, and offered no solution for lower rates. The original Water Affordability Plan, never approved in that form, mandated rates calculated according to a customer’s income.

Homrich CEO Roger Homrich (center) with facility boss at left and police officer.
Homrich CEO Roger Homrich (center) with facility boss at left and police officer during July 18, 2014 water shut-offs blockade.

“When some Detroit residents don’t pay their bills, those bills have to be paid by other Detroiters,” Duggan said. “So all bills that remain uncollected this year must be paid for by higher rates on all Detroiters next year.”

In fact, DWSD has long charged Detroiters higher sewerage rates to compensate for delinquencies, and additionally attached the delinquencies to property tax bills, meaning Detroiters can lose not only their water and children (to Child Protective Services), but also their homes.

The daily media including the UK-based Guardian have also claimed Orr turned complete control of DWSD over to Duggan. (Ironically, the UK and other countries forbid water shut-offs, period, even by privately-owned water companies like Thames Water.)

“Control of Detroit’s massive municipal water department, which has been widely criticized by the United Nations and others for widespread service shutoffs to thousands of customers, has been returned to the mayor’s office,” trumpeted the Guardian.

Teacher Sheela Crenshaw (r) with protesters Jean Vortkamp (l) and Ann Rall (center) at Homrich blockade.
Teacher Sheela Crenshaw (r) with protesters Jean Vortkamp (l) and Ann Rall (center) at Homrich blockade.

That report is a blatant falsehood. As a state-appointed official, Orr has no authority to countermand the severance of mayoral and city control over DWSD by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox in 2011.

Orr’s order #30 says, “Consistent with Emergency Manager Order No. 20, the EM has determined that, at the present time, it is in the best interests of the city that the Mayor be granted the power and authority that the Mayor would have had with respect to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the Board of Water Commissioners for DWSD absent PA 436 in order to aid the EM in providing necessary governmental services essential to the public health, safety and welfare . . .” (emphasis by author).

Detroit lost control of DWSD well before the enactment of Public Act 436 in Dec. 2012.

“We first lost control way back in 1977, when [U.S. District Court] Judge John Feikens put the Wastewater Treatment Plant under federal oversight while Coleman Young was mayor,” city retiree Cornell Squires recalled.

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox
U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, a member of the reactionary Federalist Society, declared an end to the oversight in 2011, but not before axing Detroit’s control of the $6 billion, six-county system the city built and financed through the previous century, in the face of suburban refusal to pay for it themselves.

 In Feb. and Nov. of 2011, Cox issued two orders. He reconstituted the seven-member Board of Water Commissioners, giving veto power over DWSD contracts and rates to the three members from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, by requiring a supermajority vote of 5-2. He appointed Wayne County’s Water Board member Walter Fausone, who has ties with water contractors, as chair of the Board, replacing Mary Blackmon of Detroit.

Flouting Detroit’s City Charter, he eliminated Detroit residents’ right to vote on the sale of DWSD assets, as well as the city’s privatization ordinance limiting the bid-out of public work.

Bypassing Detroit’s mayor, he vested most executive control of DWSD in its director. The Water Board later appointed Sue McCormick of Ann Arbor to that position. McCormick and the Water Board contracted with Toronto-based EMA, which recommended the elimination of 80 percent of DWSD’s workers. Large numbers have already been laid off.

Protesters ready themselves for police assault at Homrich July 18, 2014.

Protesters ready themselves for police assault at Homrich July 18, 2014.

While disenfranchising residents, Cox executed a broad-ranging attack on workers’ rights guaranteed by union contracts, Civil Service, and state law. He also targeted Black-owned Detroit-based businesses and resident workers, limiting their access to DWSD work by reducing or eliminating previously guaranteed credits in contract selection. He axed provisions of the Charter requiring DWSD contractors to be current in their city taxes before approval.

The work begun by Cox now continues in secret mediation sessions with water bondholders. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen, also a Federalist Society member, is the mediator, appointed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes.

Homrich workers waited for seven hours to get into work to shut off Detroiters' water July 18, 2014.

Homrich workers waited for seven hours to get into work to shut off Detroiters’ water July 18, 2014.

The Plan of Adjustment includes payment of over $5 billion in uncontested debt to water bondholders, with more to be considered during the trial on the “Plan of Adjustment.” Some bondholders whose claims were considered “impaired” voted “NO” on the plan.

The false perceptions of some that protests have attained significant victories in the water wars do not negate the courage in particular of those who put their bodies on the line at Homrich Wrecking’s terminal twice.

Child protester smiles at mom as he quenches thirst on Homrich blockade July 18, 2014.
Child protester smiles at mom as he quenches thirst on Homrich blockade July 18, 2014.

VOD covered the second blockade July 18, which lasted from 6 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. It took place as thousands from the convention, including the National Nurses Union, rallied against the shut-offs downtown. Several of the blockade protesters repeatedly called downtown for reinforcements, but sadly, they were offered pizzas, not people.

Several protesters holding the main banner and two beautiful auxiliary banners depicting children brushing their teeth and taking a bath stood on the line without relief for the entire seven hours.

News trucks from all the major Detroit stations, along with reporters from many sources, stood vigil with the protesters for the entire time.

The blockaders chanted, “If the water don’t flow, the trucks won’t go,” and “Water is a human right, fight, fight, fight.”

They paraphrased the classic spiritual, singing, “Wade in the water, wade in the water, children, wade in the water, God’s a-going to trouble the water. See that host all dressed in white, God’s a-going to trouble the water, it must be the ones saying water is a human right; who are the ones all dressed in red, must be the ones that Charity led. God’s a-going to trouble the water.”

Charity Hicks, mother of Detroit water movement.
Charity Hicks, mother of Detroit water movement.

The reference was to Charity Hicks, a nationally-renowned human rights organizer. She was the first to be arrested and subjected to brutal conditions in the Mound Road prison for two days, as she advocated for her neighbors during one of Homrich’s first shut-0ff assaults. Shortly afterwards, while attending a convention in New York City, she was hit by a car that kept on going. She lingered in a coma for weeks before passing July 8. (See obituary below.)

“Charity was unruly and unrulable,” Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman, a leader of the blockade, told the crowd. “She told them, ‘Not on this block, not in this city.’ Her actions embodied and signaled the movement.”

Numerous others paid tribute to Charity as well, including Nelson Massen, a leader of the “Moral Mondays” protests in Greenwood, N.C.

Valerie Jean recounted her own neighborhood protest in the North End against the water shut-offs.

Valerie Jean speaks at Homrich blockade July 18, 2014.
Valerie Jean speaks at Homrich blockade July 18, 2014, while Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman calls for reinforcements.

“We need to organize the neighborhoods to stop the shut-offs,” she said. “When they came to my house, I told him numerous times not to shut off my water. I took pictures. Eventually they left me alone. I advocated for my neighbors as well. Now we’ve established a water hub and a food hub there. The whole neighborhood is participating. Along with water, people brought baby wipes to help those without water keep clean.”


Protester Sheena Crenshaw, a Detroit Public Schools teacher, said, “It’s a travesty in this American society that we can’t figure out how to get people access to a human right.”

Jaron Garza, a member of UAW Local 160, said a friend had called him for assistance as he was headed downtown to the “big” protest, and he came instead to the blockade, bringing bottled water for the protesters.

UAW member answers call to aid protesters, bringing water to Homrich blockade.
UAW member Jason Garza answers call to aid protesters, bringing water to Homrich blockade.

Even a Homrich security guard, going off-duty, told VOD, “I think water should be free.”

 Those eventually arrested, with police threatening they would hold them “as long as possible,” included young people bravely experiencing their first arrest.

Baxter Jones, arrested during the first blockade, placed his wheelchair in front of the banner as police finally arrived at 1:30 pm. He was first to be arrested and hauled into a special, broken-down, allegedly wheelchair accessible truck police had brought for him.

“Water is sacred to us,” Jones told a local TV news reporter. “They are depriving people of water instead of finding a way around this. It seems like their only motivation is greed. I cannot stand by and not speak out. An injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

Marian Kramer (in red T-shirt proclaiming "Fight Poverty, Not the Poor," is arrested and put on police bus.
Marian Kramer (in red T-shirt proclaiming “Fight Poverty, Not the Poor,”} is arrested and put on police bus.

Marian Kramer of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, still grieving the recent death of her husband and comrade General Baker, a co-founder of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, stood strong as she was handcuffed and led aboard the police bus.


Seven others were arrested, as Detroit police watched gleefully, and the blockade was broken. Dozens of Homrich workers drove into the facility to start their work in the streets of Detroit. As shown in the video at top, this reporter and Kate Levy trailed one worker, seeking to counter false allegations that the workers were going to cut water back on.

The arrested protesters were released shortly afterwards from the Detroit Detention Center at the back of the Mound Road facility, likely to keep them from long-term detainment, during which they would have witnessed the barbaric conditions in the state holding tank which Charity Hicks described to VOD after her arrest.

Baxter Jones, in battered police truck, proclaims "Beat Back the Bullies."
Baxter Jones, in battered police truck, proclaims “Beat Back the Bullies.”

There is clearly a long way to go in the battle for Detroit residents’ right to water. That battle, however, must NOT be divorced from the battle against the bankruptcy takeover of the entire city. EM Kevyn Orr declared that the water shut-offs are only part of the re-structuring of Detroit.

 It will also include the demolition of 70,000 homes under the direction of the Blight Task Force headed by billionaire Dan Gilbert, many of which could be rehabbed by Detroit’s youth trained to be skilled trades workers, the removal of 40,000 streetlights under the Public Lighting Authority, and the severance of other services to wide swaths of the city’s neighborhoods.

Heroes of Homrich blockade.

Heroes of Homrich blockade.

Earlier VOD stories on Judge Sean Cox’s takeover of DWSD:

Charity obit_0001Charity obit_0002Charity obit 3Charity obit_0004Charity obit_0005Charity obit_0006Charity obit_0007Charity obit_0008

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First target: fraudulent foreclosures by state, county, city officials, lawyers

 Congressional candidate David Trott among worst offenders

 Whole court system is corrupt at all levels, group says

By Diane Bukowski


August 2, 2014

Homeowner Crystal Price and David Schied discuss the formation of RICObusters.
Homeowner Krystal Price and David Schied discuss the formation of RICObusters.

Novi, Michigan – Leaders and supporters of RICObusters gathered at the home of David Scheid July 29 to announce and view newly-produced videos describing their battles against fraud and corruption in the entire criminal justice system.


They are beginning with the issue of fraudulent foreclosures, but they are taking on wrongful criminal convictions and other issues as well.The stunning videos are professionally done, aided by Scheid’s previous experience in Hollywood, and are being reproduced here with the permission of RICObusters, which has a website at

Their leaders include Krystal Price, who has been battling the theft of her own home by Bank of America and Trott & Trott for years, Scheid, who has a background in investigative journalism as well, and paralegal Cornell Squires. They have been helping homeowners fight illegal foreclosures pro se in courts across Michigan for years.

Scheid watches U.S. Congressional Candidate David Trott, owner of the largest foreclosure mill in the region, on video.
Scheid watches U.S. Congressional Candidate David Trott, owner of the largest foreclosure mill in the region, on video.


“These are planned and formulated crimes involving racketeering by our public officials, lawyers, judges, notaries and others who should be prosecuted under RICO by the people themselves,” Scheid told the gathering. RICO is the federal Racketeer and Corrupt Organizations Act.

He said people’s grand juries must be formed across the U.S. to prosecute these crimes, since the formal court system is virtually useless to the common people.

Squires said, “These officials are supposed to represent the Constitution of the United States, but they act like it doesn’t exist.”

Price said, “They are criminal perpetrators who steal homeowners’ property.” She said she was victimized by the most prominent law firm involved in foreclosures and evictions, Trott & Trott. Astoundingly, the firm’s owner, David Trott, is running for U.S. Congress in the current elections.

Ricobusters Wayne Co officialsLocally, the group is targeting Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and his minions, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, and the Wayne County Sheriff’s office, among others. They particularly focus on sheriff’s deeds that have been fraudulently executed by those with no authority to do so, and sworn to by alleged “notaries” who regularly exchange duties with the executors.

They also target the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The group’s videos, the first three of which have been posted on You Tube and are reproduced here, are described as follows. The compelling videos themselves are the best tellers of RICObusters’ story, beginning with Segment 1, shown at the top of this story. Each of the three shown here are about one-half hour in length.

Homeowner and RICObusters leader Crystal Price.
Homeowner and RICObusters leader Krystal Price.

“Welcome to RICO Busters, providing you with the tools of grassroots success in exposing and rooting out abuses of corporate and government power, and reinstating honesty and transparency in these power structures. This program is FOR the People and BY the People. WE are the whistleblowers. WE are the investigators. And WE THE PEOPLE are demonstrating the taking back of our responsibilities AS America’s real government.

“The fact is that we have a revolving door between the judicial and executive branches of the state. Indeed this is happening throughout the United States. There are no checks and balances. Instead, our public ‘servants’ are regularly engaging in aiding and abetting each other as they use color of law and administrative procedure to deprive the rest of us of our due process rights, and to pad their own bank accounts with our money and property. They operate with no morality or ethics, and no rule of law.

Cornell Squires on video
Cornell Squires, RICObusters leader and homeowner


“We are right now living in a lawless state – a lawless America. The time has come to define ourselves as Americans. Will we continue to be on the bandwagon that has led Americans to become hated instead of admired all over the world because of our self-serving greed and legal maneuvering? Or will we be part of the growing movement that is taking on a personal responsibility for getting back under OUR control a corporate-government oligarchy run amuck. There is no doubt by many that we need to get government back in its “box,” and back within its confines of our state and the United States constitutions.

“RICO Busters brings to you this series of connected investigative reports spotlighting racketeering and corruption by public officials across the state of Michigan. One objective of this series is to bring back the kind of investigative journalism that has long been mostly missing in the mainstream of local and national news reporting. Another objective is to expose those who are believed to be the domestic terrorists in government. These are officials who – leaving little room for doubt – have long been posturing for positions for personal gain and political power. These are people who present the strong appearance of providing comfort and cover to their peer group of other treasonous criminals rather than living up to their own Oaths of public office to serve and protect the People’s constitutionally guaranteed AMERICAN rights.”


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Retirees protest AFSCME's betrayal on bankruptcy eligibility appeal outside Co 25 headquarters in Detroit July 31, 2014.

Retirees protest AFSCME’s betrayal on bankruptcy eligibility appeal outside Co 25 headquarters in Detroit July 31, 2014.


“THIS is what a union looks like!”

“Win or lose, we need to fight! We can’t lie down and die!”

By Diane Bukowski 

July 31, 2014 

DETROIT – As unions and retirement systems allegedly prepared to retract their Sixth Circuit Court appeals of Detroit’s bankruptcy eligibility today, an impromptu protest at Michigan AFSCME Council 25’s headquarters took place. Al Garrett, Council 25 President, had told VOD yesterday that AFSCME was definitely withdrawing its appeal.

“They just need to uphold the State Constitution, which says that public pensions shall not be impaired,” said AFSCME retiree Ezza Brandon, who has led many protests against Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s declaration of bankruptcy.

AFSCME retiree Ezza Brandon stands strong outside union HQ.

AFSCME retiree Ezza Brandon stands strong outside union HQ.

“We feel betrayed,” she went on. “Our unions didn’t represent the truth. Pensioners did not know about the additional 6.75 percent on top of the annuity savings clawback until after the vote. It came out accidentally in court. Plus they let people vote twice, and their signatures were not on the same page as the Yes and No checkmarks.”

The protesters, brandishing signs, chanted, “THIS is what a union looks like.”

AFSCME Co. 25 Pres. Al Garrett (l) confronts protesters, speaking here with Ezza Brandon (l).

AFSCME Co. 25 Pres. Al Garrett (l) confronts protesters, speaking here with Ezza Brandon (r). Retirees William Davis and Cecily McClellan listen.

Garrett tried to defend the AFSCME leadership’s stance, claiming AFSCME alone spent thousands of its money [read dues-paying members’ money] on attorneys to fight the bankruptcy, and that the union got “the best we could.”In fact, the United Auto Workers and the Detroit pension systems, among others, also hired high-priced attorneys, who the protesters said must have given equally rotten advice for the money they got.

Garrett said, “Unless something changes, the appeal will be withdrawn.” Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ruth Gibbons gave appellants until the end of today, July 31 at midnight to decide. Regarding state constitutional protections of public pensions, Garrett said attorneys advised the union that a court challenge would be uncertain and that the union considers that issue no longer valid.

Cecily McClellan, of Concerned Detroit Citizens, Active Employees and Retirees, countered, “This is having a snowball effect all over the country, with other pension systems now under attack. We want the appeal to go forward. Why couldn’t the union at least let it do so forward without oral arguments? There are no guarantees of anything in this plan—the cuts could increase. It is atrocious to think that the union would not stand up for the Michigan Constitution. CalPERS, the biggest public employee union in the country, should have the opportunity to speak as well based on its amicus brief.”

Virginia Williams, UAW retiree

Virginia Williams, UAW retiree

Virginia Williams, a UAW retiree from Ford Motor Company, said, “It’s happening to thousands and thousands of workers everywhere. Where is our union leadership’s compassion, why aren’t they fighting? How are the unions even going to survive if they don’t stand up? Do they suddenly have a ‘new purpose’ for existing?”She said UAW retiree health care benefits have been cut like those for city workers, after they gave up concessions supposedly to help the Big Three auto companies survive.

“Now they’re prospering, but there is no guarantee they’re going to do anything to give us back what we gave up. Bob King even said if they don’t organize a couple of plants in the South, the union will be crushed. In the Romulus school district, AFSCME allowed the entire union to be wiped out, they didn’t fight for them. We need to come together in all the unions to fight!”

Jean Vortkamp, who initiated the protest although she is not herself a city retiree, said her family members are friends are.

“This will impoverish my family, friends, the neighborhoods, all the children of Detroit will be affected,” she said. “Win or lose, we need to fight. We can’t just lay down and die.”

Jean Vortkamp at protest outside AFSCME HQ July 31, 2014.

Jean Vortkamp at protest outside AFSCME HQ July 31, 2014.

A State of Michigan retiree from Auburn Hills who came said, “If they get away with it with City of Detroit workers, they can attack the rest of us as well.

William Davis, who worked in the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, said he stands to lose $142,000 from his annuity savings under the plan of adjustment. He raised the massive privatization plans being worked out during the bankruptcy mediation sessions. Privatization plans for the city’s Municipal Parking Department were just raised today as well. Ongoing privatization will essentially gut the retirement systems.

Garrett asked this reporter what he had ever done to sell out the membership. VOD countered that he had signed a letter that she has possession of agreeing to allow workers at the Detroit Institute of Arts to be privatized. Now the entire art collection, recently appraised at $8.2 billion, has been given away by a vote of the City Council under terms of the POA

“I signed that because my boss told me to,” Garrett said. “Plus the workers wanted it.” In fact, DIA workers fought the privatization of their jobs and the resultant dramatic cuts in their salaries afterwards.

Protesters said McNeil earlier came out to confront them, but that when they tried to raise their concerns to him, he would not listen.

The late Leamon Wilson, Pres. of AFSCME Local 312.

The late Leamon Wilson, Pres. of AFSCME Local 312.

Note from VOD: Detroit public sanitation and bus mechanic workers first were organized by the United Public Workers Union in the 1940’s. It had militant, radical leadership. But the AFL-CIO, aided by AFSCME, ran the UPWU out because of that leadership. Traces remained, however, in Local 26 in the 1970’s, when Pres. Cornelius Hudson would take his sanitation workers out at the drop of a hat, shutting down the city. The late Pres. Leamon Wilson, of AFSCME Local 312’s bus mechanics, fought until he died at the age of 55 last year for his membership. Such leaders were frequently undermined by top-level union leadership, which is in bed with the bosses in the Democratic Party. New leaders like them must come forward to unseat the “that’s the best we could do” apologists like Garrett and McNeil.

Protesters on the march. Photo: Cornell Squires.

Protesters on the march. Photo: Cornell Squires.


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Retirees protest at bankruptcy court in Detroit June 1, 2014.

Retirees protest at bankruptcy court in Detroit June 1, 2014.


Panel gives ultimatum: decide whether to withdraw appeals by July 31st

Seven appellants have caved in to Wall Street pressure during negotiations on second step, Plan of Adjustment

Garrett of Michigan AFSCME Council 25 says they will withdraw appeal

By Diane Bukowski

 July 30, 2013

 DETROIT—Detroit retirees had planned today to attend the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on whether the City of Detroit is indeed eligible for bankruptcy under Chapter 9. U.S Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled in favor of eligibility Dec. 3, 2013, at the same time declaring open season on public pensions despite constitutional protections of them in Michigan and 24 other states.

Judge Gibbons

Judge Gibbons

But the abject and unprecedented cowardice of the seven organizations who filed the appeals has now caused Sixth Circuit Judge Ruth Gibbons, the presiding judge on the panel, to issue an ultimatum that they decide by July 31st whether they will withdraw their cases instead of postponing oral arguments.“The court has now postponed the oral argument scheduled for July 30 at the request of the parties,” Gibbons wrote. “We are glad to learn that the appealing parties are making progress toward settlement of the bankruptcy case. Nevertheless, we remain acutely aware that these appeals should be resolved before confirmation of a plan of adjustment . . . .we must move any pending appeals forward.”

She goes on to say that the court can decide based on the appeals without oral argument, or can simply dismiss the cases if the parties so move. The appeals are supplemented by amicus briefs from the country’s largest retirement system, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), AARP, and others, and even a letter from Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette.

Michigan AFSCME Co. 25 Pres. Al Garrett threatens to shut city down at City Council meeting July 16, 2012; he told Council, "We've done it before in 1986."

Michigan AFSCME Co. 25 Pres. Al Garrett threatens to shut city down at City Council meeting July 16, 2012; he told Council, “We’ve done it before in 1986.”

At least one appellant, Al Garrett, President of Michigan AFSCME Council 25, told VOD today that AFSCME DOES plan to withdraw its appeal per terms of the Plan of Adjustment requiring that all appellate action be foresworn.

He also cited the alleged uncertainty of litigating Article 24, Sec. 9 of the Michigan Constitution which protects public pensions.“It’s part of the settlement,” he said. “In our view, and based on information we have from our experts and attorneys, we believe this is the best deal we’re going to get. We were able to protect the active employees by negotiating a contract and get a lesser rate off the top with regard to pension benefits.”

He did not respond to questions regarding the rampant privatization of DWSD and other entities involved in the Plan of Adjustment, and the likely consequent destruction of the pension systems, as well as the lack of any guarantee of health benefits for retirees included in the two VEBA’s (“Voluntary Employee Benefit Association).

Wastewater Treatment Plant workers struck for one week in Sept. 2012, were waylaid by AFSCME Council 25 leaders, told to go back.

Wastewater Treatment Plant workers struck for one week in Sept. 2012, were waylaid by AFSCME Council 25 leaders, told to go back.

Asked why he does not consider the alternative of a general strike for which Puerto Rican unions are mobilizing, he said, “We don’t have the wherewithal to pull the people out. We did call one demonstration, but only about 1500 people showed up.”

Cecily McClellan, of the Detroit Concerned Citizens, Active Employees, and Retirees, responded, “They at least could just let the Sixth Circuit go ahead and rule without oral argument instead of withdrawing our appeals.”

The Detroit General Retirement System and the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System wrote in their joint appeal, “The question of the City’s eligibility to be a Chapter 9 debtor is manifestly a matter of public interest. This case is the largest and most prominent Chapter 9 bankruptcy ever filed. The local and national press have extensively covered both the case itself and the City’s and State’s attempt to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed accrued pension benefits of the more than 32,000 participants in the Retirement Systems. The question of the City’s eligibility is easily among the most important issues—if not the single most important issue—in any federal or state court proceeding in the State of Michigan today.”

The appeals note the bankruptcy was declared by Detroit’s so-called “Emergency Manager” Kevyn Orr, under provisions of Public Act 436, a law that exists nowhere else in the country. PA 436, previously repudiated by Michigan voters when it was PA 4, has allowed the takeover of every single majority Black city in the state, giving dictatorial control to Orr as an agent of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Gov. Rick Snyder's minion Kevyn Orr gleefully announces Detroit bankruptcy filing July 19, 2013.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s minion Kevyn Orr gleefully announces Detroit bankruptcy filing July 19, 2013.

Rhodes’ ruling was the first step in the bankruptcy process, on which all subsequent steps, including the Plan of Adjustment, allegedly approved by workers and retirees July 21, hinge.If the Sixth Circuit were to rule the city is NOT eligible to be in Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the entire case would be thrown into the dustbin of history.Earlier, it was unclear if the Sixth Circuit would hear the appeals in a timely fashion, since the court did not grant an expedited hearing as requested by the appellants.

In the meantime, however, Rhodes’ eligibility ruling occasioned further assaults on public pension systems internationally, and the beginnings of significant fightbacks, including the mobilization of Puerto Rican unions for a general strike against a similar plan formulated by Jones Day, architect of the Detroit bankruptcy.

Other assaults and fightbacks are detailed in articles compiled from the Pan African News Wire below.

The retirement systems and associations meanwhile asked their memberships to vote YES on Chapter 9 step two, a Plan of Adjustment (POA) that will eventually put the retirement systems into the dustbin of history instead due to massive privatization of DWSD and the ongoing dismantling of the City of Detroit.

In other words, those who vote for the POA are repudiating ON THEIR OWN AND FOREVER the validity of pension protections in the Michigan Constitution before a higher court has ever had a chance to rule on the matter.

Retirees at N'Namdi meeting.

Retirees at N’Namdi meeting.

McClellan said her organization will begin looking into alternatives, including lawsuits filed by those who voted NO on the POA, those who did not receive ballots, and others, seeking to invalidate the bankruptcy. The Detroit Concerned Citizens, Active Employees and Retirees meet Monday, Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. at N’Namdi’s Cafe, 12150 Woodward in Highland Park, MI.Detroit city workers and retirees should begin immediate mass calls and emails to their union representatives and retirement system trustees demanding that they NOT withdraw the seven appeals.

■Michigan AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett at 313-505-2121, or through his office at 313-964-1711 (speak to his secretary Betty Smith if he is not available), or .
■UAW International Pres. Dennis Williams, VP James Settles, Jr., VP Cindy Estrada, at (313) 926-5000; UAW Region 1A Director Rory Gamble at 313-926-5451 or 313-291-2751
■Official Committee of Retirees through Dentons LLP: Carole Neville, at 1 212 768 6889 or; Claude Montgomery at 1 212 632 8390 or
■Detroit Firefighters Association, Pres. Jeffrey Pegg, VP Theresa Sanderfer at; Phone (313) 962-7456
Don Taylor, Retired Detroit Police and Firefighters, 586-795-1731

Related documents:

Letter from Judge Gibbons

DB Retirement systems motion for cert to 6th circuit 12 4 13

DB AFSCME request for cert to 6th Circuit

DB 6th CalPERS ab 2.CV01

Related articles:




Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor

July 29, 2014

Judge sets Thursday deadline for bankruptcy eligibility challenges
Chad Livengood and Robert Snell
Detroit News

July 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm

A federal appeals court judge late Tuesday challenged creditors to decide within 48 hours if they’ll continue to contest Detroit’s eligibility for bankruptcy and its plan to cut pensions.

The judge’s letter came after four creditor groups on Tuesday postponed Wednesday’s planned appeal over aspects of the city’s July 2013 Chapter 9 filing. Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, heading a three-judge panel that was to hear the arguments, wrote that she was pleased that settlement negotiations were progressing, but that time was running out.

“The panel does not consider further delay in rendering a decision an option at this time,” Gibbons wrote. She explained that the judges need time to rule before a federal bankruptcy judge decides on the fairness of Detroit’s exit plan. She gave creditors until the close of business Thursday to decide whether they would drop their challenges to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ prior rulings in the city’s favor.

While the postponement was one sign Tuesday of apparent progress toward a negotiated settlement, one legal challenge in the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy will proceed Wednesday.

Detroit’s fiercest creditor will appear before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to argue that the city should not have access to a coveted $15 million pot of monthly casino taxes.

Attorneys for Syncora Guarantee Inc. will make their case over an issue the bond insurer has been fighting since even before the city took legal shelter in bankruptcy court.

At issue is whether Detroit should have unfettered access to its casino taxes — the bankrupt city’s most reliable revenue source — after the city defaulted on debt backed by gambling tax receipts.

Syncora is one of two companies that insured the underlining debt former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration used to prop up the city’s pension funds. The financial giant has argued the casino tax revenues should be used to make payments on the $1.4 billion in pension debt so the company doesn’t have to pay insurance claims.

The three-judge appellate panel will hear Syncora’s appeal just three weeks before Detroit’s bankruptcy exit plan is set to go on trial. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has said the casino revenues are crucial to the city’s restructuring and making payroll each month.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman agreed with Rhodes’ ruling that the casino revenues are property of the bankruptcy estate and subject to an automatic stay freezing lawsuits against the city.

But Friedman only ruled after being ordered by the Court of Appeals to decide the appeal, suggesting that appellate judges are keeping a close eye on Detroit’s fast-moving bankruptcy.

“These actions suggest that at least this panel is watching the case more carefully, not willing to defer until after the whole case ends,” said Melissa Jacoby, a University of North Carolina bankruptcy law professor following Detroit’s case closely.

After arguments on Syncora’s appeal, attention will turn back to the four Detroit creditor groups that were trying to overturn the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy and its ability to slash pensions.

The Detroit Fire Fighters Association, Detroit Police Officers Association, Retired Detroit Police Members Association and the city’s two pension funds asked for the delay due to deals they’ve worked out to support the city’s debt-cutting plan at a planned trial next month.

Attorneys for Detroit and the four groups spent the weekend and Monday scrambling to get the hearing canceled after the appeals judges handed down a 2-1 decision granting them a hearing and canceling oral arguments for five other unions and retiree groups.

The 340-member retired police officers’ group struck a tentative deal with the city late Monday night to settle its issues with Detroit to avoid today’s planned hearing, attorney Lynn Brimer said.

“We haven’t inked it just yet,” Brimer said. “In good faith, we agreed to postpone.”

Cincinnati attorney Pierre Bergeron, a veteran observer of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, said it’s unusual to have a panel split on whether to hold a hearing.

“I can’t say I ever recall hearing of a judge dissenting from that. … (But) obviously this isn’t your run-of-the-mill litigation with these bankruptcy issues,” said Bergeron, who leads the appeals practice for the national law firm Squire Sanders and writes a blog about cases in the 6th Circuit.

Trial on Detroit debt cutting plan delayed by another week

By Chad Livengood Detroit News Lansing Bureau

July 29, 2014

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Tuesday delayed by another week the trial over Detroit’s debt-cutting bankruptcy exit plan. Rhodes moved the trial to Aug. 21, more than a month later than originally planned. The judge also trimmed the number of possible trial days from 28 days to 23 days and scheduled an Aug. 19 pretrial conference and hearing over the legality of the city’s settlement with the insurers of unlimited tax general obligation bonds.

Rhodes had initially planned to start a trial over Detroit’s plan to dump $7 billion in bankruptcy court in mid-July, but he has twice delayed the start of the proceedings. The last delay was due to disputes between Detroit and bond insurer Syncora Guarantee Inc. over the holdout creditor’s massive documents requests. Syncora had pushed to have the trial delayed until late September to allow for more time to gather evidence and take depositions of the city’s witnesses.

From The Detroit News:

Montreal police call in sick to protest planned pension changes

Around 100 Montreal police officers called in sick Saturday, a new pressure tactic to protest a proposed pension reform law. The ongoing dispute about planned changes to Montreal police pensions took a new turn overnight Friday when more than 100 officers chose to call in sick simultaneously. The province’s labour relations board had to call an emergency meeting with the police union when they caught wind of the plan.

The talks between the board and the Montreal Police Brotherhood union began at 2 a.m. and ran until 6 a.m. The board declared the action illegal and ordered all the officers back to work. But many stayed home regardless. Early Saturday morning, the city of Montreal received word that 100 police officers would be calling in sick, an apparent pressure tactic to voice their displeasure with a proposed pension reform law. The Police Brotherhood denied encouraging its members to call in sick. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre called this latest pressure tactic unacceptable.

“I’ve been in politics for 30 years. They can yell at me, they can boo me, they can talk against issues, that’s democracy. We can have those kinds of discussions. But if they’re using some tactics that will have a direct impact on the citizens, there will be consequences,” he told CTV Montreal.

Montreal police say that despite the high number of officers who called in sick, they were able to ensure that the usual number of officers were out on the streets. But they say they had to call in several officers to work overtime to make it happen. Coderre says it will be the police union who will have to pay for all that overtime. The officers are angry about Bill 3, which would see municipal workers begin contributing 50 per cent of their pensions. Montreal police officers currently contribute 24 per cent.

Other municipal workers such as firefighters and bus drivers have also spoken out loudly against Bill 3. Earlier this month, police officers chose to protest the bill by wearing red ball caps and “non-standard issue trousers,” such as camouflage pants, while on the job. The province says the current system is not sustainable because the municipal pension plan is already running a $3.9-billion deficit. Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau has said that Bill 3 will bring balance. The bill enters public hearings at the end of August. With a report from CTV Montreal’s Kevin Gallagher.

Read more: 

L.A. Will Appeal Pension Rollback, Mayor’s Office Says

By James Nash -

Jul 29, 2014

Los Angeles will appeal an administrative panel’s decision to roll back changes in public employee pensions that were expected to save as much as $4.3 billion over 30 years, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said. The second most-populous city’s Employee Relations Board concluded yesterday that officials failed to properly consult with municipal employee unions before pushing through the changes in a City Council vote in October 2012.

“This drives a stake through” the city’s efforts to change retirement benefits for new hires, said Ellen Greenstone, a lawyer for the Coalition of LA City Unions, which represents about 20,000 civilian employees. “The city has to meet and confer if it wants to change pension benefits.”

The city will appeal the board’s 5-0 vote in court, Jeff Millman, a spokesman for the mayor, said by e-mail. Millman said Garcetti, a 43-year-old Democrat, disagreed with the ruling, although Millman didn’t spell out the reasons. The council’s 2012 vote was part of a national movement by state and local governments to reduce pension benefits and whittle down unfunded promises to retirees that the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated at more than $1 trillion at the time. The funding gap for state pension plans grew 14 percent between 2010 and 2012, Pew said.

Garcetti voted for the pension rollback as a member of the City Council in 2012, and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed the measure into law.

Liability Increase Without Reducing Pensions for New Employees

Los Angeles faced a 45 percent increase in its contribution toward employee pensions and similar growth in the pension’s unfunded liability, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said in a 2012 report. The reduced benefits, along with higher retirement ages and income caps, would save $3.9 billion to $4.3 billion over 30 years, according to the report.

A month before the Los Angeles City Council’s vote, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law changes to state pensions projected to save as much as $55 billion over 30 years. The state measure capped at $110,100 the portion of salary used to calculate pension benefits, boosted the retirement age for civilian employees to 67 from 55, and made formulas for calculating retirement income less generous. The Los Angeles measure, which took effect in July 2013, also took aim at formulas that had allowed employees to retire at 55 with pensions equal to 65 percent of income with 30 years of tenure.

Under the change, a deputy city attorney earning $129,927 and retiring at 65 with 30 years of service would have his or her pension reduced to $77,974 a year from $84,212, according to Santana’s report. The city has hired about 800 new civilian workers since the change went into effect last year, Santana said.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Nash in Los Angeles at

Judge suggests Stockton worker pensions could be reduced in city’s bankruptcy case

By Dale Kasler

Monday, Jul. 14, 2014

Government pensions were once considered untouchable, ironclad, off limits even if the employer went bankrupt. On Tuesday, a federal bankruptcy judge in Sacramento inched closer to changing all that. Commenting during a hearing on Stockton’s bankruptcy case, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein suggested that employees and retirees could have their pensions reduced to facilitate the city’s financial reorganization. “I might be persuaded that … the pensions can be adjusted,” Klein said.

The judge stressed he hasn’t made a ruling yet, and said “I’ve been sharing with you my thinking.”

Nonetheless, his remarks could have broad implications for public pensions and bankruptcy law in California and beyond. Klein acknowledged that Stockton’s retirees are facing “a haircut” if he rules that pensions can be reduced. His comments sparked concern from Steven Felderstein, a Sacramento lawyer representing Stockton retirees in the bankruptcy.

“It’s very troubling, but he does recognize that the retirees are the ones who are going to suffer,” Felderstein said. In a prepared statement, CalPERS said it “will continue to protect the benefits promised to our members. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the questions Judge Klein raised in court (Tuesday), to discuss the implications of the California laws that govern pensions and that create a stable retirement system that provides significant value to cities and their employees.”

The dispute over pensions stems from Stockton’s plan to exit bankruptcy protection. The city reached agreement with most of its creditors last fall to restructure about $200 million in debts. Many creditors accepted around 50 cents on the dollar. But negotiations fell apart with Franklin Templeton Investments of San Mateo, and the city told the court it would give the firm barely a penny on the dollar on a $36 million debt. Franklin went to war, launching a full-scale legal challenge to the city’s plan.

At a trial last month, Franklin suggested that Stockton scale back its $29 million-a-year pension contribution to CalPERS. CalPERS said that could not happen. The powerful California Public Employees’ Retirement System has long stood as a defender of government pensions in court, and said Stockton had to keep paying in full to remain in good standing. Not paying in full, according to CalPERS and city officials, would lead to chaos.

If Stockton defaulted on its obligations to CalPERS, pension benefits could be slashed by 60 percent, according to trial testimony last month. City officials say that would lead to a mass exodus of police, firefighters and other municipal employees, making the city essentially ungovernable.

City officials said it’s far from certain that the judge will force a cutback in pensions.

“He’s thinking about it; I don’t believe he’s made up his mind,” said one of the city’s bankruptcy lawyers, Marc Levinson.

Even if Klein does rule that pensions can be reduced, that doesn’t necessarily mean Stockton’s retirees will get hit. He could conceivably decide that the Stockton reorganization plan is fine even if it leaves pensions unaffected. The legal turmoil over public pensions has been building for some time.

Last fall, the judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy said pensions could be scaled back to conserve money.

CalPERS has argued that the Detroit case is irrelevant and California public pensions have broader legal protections. In court Tuesday, the judge seemed to chip away at some of CalPERS’ defenses. For instance, CalPERS has said that it could place a lien on some of Stockton’s municipal assets to cover nonpayment of pension contributions. Klein indicated he doesn’t think CalPERS has that power.

“Why should I take that lien seriously?” he said. The city did raise its offer to Franklin. The judge ruled Tuesday that Franklin’s collateral on its debt – a couple of golf courses and a city park – were worth $4 million. Levinson said the city would pay Franklin that amount in cash. But that still amounts to a little more than 10 cents on the dollar, and it was uncertain if that would appease Franklin. The firm’s lawyer, James Johnston, referred a reporter to a company spokeswoman, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

A formal decision is months away; Klein scheduled a hearing on the pension issue for Oct. 1 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento. In the meantime, CalPERS has been making peace with California’s other bankrupt city, San Bernardino, which had threatened to tackle the issue of pension costs. Last month the two sides reached an “interim agreement” that could stave off a separate legal battle over pensions in that city. No details have been released, but city attorneys have indicated that San Bernardino will repay CalPERS for overdue pension contributions. After filing for bankruptcy protection in 2012, the city withheld payments from CalPERS for several months and still owes $13.5 million plus interest. Read more here:

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DB claims vote (Click on Voting claims chart to print chart; or view it in larger detail.)

Retirees object, to attend 6th Circuit hearing, Cincinnati Wed. July 30; planning meeting Mon. July 28 11 a.m. N’Namdi’s Highland Park

15,624 worker ballots counted; what happened to the rest of retirement systems’ 32,000 members?

5th Amended Plan filed subsequent to vote; no re-vote scheduled 

It’s not over yet—trial forthcoming as banks refuse “pennies on the dollar,” demand payment in full; UBS, BOA want entire $2.4 billion

Historic sell-out by retirement systems, unions who recommended “YES” vote in ballot mailings, meetings 

By Diane Bukowski 


July 25, 2014 

Retirees protest bankruptcy at courthouse Aug. 19, 2013

Retirees protest bankruptcy at courthouse Aug. 19, 2013

DETROIT – Despite celebrations in the skyscrapers of Wall Street and the U.S. regarding Detroit bankruptcy active and retired employee votes announced July 21, allegedly in favor of huge pension and health care cuts, the sordid story is not over yet.Detroit remains far from a resolution of its state-imposed bankruptcy. Major banks and bondholders have rejected the plan, insisting that they be PAID IN FULL.

According to figures released by Kurtzman Carson Consultants (KCC) of El Segundo, CA, Detroit police and fire workers and retirees voted to approve the 4th Amended Plan of Adjustment (POA) by 82 percent, general workers and retirees by 73 percent, and holders of Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) by 88 percent. (See chart above.)

Meanwhile, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, claiming to represent the City of Detroit, filed a FIFTH AMENDED PLAN OF ADJUSTMENT July 25 subsequent to the vote, with no plans for a re-vote. (See link below story.)

Cecily McClellan speaks at MayDay protest against bankruptcy in downtown Detroit May 1, 2014.

Cecily McClellan speaks at MayDay protest against bankruptcy in downtown Detroit May 1, 2014.

Burning questions on the validity of the July 21 vote still remain. Among them is the fact that only 15,626 pension ballots were counted, although the retirement systems have approximately 32,000 members.”We knew that they had used dirty tricks (misinformation & disinformation) to influence the vote,” said Cecily McClellan of Detroit Concerned Citizens, Active Employees, and Retirees (DCCAER).

“Thousands did not vote, some did not receive ballots, over 3200 ballots were incorrect, employees were allowed to re-vote and now we find out that 6.75 interest has been added to the claw-back/recoupment amount, THAT WAS NOT DISCLOSED. THIS IS EGREGIOUS and could invalidate the vote or at minimum require a recalculation and reducing the claw-back, if objected to.”

Appeals Judges Gibbons, Kethledge, Stranch

Appeals Judges Gibbons, Kethledge, Stranch

She said DCCAER is meeting Mon. July 28 at 11 a.m. at N’Namdi’s at 12150 Woodward to discuss filing new objections. They will also plan a trip to Cincinnati Wed. July 30 for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on objections filed by unions and retiree systems to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ ruling that Detroit is eligibile to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Part of that ruling is that public pensions are fair game for attack despite state constitutional protections.The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m, before Appeals Court Judges Julia Smith Gibbons, Raymond M. Kethledge, and Jane Branstetter Stranch. Bibbons was originally nominated to the federal bench by Pres. Ronald Reagan, then to the Sixth Circuit by Pres. George Bush. Kethledge was nominated by Pres. George W. Bush. Pres. Barack Obama nominated Stranch, who went through lengthy confirmation hearings before taking her seat.

It remains to be seen if any or all of the appellants will continue their cases. Tina Bassett, representing the Detroit General Retirement System, told VOD that if its members vote “Yes” they will withdraw their appeal. Click on  US Sixth Circuit Oral Arguments Detroit Bankruptcy for listing of appellants. As of July 28, all but the three public safety appellants had withdrawn, according to inside sources. The hearing is still scheduled; the Court is to rule whether Detroit was indeed eligible for bankruptcy. If it rules it was not, the entire bankruptcy, including confirmation proceedings, will be thrown out.

Many workers, including members of the court-appointed Official Committee of Retirees, such as Michael Karwoski, have already filed new objections, addressing legal issues that should prevent plan confirmation. (See links below.)

Jean Vortkamp is at left behind Monica Patrick (in red jacket) during blockade of Homrich water shut-off facility July 18, 2014.

Jean Vortkamp is at left behind Monica Patrick (in red jacket) during blockade of Homrich water shut-off facility July 18, 2014.

“Of course I don’t believe this yes vote,” said objector Jean Vortkamp. “ There were so many issues with the voting process and just the general corruption of the whole bankruptcy. I watched Carol Neville in court. She represents the “Official” Retiree Committee and she is from Dentons Law Firm. In court when they were talking about the interest on the clawbacks and how that was not made clear in the ballot and other literature to ALL retirees, the judge TWICE asked her if the retirees were seeking relief. She did not answer yes. She did not ask for a revote. Afterwards she told me their ‘hands were tied.’ REALLY?”

Later, outside the courtroom, Neville also told retirees that action by Denton’s would “derail the bankruptcy,” exactly what Detroit workers, retirees and residents need.

Secret “mediation” sessions are continuing in front of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen regarding bids to privatize the city’s most valuable asset, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Mayor Mike Duggan, under Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, is dismantling large portions of the rest of the city, through initiatives such as the Blight Removal Project (a/k/a “Black Removal Project”) directed by billionaire developer Dan Gilbert.

Did city workers do this to themselves or were their ballots dumped? 

Vortkamp called on voters to check the accuracy of their ballots, listed in Exhibit G, starting at page 61, of the KCC voting report. She suggested that voters use the amount of their claims, indicated on the ballots, to identify their vote. She said those she polled found their votes were accurately reported.

(Go to, save report as a PDF document, then search claim amount exactly as shown on ballot, using binoculars icon at left of PDF.)

KCC logoThe final totals do not include 28 pages of ballots, approximately 1,400, that were invalidated, for alleged late receipt, lack of signatures, and votes of abstention. There was no oversight of the counting process, although KCC says it “allowed” representatives of the Detroit retirement systems to review their counting procedures in June. KCC is a firm that Jones Day, the architect of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing as well as a similar effort in Puerto Rico, has used many times in previous situations.

The historic sell-out by the city’s retirement systems and unions, who recommended a “YES” vote on the POA to their membership lists, which those who favored a “NO” vote did not have access to, may be another factor in the vote total. This sell-out, which wiped out decades of advances for public employees and union members, will be further addressed at this story’s conclusion.

Major banks, bondholders reject POA, demand $8.3 billion plus from city 

UBS AG and Bank of America were among chief perpetrators of the mammoth LIBOR rip-off.

UBS AG and Bank of America were among chief perpetrators of the mammoth LIBOR rip-off.

But city workers and retirees were not the only ones to vote on the POA. Major creditors like United Swiss Bank (UBS), Bank of America, and its virtual subsidiary SBS Financial rejected the POA 100 percent.Astonishingly, these banks, who are facing lawsuits across the world for fraudulent practices garnering trillions in profits, are holding out for payment in full of over $2.4 billion on the city’s 2004-05 Certificates of Participation (COPs) debt. Detroit EM Kevyn Orr termed that debt “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable” in a bankruptcy court lawsuit, which U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has yet to hear.

Holders of impaired Detroit Water and Sewerage Department bond claims rejected the deal by a large margin, meaning they are demanding payment of over $2.3 billion. Added to secured DWSD bonds, the city will be paying a total of $4.7 billion in water-related bond debts.

Supporters of Sept. 2012 strike against DWSD Wastewater Treatment Plant stand in front of signs with mammoth contract amounts, financed by bonds.

Supporters of Sept. 2012 strike against DWSD Wastewater Treatment Plant stand in front of signs with mammoth contract amounts, financed by bonds.

Last year, Bloomberg reported, “[DWSD]’s $659.8 million June bond sale let it pay more than $300 million to banks, including JPMorgan, to end interest-rate swap agreements while raising its borrowing cost. The utility, with 1,978 employees, plans to fire four of every five workers, while debt service has climbed to more than 40 percent of revenue, internal documents show.”

In 2011, Wall Street raked in over $211 million in fees on another water bond sale, despite DWSD’s historic AAA credit ratings.

Water shut-offs 15-day “pause” called victory, but may be diversion

Protesters prepare for arrest at Homrich water shut-off facility July 18, 2014.

Protesters prepare for arrest at Homrich water shut-off facility July 18, 2014.

Meanwhile, EM Orr launched a major drive to shut-off the water of Detroiters who owe more than $150 over 60 days. Under pressure from activists who blocked the Homrich Wrecking facility from which the shut-off crews leave, and a national protest against shut-offs July 18, DWSD agreed in bankruptcy court July 21 to a temporary 15-day “pause” in shut-offs while it disseminates information to Detroit customers on how they can get assistance to pay their bills.

How to stop water shut offsMany view this as a significant victory, even thanking Judge Rhodes for intervening. It did show that mass mobilization could partially affect the plans of the rulers. However, emphasis on this “pause” obscures the truth of the city’s intentions and also diverts attention away from the disaster that the bankruptcy as a whole means for the city.

Latimer stressed among other issues that DWSD would focus on those whose water is “illegally” turned on. Many Detroiters have bought water keys at hardware stores to to provide this life and health essential for their families. Will they be charged and jailed?

Even a Homrich security guard said during the second blockade, “Water should be free.”

There was no discussion of a ban on water shut-offs as a threat to the public health, like that which exists in Great Britain and other countries. As Judge Rhodes listened to DWSD Deputy Director Darryl Latimer describe plans July 21, DWSD bondholders were discussing bids for privatization of DWSD, in a closed mediation session upstairs from them. Most experts agree that privatization leads to higher rates.

Orr: water shut-offs essential to city “re-structuring”

Detroit EM Orr plans to gut the city's neighborhoods.

Detroit EM Orr plans to gut the city’s neighborhoods.

Orr has already said that the shut-offs are an essential part of Detroit’s “re-structuring” plan, which includes “downsizing” city neighborhoods devastated by foreclosures. Many residents whose water is shut-off are forced to leave their homes, further adding to the number of abandoned structures.Demolition of 70,000 residential buildings, the elimination of 40 percent of the city’s streets lights under the Public Lighting Authority, and cutbacks in provision of waste removal services are on Orr’s agenda.In addition to the water bond pay-offs, the city will also be paying other secured debts as indicated in the claims payment chart, to the tune of $1.3 billion. The astounding $2.4 billion on the COPS claims being demanded by the creditors adds to the mammoth bill, which currently amounts to $8.3 billion and counting, as the city seeks to resolve other claims.

The Plan of Adjustment specifies that all debts shall be priority items, meaning they will be paid off before the provision of essential city services.

Betrayal of workers by retirement systems, unions: Vote YES 

Puerto Rican unions rally in support of general strike against Jones Day-engineered austerity measures.

Puerto Rican unions rally in support of general strike against Jones Day-engineered austerity measures.

While Puerto Rican unions are preparing for a general strike to counter a similar Jones Day-initiated austerity plan for their country, no such militant alternatives have been raised by the leadership of the nation’s unions, the retirement systems, or other organizations.VOD has been campaigning for months in favor of three tactics: a general strike, a boycott of major Michigan-based businesses, and a mammoth national march on Detroit, not on Washington or Lansing, where Detroit residents have no allies.

Detroit protester at mass rally against PA 4 in Lansing, April 13, 2011

Detroit protester at mass rally against PA 4 in Lansing, April 13, 2011

Ballots specified in part, “If you accept the Plan, you are voting to approve a release of any claims that you may have against the State, the City, and other entities in connection with the loss of part of your pension. . . By accepting the Plan AND if the Initial Funding Conditions are satisfied or waived, you will be forever releasing any rights you may have against the State or other nondebtor parties. . . .Specifically, this release would release all claims and liabilities arising from or related to the City, the chapter 9 case . . . the Plan and exhibits thereto, the Disclosure Statement, PA 436 [the Emergency Manager law] and its predecessor or replacement statutes, and Article IX, Sec. 24 of the Michigan Constitution.”

That constitutional provision reads: “The accrued financial benefits of each pension plan and retirement system of the state and its political subdivisions shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby. Financial benefits arising on account of service rendered in each fiscal year shall be funded during that year and such funding shall not be used for financing unfunded accrued liabilities.”

At least 24 other states have similar protections for public pensions in their constitutions.

However, the Detroit General Retirement System, the Detroit Retired City Employees Association (DRCEA), the Detroit Retired Police and Firefighters Association (DRPFFA), and Denton’s LLP, which has been paid $4.8 million in city tax dollars to represent the bankrupty court-appointed Official Committee of Retirees, all issued letters to their membership lists recommending a “Yes” vote.

Frederick Douglass powerAFSCME, the UAW and other unions did not issue such letters but gave tacit consent by not recommending a “No” vote.

“It was the best we could get” was the universal refrain. That’s been the excuse since the mid-1970’s, when unions in this country first began making wholesale concessions in both the private and public sectors.

Where have such concessions gotten cities like Detroit? Detroit no longer has an employment tax base to speak of, having lost most of its auto plants and most of its public workers as the Detroit Public Schools and the City of Detroit were privatized piece by piece, or outright dismantled. The militant founders of this country’s unions considered them only a transitional step to eventual true workers’ power, the takeover of the “means of production” and government functions by the workers and poor themselves, to be operated for the people, not for profit.

The late General Baker, a founder of the Detroit Revolutionary Black Workers Movement

The late General Baker, a founder of the Detroit Revolutionary Black Workers Movement

The attack on Detroit, its workers and its residents, is all the more profound because Detroit is the nation’s largest Black majority-city, the birthplace of the union movement, and later the founding city for groups like the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and important nationalist groups. It is an absolute travesty of historic proportions that the nation’s alleged “leaders of the people” have taken no effective action to stop the dismantling of DetroitRelated documents:

DB Michael Karwoski objections

DB Michael J Karwoski legal objection

Related articles which explain details of cuts and banks expected profit:


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Civil rights heroine’s godchild, who has cerebral palsy, not seen by family, friends since “guardian” Atty. Mary S. Rowan seized her June 14

Judge Kathryn George was earlier removed by state Supreme Court as Macomb Chief Probate Judge, barred from handling wills and estates

Attorneys will demand Mailauni’s return to mother and home

Williams family long the subject of racist abuse in Grosse Pointe Farms

By Diane Bukowski

July 20, 2014

Atty. Mary Rowan (seated in blue) grabs Mailauni Williams' arm outside court June 13, 2013. The next day Rowan seized the young woman; her whereabouts are now unknown to her family.

Atty. Mary Rowan (seated in blue) grabs Mailauni Williams’ arm outside court June 13, 2013. The next day Rowan seized the young woman; her whereabouts are now unknown to her family.

Grosse Pointe Farms, MI — Five weeks after attorney Mary S. Rowan’s seizure of Mailauni Williams from a foster care home, after police forcibly took her from her own home May 21, her family, friends and attorneys do not know where the 32-year-old woman with cerebral palsy is.Her mother Lennette Williams said she is frantic and worried about her daughter’s well-being.

“I can’t eat or sleep,” Williams said. The two have been inseparable throughout Mailauni’s lifetime. Williams calls her daughter “Pookie.” A beautiful portrait of Mailauni in her green high school graduation gown dominates the living room of their home in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Mailauni (first row r) with her mother Lennette behind her; Arnetta Grable is to Lennette's left.

Mailauni (first row l) with her mother Lennette behind her; Arnetta Grable is to Lennette’s left. Cornell Squires, another family family friend and advocate, is behind Grable.

Community activist Arnetta Grable, a long-time friend of the family, told VOD that Mailauni met Rosa Parks at the age of 5, and that Parks adopted her as her godchild later. She said the two frequently visited.Elaine Steele and Anita Peeks of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development are active in support of the family.Rowan finally allowed Mailauni to talk to her sister Monique Williams July 19 over the phone. Rowan earlier had not returned any of the sister’s daily phone calls.

“Mailauni didn’t tell her sister where she was at, but said that she missed her and wanted to see her mom,” Grable said. “Mailauni already has told many people that she wants to go back home to her mother. She told the lady at the foster care home that she wants to be with ‘my mama and my doggie.’”



The Michigan Bar Directory lists 1303 Nottingham Rd. in Grosse Pointe Park as Rowan’s business address, as do other legal sites. That address is only blocks away from the Williams home in Grosse Pointe Farms, where neighors earlier carried on a campaign to move the Williams family out of their neighborhood.In a 2006 “Handbook for Guardians of Adults,” Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Bradley Geller advised, “If the individual is living at home, it is likely her or his strong wish to remain there. You should explore what financial programs and services are available to effect this goal.”

The handbook says guardians are to report the residence of their wards to the court promptly, but George has not notified Mailauni’s family or attorneys of her whereabouts.

Geller said the wishes of the individual under guardianship are to be taken into account at all times. The establishment of Geller’s office and legislative reforms regarding guardianship policies resulted after exposures of decades of abuse of individuals by guardians, attorneys and trustees in Michigan, involving among others the Wayne and Macomb County Probate Courts.

Williams’ attorney Allison Folmar said she  plans to file court actions this week to produce Mailauni and return her home, to remove Macomb County Probate Court Judge Kathryn George from her case and Rowan from guardianship, and other appeals of George’s rulings from a raucous June 13 court hearing.

Macomb County Probate Court Judge Kathryn George

Macomb County Probate Court Judge Kathryn George

George’s order on police removal of Mailauni May 21 read only, “The Court directs Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety to enter the address of [street address], Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48238 to ensure the safety of Mailauni Williams. Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety may break into the residence if necessary.”At the June 13 hearing, George jailed Lennette Williams and fined Folmar for speaking on behalf of her client, while Mailauni clearly spoke out on behalf of her mother and her desire to remain with her.

Attorney Folmar said later that it is clear that Mailauni’s mother has taken excellent care of her daughter throughout her life and questioned whether the Probate Court even has any jurisdiction over the young woman.

Williams said that after Mailauni’s birth, doctors never expected that she would even be able to walk, but that Mailauni has in fact thrived with her love and support.

Attorney Allison Folmar

Attorney Allison Folmar, who also represents Maryanne Godboldo in case of CPS seizure of her child

The young woman walks, speaks clearly and coherently, and expresses her thoughts, emotions and desires well. She is a graduate of Grosse Pointe North High School.It is unclear why George has handled the case out of Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack’s courtroom for the last eight years. Mack himself asked the State Court Administrator’s Office to approve the appointment.But the Michigan Supreme Court removed George as Macomb Probate chief judge in 2008 amid a storm regarding a host of improprieties, including assigning wards primarily to one guardianship agency.  George’s successor as Macomb Probate Chief Judge, Kenneth Sanborn, removed her permanently from handling estates and wills.

The Williams case involves a $30 million estate deriving from a medical malpractice case settled with Henry Ford Hospital for neglect during Mailauni’s birth. Williams and her daughter were to be provided a monthly life-time annuity from the settlement through the ELNY Administrator Hardship Fund.

Walter Sakowski, Estate Planning Atty. and Wayne Co. Public Administrator

Walter Sakowski, Estate Planning Atty. and Wayne Co. Public Administrator

But court-appointed estate-planning attorney Walter Sakowski, of Livonia, informed George in a letter July 14 that he had withdrawn $869,382.40 from the Hardship Fund and placed it in a checking account held by the Mailauni R. Williams Irrevocable Trust, which he controls.“I am requesting direction from your honor as to whether the funds received ($869,382.40) should be placed in a restricted account, should I file a bond for an amount equal to this amount or should the funds be invested in mutual funds or the like,” he asked George.

In her order of June 19, 2014, George said among other matters, “the Trustee shall not pay to Lynnette (sic) Williams the monthly allowance previously ordered by this Court nor is the Trustee to pay the mortgage payment on Lynette Williams home as previously ordered, both Orders are hereby set aside.”

According to the Wayne County Register of Deeds, that home, in Grosse Pointe Farms, was deeded by Lennette Williams to Lennette and Mailauni Williams JTWRS in 1992.

Lennette Williams said she has been the subject of constant harassment by the courts, police and neighbors since she moved into the home, to provide her daughter with beautiful surroundings and a world-class school district. The U.S. Census shows that in 2010, Grosse Pointe Farms had only 1.8 percent African-American residents.

Grosse Pointe Farms police guard wealthy white residents of the city, which is only 1.8 percent Black.

Grosse Pointe Farms police guard wealthy white residents of the city, which is only 1.8 percent Black.

In 1990, an anonymous group of Williams’ neighbors mailed a letter to “The B’s” at her home address.It said, “How does it feel to be the most hated family on [street name]? Your house is the biggest eyesore here. No one wants to live here because of you. Half the homes are now for sale with no signs because of you people. Just because you won a settlement for a fake medical care you had to move here. It is a joke to the entire city. You don’t fit in nor belong here with your trash and junk cars. Why don’t you live in the Detroit area as your kind made Detroit the mess it is in now. You don’t know how to act or fit in here. You are not wanted here. This used to be a beautiful area but no more. Please go away.”Williams said she gave a copy of the letter, which today qualifies as a hate crime, to the Grosse Pointe Farms police, but they took no action. She also said that while Mailauni was attending school in Grosse Pointe, police stripped her naked at the school to look for signs of abuse because she had a keloid scar from an earlier accidental burn on her body. No Child Protective Service case was ever opened.

Related articles:

Mother and child rebellion Lennette Williams Metro Times, by Curt Guyette

Weaver opinion on George

Housey opinion re George et al

Judge Kathryn George Under Investigation

Katheryn George shakeup ProbateCourt

Kathryn George _ The Michigan Lawyer

My Mother KG case

Probate Judge letter on Kathryn George

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Children zoom around Doll’s Go Kart track after winning free rides for a song July 3, 2014. Photo: Cornell Squires

Black-owned business, over 30 years old, revives tradition for the youth

DJ Hydef and blues singer Priscilla Price participate

By Cornell Squires 

July 5, 2014

Ron Hereford, proprietor of Doll's Go Kart, (above center), and Jamar Reed's family and friends watch him sing for a ride.

Ron Hereford, proprietor of Doll’s Go Kart, (above center), and Jamar Reed’s family and friends, including his sister Blessin (in braids) watch him sing for a ride. Photo: Cornell Squires

DETROIT — Mr. Ron Hereford, proprietor of Doll’s Go-Kart, re-established Sing a- Song for a Go Kart ride on July 3, 2014, to help  encourage young people with talent in Detroit’s ommunity.

Almost five years ago Mr. Hereford created this special day for the young people.  Mr. Hereford told Voice of Detroit that he wants to do more in our community to help encourage people that are inspired to one day be singers.

Today, the community, young people and old alike, came out to sing a song for free rides around Doll’s Go Kart track, located at 4455 Oakman south of Grand River. The community enjoyed the opportunity to express their talent. Ten-year- old Jamar Reed sang his favorite rap song along with his sister Blessin Reed, 6, who sang the words to her favorite song. Both of them received free rides.

Renee Payton holds the mike for her daughter Blessin Reed, 6, as she sings out her heart. Photo: Cornell Squires

Renee Payton with her daughter Blessin Reed, 6, as she sings out her heart. Photo: Cornell Squires

Their mother Renee Payton, 33 years old, said she remembered the days of her youth when she went to the track, and now she is bringing her children. The track has been in existence for 31 years.”I support this place because it is safe and it’s a fun place in our community and I will continue to bring my children here, especially with these special events at a place where our children and friends can have fun and feel safe!” Ms. Payton said.

Many customers attended this pre-Fourth of July holiday event, excited about the promotional offer, “Sing a song for at least 2 minutes and get five free rides.”

Mr. Hereford said he began this promotion almost eight years ago, and it ran for at least five years.   Now he has brought back the good ole days to give thanks to all the families and patrons that have supported his family business over  30 years.

DJ Hydef, a/k/a Clyde Moore Photo: Cornell Squires

DJ Hydef, a/k/a Clyde Moore Photo: Cornell Squires

Clyde Moore, proprietor of DJ Hydef, played the music at this event which ran from six p.m. until the closing. DJ Hydef said he supports business in our community and especially Doll’s Go Kart. He said he used to DJ at “Starvin’ Marvin” and other clubs across the City of Detroit.He grew up in Brentwood N.Y and was inspired by many grass roots rappers, including DJ “EMMD,” an ‘80’s rap group in New York City, the legendary rapper “Rock Rakim,” and his first producer C. I. John Mahoney. He said Mahoney inspired him 16 years ago to get into the DJ business and he never looked back. One of his best friends DJ Diamond also helped him get involved.“There is always someone in life that will inspire us, and help us to fulfill our dreams,” he said. “The DJ business is my life’s passion. Another person I cannot forget is my mother who is the famous legendary blues singer Priscilla Price from West Virginia, and my uncle Lloyd Price 74, another blues singer. They are still singing blues today!”Before the event was over VOD had a chance to speak with the famous Priscilla Price, who stopped by Doll’s Go-Kart. She said she would love to help this 30 year- old business that still is operating in Detroit community!


She said she wants to sponsor events here to help raise community awareness of Black businesses, and raise money to for renovations at the track, to give back to the community.

DJ Hydef  said there is a need in the Detroit community to help get the youth back on course, to see that they are going into the right direction. He said we need a place where teenagers can go and have fun and not be worried about violence, danger, gangs, and trouble, a safe place off the street, a place that is a neutral ground. That place is  for our Doll’s Go Kart, he said. No trouble or security problems, a wholesome family business that doesn’t allow cussing, drinking, or drugs on their property.


gokart sign


gokart familygokart family little kids

Gokart child good


Gokart multiple

gokart girlsgokart white and Black


gokart girl drivers


Gokart with office
Gokart workerGokart mother son


Gokart 4 drivers


Dolls map


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Detroit bankruptcy protesters listen to Abayomi Azikiwe during lunch break outside federal court July 15, 2014.

Detroit bankruptcy protesters listen to Abayomi Azikiwe during lunch break outside federal court July 15, 2014.

Rhodes: “City getting a bad reputation around the world” for shut-offs

Ballots did not disclose that retiree annuity “clawbacks” include additional 6.75% compounded interest rate; is re-vote needed?

Others cite huge health care costs, 75% reduction in retirement income

By Diane Bukowski

July 16, 2014

Kris Hamel

Kris Hamel

DETROIT – This city’s barbaric, now world-renowned mass water shut-offs, and a major mistake on ballots sent to retirees that could force a re-vote, lit a flame of hope for individual objectors at a bankruptcy hearing July 15 in front of Judge Steven Rhodes.Rhodes has ordered attorneys for Jones Day, Denton’s and city officials to return to court Monday July 21 to resolve these issues.For the first time in the bankruptcy process, Detroit resident Kris Hamel, who works with the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, raised the issue of the water shut-offs in morning session. Many others followed her lead all day, referencing the notorious practice, which has been condemned by the United Nations, in their remarks.

DWSD bondholders get $537 million on swaps, $5 billion on bonds, while Detroiters’ water is shut off for owing $150

“While the poorest Detroiters have their water cut off for owing $150, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Loop Financial and Morgan Stanley were paid $537 million in termination fees on interest rate swaps out of $1 billion in bonds . . . that were earmarked to fund repairs of the water infrastructure system, not line the pockets of these four banks,” Hamel told Judge Rhodes.

Detroit mother without water.
Detroit mother without water.

The Plan of Adjustment lists a total of $5 billion in uncontested claims for DWSD bondholders, who are considered secured creditors not required to take cutbacks.

“It is up to you to stop the national and international disgrace and humanitarian disaster of mass water shut-offs . . . You must immediately enjoin these shut-offs by placing a moratorium on them TODAY and ordering [EM Kevyn] Orr to implement a real water affordability plan for the poorest Detroiters.”

Hamel noted that Orr’s office has called the shutoffs “a necessary part of Detroit’s re-structuring.”

Jean Vortkamp

Jean Vortkamp

In her objection, Jean Vortkamp talked about two of her neighbor’s small children, Simea and James.

“In concentration camps, there was water,” Vortkamp said. “Many of the children in my neighborhood had their water cut off. Families are taking money from things like rent to pay the bill that they could not afford with our high water rates. My neighborhood is a 10 minute drive to a pumping station on a river connected to the Great Lakes but my water bill is higher than the average U.S. water bill. Privatization usually causes water rates to double or triple. How would that make Detroit a more attractive place to live post-bankruptcy?”

Rhodes ordered Jones Day attorney Heather Lennox to produce a Detroit Water and Sewerage Department representative at the afternoon session to explain the situation.

Jones Day, DWSD excuse shut-offs, are warned by Rhodes

Darryl Latimer, Dep. Director of DWSD

Darryl Latimer, Dep. Director of DWSD

Testimony from DWSD Deputy Director Darryl Latimer began the afternoon session. He claimed the shutoffs began in the fall of 2013 but were suspended until March due to winter temperatures.“Our bill is to the resident, we bill the property,” Latimer said. “We don’t know what or how many individuals live there or whether they can afford their bills.”

He claimed the average outstanding balance on delinquent water bills is $540, and that monthly bills average $75. He said shut-offs happen after 60 days if the outstanding balance is $150 or more.Latimer said DWSD has various resource programs to help “people that come forward.”He claimed an initial payment of 30 percent of the outstanding balance could be waived.

He was later contradicted by objector Cecily McClellan, who headed the Water Affordability Program at Detroit Human Services before the department closed in 2012. McClellan said the 30 percent payment is mandatory. She also noted that delinquent water bills are attached to property tax rolls, so customers can lose their homes as well.

Cecily McClellan

Cecily McClellan

According to DWSD documents, Detroit residents are already penalized with higher sewerage rates than suburban customers to make up for delinquent bills, causing even more delinquencies.Latimer said DWSD has insufficient staff to send to customers’ homes to warn them of pending shut-offs due to recent lay-offs and cutbacks.The original Water Affordability Plan, proposed after massive water shut-offs in 2002, called for rates to be geared towards customers’ incomes, but that provision was shot down in the final version.In contrast, cities like Cleveland have an income provision for up to 40 percent reduction in rates in their water affordability programs.  Click on Cleveland water affordability program for description.

Delinquent commercial accounts not being shut off?

Latimer appeared to discount media reports that DWSD plans to shut off commercial customers with higher delinquencies.

Trucks shutting Detroiters' water off have this insignia. Watch for them! Do not let them in your neighorhood!

Trucks shutting Detroiters’ water off have this insignia. Watch for them! Do not let them in your neighorhood!

“Those are different because regular crews can’t shut off commercial accounts because they have larger valves,” Latimer contended. He admitted later that a contractor [Homrich Wrecking] is doing the shut-offs, exposed by a militant sit-in and arrests
outside Homrich’s facility at 2660 E. Grand Boulevard July 11. Homrich, which is demolishing the Brewster high rises, and earlier did in the Jeffries projects and J.L. Hudson’s downtown store, has very heavy equipment.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes

“The residential shut-off program has created not only a lot of anger and hardship, but bad publicity that Detroit doesn’t need right now,” Rhodes said. “Cost reductions come at a price. The citizens are very angry and the city is getting a bad reputation around the world . . . this problem is affecting the bankruptcy proceedings.”He asked that Latimer and Lennox return Monday, July 21 for a status conference on their progress in establishing more aggressive assistance programs for Detroiters. He stopped short of ordering a moratorium on water shut-offs as Hamel had asked.

Retiree ballots leave out whopping interest rates on annuity ‘clawbacks’

Objector Steven Wojtowicz, a 30-year retiree from the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, dropped another bombshell. He said Orr and attorneys from Jones Day did not disclose on ballots mailed to 32,000 retirees that Orr’s Plan of Adjustment (POA) charges a 6.75 percent compounded interest rate on the top of the allegedly illegal annuity savings fund (ASF) interest the EM wants to “recoup” from retirees.

Orr ready to clawback another 6.75 percent of retirees' annuity savings plans.
Orr ready to clawback another 6.75 percent of retirees’ annuity savings plans.

“I looked at my ballot package,” Wojtowicz said. “It said the city will recoup a total of 89,000 from my annuity payments in 12 years. But that should be $189,000 because there is no mention of the 6.75 percent interest [from the POA]. The City says it will save $230 million by the ASF recoupment, but that is actually $400 million with the interest.”

Retiree Belinda Myers-Florence noted in an email that a Freedom of Information Act request has been submitted for an actual accounting of the proposed clawbacks.

“The Judge questioned the Retiree Committee representative and the Jones Day lawyer,” she said. They both began to stutter, fumble, dodge and avoid direct questions posed by the Judge.”

Rhodes asked whether that information was omitted from all 32,000 ballots mailed to retirees.

“6.75 %! RE-VOTE!”

Heather Lennox

Heather Lennox

Jones Day attorney Heather Lennox tried to claim the added interest rate was only omitted from 3,200 ballots earlier identified as erroneous because they included interest from 2002, when the amounts were supposed to cover the years from 2003 to 2013.Denton’s attorney Carol Neville, allegedly representing the Official Committee of Retirees, ran to the podium to assist Lennox, but only clouded the matter further.“We are attorneys, not actuaries,” she complained.

On their way out of the courthouse, the attorneys heard chants of “6.75 percent! RE-VOTE!” While the daily media has been trumpeting that most retirees are voting “Yes” on the POA, in fact such a major error may invalidate the ballots and require a massive re-vote.

Denton’s, which recommended a yes vote in its mailing, is supposed to represent the Official Committee of Retirees (OCR). But at least three members of that committee, Gail Wilson, Gail Wilson-Turner, and Michael Karwoski, a retired Law Department attorney, have filed official objections to the Plan of Adjustment. (Click on DB Gail Wilson objection re UMTA, DB Karwoski ASF, and DB obj Gail Wilson Turner to read their objections.)

bankruptcy costsDenton’s has been paid over $7.4 million so far by the City of Detroit, allegedly to represent the OCR. But its letter to retirees says it is represents itself and the city only.

Retiree Irma Industrious questioned whether the clawback itself is legal, noting that 11 USC 547 of the Bankruptcy Code sets a limit on recoupment of 90 days prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition.

“Why not recoupment of debts from state, banks, feds?”

Cecily McClellan is a leader of the Detroit Concerned Citizens, Active Employees, and Retirees, which has been conducting “NO” vote drives throughout city neighborhoods in U-Haul Trucks festooned with banners.

She said, “The Governor places no value on the people of the City of Detroit. The retirees are being scapegoated. The Great Recession of 2008 was not caused by the retirees, but by Wall Street greed. The state needs to pay Detroit the $730 million it owes the city in revenue-sharing. There should be a moratorium on all corporate tax abatements. The banks need to be sued. Even Public Act 436, under which Orr operates, says that he must comply with the state constitution by not impairing or diminishing pension benefits.”

McClellan and others also noted that the bankruptcy takes federal funds from workers whose wages, benefits and pensions are or were fully funded by federal grants, including those from the departments of Health, Human Services and Workforce Development.

In her written objection, Committee of Retirees member Gail Wilson, who is the widow of Leamon Wilson, long-time president of the bus mechanics’ AFSCME Local 312, says the POA fails to comply with the Federal Urban Mass Transit Act (UMTA) Sec. 13(c).

Her objection reads in part that the UMTA requires that “recipients of grant funds for the purpose of implementing projects, maintenance and/or operations involving mass transportation, must first voluntarily agree to enter into a Protective Agreement with the affected labor organization(s) to ensure that members of the labor organization are not harmed as a result of the project. . . .such protective assistance shall include, without being limited to, such provisions as may be necessary for (1) the preservation of rights, provisions and benefits (including pension rights and benefits) under existing collective bargaining agreements . . .”

Objections to elimination of retiree health care: “Most of us will be dead”

Health care, like water is a human right.

Health care, like water is a human right.

Numerous objectors told shocking stories of the added burden the elimination of health care has laid on their backs and those of their spouses.

Retired city bus driver Jesse Florence, said during the morning session that since the city cut health care benefits for retirees under 65, his premiums have jumped from $152 a month to $1026.

Meah said hole at top of sewer looks like the size of a quarter.

Meah said hole at top of sewer looks like the size of a quarter.

“I never thought I would be struggling to get health care,” he said. “This is devastating.”Marshall Meah said he worked 30 years in DWSD, sustained numerous injuries and diseases due to toxic exposure, and lost his wife and family because he was on 24-hour call, even having to take his child with him to work one time.“It was a very dangerous job working in the sewers,” he said. “There were no gas detectors in the beginning, the manhole looked like the size of a quarter from down below, and once our cable broke and I had to save a co-worker’s life.”He said he now needs constant medical care for physical injuries he sustained.

Stop CancerHis brother Amru Meah, formerly Director of the Buildings and Safety Engineering Department, said he pays $858 a month for health care which he desperately needs because he is a cancer patient.

Roger Rice, a Department of Public Works retiree and long-time union officer, said his wife had a heart attack due to stress after the announcement of the bankruptcy, and now has had her entire city health insurance eliminated because she is under 65. He noted that retirees can’t wait 20 years for restoration of their benefits. He said he will be 86. Another retiree said, “Most of us will be dead by then.”

Cuts reduce one retiree’s annual income from $21,000 to $4,942

Constance Phillips, a supervisor for 17 years at the Human Services Department, helping Detroiters with their utility bills and other needs, she said she now estimates cuts in her health care, pension, and annuities will reduce her annual compensation from $21,000 to $4,942, putting her in her former clients’ positions and worse.

Retirees are the backbone of the Black community.

Retirees are the backbone of the Black community.

“Remove the retirees from these bankruptcy proceedings!” H. Jean Powell demanded.Rhonda Sims, a UAW member, said the cuts are targeted specifically at Black workers by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Koch Brothers.“Any further cuts will have a devastating psychological effect on our already devastated African-American community,” she said.

“Retirees are the backbone of our communities. Many retirees are supporting grandchildren and parents, four generations in one household. How will the younger generation be motivated to get an honest job after they watch their parents and grandparents, who worked all their lives, homeless and on the streets? There are no summer jobs, no recreation centers, no Belle Isle, and now no water. Why should they not turn to crime? The banks can afford to take cuts, pensioners cannot.”

Retirees object to sell-out by retirement systems, balloting process

“The Detroit General Retirement System’s use of coercion and blackmail [in its mailing calling for a ‘yes’ vote] was totally offensive,” said Beverly Holman. “Not all elements are disclosed, including the total dollar amount of [alleged] excess interest paid to retirees. We are told that we can pay it back in one lump sum—that is like eating an elephant in one bite. This will create a new class of the elderly poor in Detroit and across the U.S., eligible for public assistance.” (Read full letter from DGRS at DGRS Yes letter.)

Tom Sheehan is president of the DGRS and also sits on the DRCEA board.

Tom Sheehan is president of the DGRS and also sits on the DRCEA board.

Many referred to the 3200 ballots that had to be remailed due to deficiencies, as well as the inclusion of letters from the Detroit Retired City Employees Association (DRCEA), the Detroit General Retirement System, Denton’s, and others recommending a “Yes” vote. The DGRS even told its members that they could request another ballot if they wanted to change their vote.Several said the ballots could easily be falsified since the “Yes” and “No” pages are separate from the signature pages. One retiree said his groups had filed an FOIA to get a copy of the mailing list of retirees so they could mail out fliers advocating “NO” votes and giving the complete picture.

Carl Williams outlined numerous violations of Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Procedures in the Plan of Adjustment. He and retiree Hassan Aleem sponsored a series of objections signed earlier at a meeting of the Detroit Concerned Citizens, Active Employees, and Retirees. Two of those objections are listed below.

“Orr is a representative of the state, not the city,” he said. “Only a municipality can file for bankruptcy. That state owes the city millions, but then it turns around and files bankruptcy, not in good faith, and not for the benefit of the city.”

Williams added that Rhodes’ court never had jurisdiction over the filing, alleging that Rhodes is a magistrate, not a judge, without the authority to make any judgments in the case. Rhodes did not deny Williams’ allegation.

Retirees at meeting of Concerned Detroiters, Active Employees and Retirees July 7, 2014. Meetings are held every Monday at N'namdi's, 12150 Woodward at 11 a.m.

Retirees at meeting of Concerned Detroiters, Active Employees and Retirees July 7, 2014. Meetings are held every Monday at N’namdi’s, 12150 Woodward at 11 a.m.


Many objectors, including Cindy Darrah, raised the issue of the billions in public taxes that are being paid to wealthy developers like Mike Illitch, Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske and others, while Detroit is allegedly bankrupt.

John Lauve“The state has the obligation not to look the other way,” Darrah said. “They gave the ‘Grand Bargain’ $195 million while giving Illitch $240,000,000, illegally out of the school aid fund for his new hockey rink.”

John Lauve, who protested outside the courtroom, handed out a flier detailing the public costs of the Red Wing area, the M-1 trolley, and $1 no bid sales to developers.

“Penske’s trolley system diverts money that should be used to fix the failed bus system to benefit the entire City,” Lauve noted “This added transit system will compete and disrupt the two current bus services.”

July 18 rally_0001


Water is a human right rallyJuly 18 rally_0002

Endorsements of July 18 march and rally in Detroit

Charity Hicks gone too soonCelebration of life


SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2014   9:30 A.M.



Related documents and stories:

Full testimony of Kris Hamel on the water shut-offs. KH testimony.

Steven Wojtowicz official objection at DB Wojtowicz objection.

Group objection Carl Williams, Hassan Aleem DB objection Hassan Aleem et al 7 8 14.

Group objection Williams, Aleem DB objection Williams Aleem et al

Jean Vortkamp’s full testimony at Vortkamp testimony.

Cindy Darrah’s full testimony at Darrah testimony.

John Lauve’s written objection at Lauve testimony.

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By Leona McElvene

As promised below are  links to the 16 video clips that I recorded Mon. June 23, 2014 during the “Drop the Charges Against Rev. Edward Pinkney and Celebrate His Release from House Arrest!”  event hosted by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI),  with featured speaker Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization) at 5920 Second Avenue, in Detroit, MI.

(VOD has embedded some of these videos to watch on this site, including Rev. Edward Pinkney’s talk at top of story. There is a list at the conclusion of all links as provided by Ms. McElvene.)

Be sure to sign the petition to free Rev. Pinkney at

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963








(1/16) – Marcina Cole (Approx. 6 minutes) (9/16) – Tom Barrow (Approx. 8 minutes)
(2/16) – Rev. Pinkney (Approx. 14 minutes) (10/16) – Cecily McClellan (Approx. 5 minutes)
(3/16) – Abayomi Azikiwe (Approx. 1 minute) (11/16) – M.L. Patrick & Rev. Pinkney(Approx. 6 mins)
(4/16) – Tangela Harris (Approx. 6 minutes) (12/16) – Detroit 7Mile Radio (Approx. 4 minutes)
(5/16) – General Audience (Approx. 2 minutes) (13/16) – Helen Moore (Approx. 7 minutes)
(6/16) – The Churches (Approx. 3 minutes) (14/16) – Young Man from ROC (Approx. 3 minutes)
(7/16) – Larry Hicks (Approx. 3 minutes) (15/16) – Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney (Approx. 5 minutes)
(8/16) – Jerry Goldberg (Approx. 3 minutes) (16/16) – We’re gonna win! (Approx. 4 minutes)


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Charges invented to send me to jail

 There is absolutely no evidence that a crime was even committed by me. The judge and prosecutor are hired guns for Whirlpool Corporation. I’m now in the kangaroo court.* The judge is so one-sided, he is about to tip over when he walks. He is trying as hard as possible to rush to trial, hoping the all-white jury will find me guilty – with no evidence of a crime being committed.

We are now appealing the case to the State Court of Appeals, seeking leave to appeal the denial of my motion to quash. The bind-over was improper and wrong. We must stop the corruption in Berrien County at all costs.

I am charged with five felony counts of forgery under MCL168.937, a provision of the election code, with six misdemeanor counts regarding allegations that I falsely certified that I did not permit or know of anyone having signed recall twice. The bind-over on the felony counts and denial of the motion to quash are the subject of this application for leave to appeal to the State Court of Appeal.

MCL 168.937 is a penalty provision for any forgery offense set forth under any other section of the election code. MCL 168.937 does not itself define which election related documents may be the subject to a forgery prosecution and does not set forth the elements of forgery.

There is absolutely no evidence that I committed forgery; the handwriting “expert” cannot say that I did anything wrong; there is no confession, no witnesses. Sheriff Paul Bailey and the prosecutor made up the false charges to send me to jail. We must stop Berrien County judge Sterling Schrock and prosecutor Mike Sepic, two of the most corrupt individuals in the history of this country. We the people must take a stand against corruption. It is not about me, it is all about the future and you.

Rev. Edward Pinkney

*an irregular or mock court, illegally passing and executing judgment.

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