(This editorial endorsement of Monica Lewis-Patrick for City Council at Large is interspersed with her own speeches on You Tube and photos of her supporters at the fish fry fund-raiser at Hush House near Greater King Solomon Baptist Church.)
DETROIT – The backyard of Detroit’s Hush House was packed July 26 with supporters of Monica Lewis-Patrick for City Council attending a fish fry fund-raiser. They included people who have fought side by side with her for self-determination for the people of Detroit, ever since the introduction of the legislation that became Public Act 4, otherwise known as Michigan’s Emergency Manager Act, in 2011.
Debra Taylor and Cecily McClellan rallied the crowd for Monica and for Detroit.
Present were the co-founders with Monica of We the People of Detroit and Free Detroit No Consent: Debra Taylor, Gloria (Aneb) House, Cecily McClellan, Chris Griffith, Valerie Glenn, Keith Hines, and more, including youths she brought into the battle like Demeeko Williams. Marian Kramer of the Welfare Rights Organization showed up to speak on Monica’s behalf, as did long-time community organizer Gwen Mingo. The rest are too numerous to name.
Also present, of course, was Councilwoman JoAnn Watson herself, who Monica has worked for over the past period.
Some of the many who turned out for a campaign fund-raiser/fish fry at Hush House Friday, July 26, 2012.
Gloria (Aneb) House who spoke at the fund-raiser on Monica’s behalf, with other supporters.
“Over the last two or three years, I have watched Monica as she and all the members of We the People fought every day,” said Gloria (Aneb) House, a renowned activist in Detroit since the 1960’s. “Strategy meetings, picket lines, non-stop organizing. She has a warrior’s spirit. She belongs to us. She brought the same fire to make sure Councilwoman Watson’s work was done by day and by night. She understands what’s going on. When she’s elected we can count on her not to be in the backrooms making deals behind closed doors. She is going to keep her head and feet behind us in the community. We must be ready to turn out to support her and fight for our city.”
Monica and her allies have paid their dues in the grueling battle to stop the corporate-state takeover of the world’s largest Black-majority city, Detroit, which is also the nation’s poorest major city. ‘
Prior to working for Councilwoman Watson, Monica worked diligently on the recount of the 2009 election that gave Detroiters Dave Bing, supporting the challenge brought by Tom Barrow. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers found that over 60,000 votes in that election were unrecountable due to numerous irregularities, but certified the elction anyway. Her work previous to that is described in her campaign flier above.
Monica then went to work for Councilwoman Watson, organizing rallies with the massive turn-outs in Lansing in February and April of 2011, against Public Act 4, the last swelling to over 10,000 people, then the huge Jan. 2, 2012 rally against a PA4 takeover of Detroit at Triumph Baptist Church She then worked day and night with thousands of others across the state on the arduous job of collecting over 240,000 signatures to repeal Public Act 4.
Monica’s supporters at picnic.
Monica poses with supporters.
At the same time, she worked with Councilwoman Watson to oppose the disastrous Public Act 4 Consent Agreement the Council voted for on April 4, 2012, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. That agreement began a prolonged assassination of Detroit. Despite all setbacks, however, Monica has never given up the battle, believing that the people of Detroit will win their city back.
Monica speaks at campaign rally July 25.
It is perhaps best said in her own words during the fish fry. Monica told how she felt going back into the Coleman A. Young Center to collect her belongings after she and Debra Taylor were laid off due to cuts sanctioned by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.
“I know they are trying to take our pensions, our water, our island, our city and our vote,” she said. “Over the last five years I have fallen deeply in love with the citizens of Detroit. Yesterday my oldest daughter gave birth to a little baby girl. There is something special about a grandchild. You know that part of you will live on. I’ve seen Detroiters fight to maintain their right to self-determination, with the Councilwoman fighting like none other.”
“We need you to help us save our city,” Monica said. Mitt Romney told us to let Detroit go bankrupt. We worked day and night to repeal Public Act 4, with Governor Snyder acting like a wolf going after sheep, like George Zimmerman hunting down Trayvon Martin. He found us in a most vulnerable state.
Keith Hines at right with Monica and others.
“He knew our leadership had been compromised and our assets were in jeopardy. Our fight has been unmatched, for collective bargaining, for HUD Section 3 which guarantees employment for our youth, for our children to be able to go to the same quality schools this city used to set the bar for.
“I am asking President Barack Obama to hold true to his promise not to let Detroit go bankrupt. We deserve the right to vote, to self-determination, to our water system that we paid for, to Belle Isle. Our forbears came from cotton picking and sharecropping to becoming engineers, lawyers, doctors, some of the best scholars in the world. We want to make sure we get a Mayor that’s proven they love this city.”
Monica’s daughters at left, friend
It was a delicious cake.
(Unfortunately, VOD lost track of who said what during the rally, but following are other comments, by speakers Cecily McClellan, Debra Taylor, Marian Kramer and more. They may be somewhat amalgamated.)
Demeeko, Tara, Ihekerema
“We have to push Monica’s campaign into high gear, like we did when we were voting for the President. They aren’t rebuilding Detroit for its current residents. Detroit is big enough for everybody. We’re not trying to keep anybody out, but we sure as hell aren’t going to let them kick us out.”
“Kevyn Orr was on the news talking about the thousands of people in Detroit who collect pensions. He said we have to balance the budget. This is evil when you turn your back on the people who built the city and kept it running. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Orr’s emails show that once upon a time he had a conscience, and knew it was wrong to take over Detroit.”
Marian Kramer of the Welfare Rights Organization supports Monica.
As editor of the Voice of Detroit, who religiously covered all the events Monica and others organized, from Lansing to Detroit, I have to say that I rarely trust politicians and do not believe in endorsements by newspapers. My former employer, the Michigan Citizen, previously had a policy of non-endorsement, knowing that promises made at election time can easily be forgotten in the fray afterwards. Unfortunately, the Michigan Citizen betrayed that policy in the last election, endorsing the likes of James Tate, Saunteel Jenkins, and Andre Spivey, who sold the people out, voting for the consent agreement and contracts with the law firms that are now pushing Orr’s attack on Detroit—Jones Day, Ernst & Young, Miller Canfield, Milliman, Inc. and many more. They literally sold our city to the devil, if such exists.
BUT, AS DIANE BUKOWSKI, AND AS EDITOR OF VOD, I DO TRUST IN AND BELIEVE THAT MONICA WILL NOT BETRAY THE PEOPLE OF DETROIT, HAVING WATCHED HER WORK THROUGH THESE LAST YEARS. MONICA LIKED TO TELL EVERYBODY THAT I WAS THE IDA B. WELLS OF OUR TIME—I DEFER. MONICA LEWIS-PATRICK IS THE IDA B. WELLS OF OUR TIME—THIS TIME, THIS PLACE, HERE IN OUR BELOVED CITY OF DETROIT. VOTE FOR HER!
Monica Patrick in green at right and Debra Taylor at left rally the crowd of 10000 April 13 2011 in Lansing at protest against PA4.
I decided to review VOD’s entire archives beginning with late 2010 to see what actions Monica Lewis-Patrick and Councilwoman JoAnn Watson led to stop the corporate-state takeover of Detroit, which VOD reported on. The list below is VOLUMINOUS; it was exhausting just to think of what work went into the actions reported on, in particular by Councilwoman Watson and her staff, including Monica and Debra Taylor, as well as Councilwoman Brenda Jones, who is running again.
While reviewing these articles, I also saw dozens describing Mayoral Candidate Krystal Crittendon’s heroic battle to stop the consent agreement despite attacks from Gov. Snyder, Mayor Bing, and the City Council Sell-Out Six that resulted in her discharge as the city’s Corporation Counsel. I know that Councilwoman Watson and her staff consulted frequently with Krystal Crittendon.
I WISH TOM BARROW AND OTHER SUNDRY MAYORAL CANDIDATES HAD JOINED FORCES WITH MS. CRITTENDON INSTEAD OF RUNNING ON THEIR OWN, EFFECTIVELY SPLITTING THE VOTE IN THE FACE OF THE CORPORATE FUNDED CANDIDATES, BENNY NAPOLEON AND MIKE DUGGAN. MORE ON THIS BY MONDAY AT THE LATEST, ALTHOUGH I KNOW IT’S LATE IN THE GAME. BUT I JUST WANT TO SAY ALSO: KRYSTAL CRITTENDON FOR MAYOR–A TOUGH WOMAN PROVEN IN BATTLE!
Those who stood against the consent agreement: (l to r) Debra Taylor, Monica Lewis-Patrick, Councilmembers JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta, Brenda Jones, after Fatal Five approved it April 4, 2013
See articles below, related to the battleswaged by Monica Lewis-Patrick, Councilwomen JoAnn Watson and Brenda Jones along with Councilman Kwame Kenyatta (not running this year), and Mayoral Candidate Krystal Crittendon and decide for yourselves who should get your vote!
Ed McNamara, Mike Duggan joined at hip from 1986-2002.
DETROIT – In his campaign for Mayor of Detroit, Michael Duggan has continually urged people to “look at his record.”
Some suggest that voters ought to examine carefully a prominent part of Duggan’s recorrd—his role from 1986 to 2002 as Deputy Executive to Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara in handling the destruction of the downtown YMCA in order to make way for the construction of Comerica Park.
Evangelist Sarella Johnson, founder of Unity in the Community, charges he authorized bullying and vandalism to drive tenants out of the building, many of them senior citizens, so that the Stadium Authority would not have to live up to their obligation of providing them with adequate relocation expenses.
Comerica Park under construction. City of Detroit taxpayers anted up $40 million, along with state and county funds, to Mike Illtich to build the stadium.
Because the tenants were removed partly through government action, they were entitled to a relocation away that provides compensation in line with their ability to pay.
If Duggan becomes Mayor, some wonder whether he might drive scores of people out of house and home and use government to create more homelessness.
During urban renewal cases in the 1960’s, residents claimed that government officials cut services and made conditions so unbearable most people wanted to get out fast.
One of the residents in the building at the time, Minister Craig Dorsey, said there were violations of the law.
Logo for Unity in the Community, founded by Sarella Johnson.
“They broke the faucets and put them in the sink, put the caps off the radiators and shoved them against the wall [shutting off the heat in the winter time, vandalized and toree off the only pay phone in the lobby and took it completely out.”
Johnson said, “We asked them [the people who did this] who sent them. We were told Mike Duggan.”
Dorsey and Johnson also said a fire was set in the building.
Duggan and his campaign officials could not be reached for comment by the time of this writing. However, Johnson said when confronted at the time Duggan blamed the tenants for the destruction of their own building.
She said it was unlikely the tenants would destroy the building they lived in for years. Dorsey said the fire was set in a portion of the building that tenants had no access to.
Many tenants of the downtown YMCA were elderly and poor.
Both Dorsey and Johnson said they did not allow the tenants to get their belongings out of their room.
According to the state Tenant Rights Act, people can stay 30 days before eviction is final,* so they can appeal their case in court. Johnson said this state law was blatantly violated.
Johnson said she paid some of the tenants’ rent, so they could at least take some of their things. Dorsey said some of the money the tenants kept in their rrooms was stolen.
Mike Duggan lures in woman, elderly like the men evicted from the YMCA.
Johnson said the tenants were “devastated.
“Some were unable to speak themselves. I told them there was nothing for them to be ashame of. The older men, who had memories of the Y, were crushed.”
“This is unAmerican,” she said. “It should not be allowed in this city or this country.”
Coming across the people in the Y, she said was one of the things that got her involved in city issues.
*VOD editor: What was done to these tenants, if true, was an illegal lock-out. Since I work part-time as a counselor for potentially homeless people, I have become aware of the following:
1.) You have a right to written notice of eviction, given to you by hand. If you have a lease, it must give you 30 days to move. If you rent month to month, it must give you seven days. However, you do not have to move even then.
2) After that period, the landlord must go to the District Court and have a “Notice and Summons” sent to you by the court, which will set a time and date for a hearing.
3) During the hearing, you will come before a judge. You also have the right to a request a jury trial (for a fee). You have a right to legal representation in court.
4) The judge will issue a Judgment telling you what date you have to move by. It will likely be at least ten days from the date of the hearing.
5) After that date expires, the landlord must go BACK to court to have the judge sign a Writ of Eviction.
6) The landlord must then contact the bailiff’s office for eviction. By city ordinance, he must rent a dumpster to put your belongings in.
Unless and until all these steps are taken, the landlord has no legal right to lock you out, turn off your utilities, change your locks, remove your belongings, or physically force you out. If any of this happens, you have the right to call the police to have them intervene (h0pefully—don’t count on it in Detroit).
For further information and to get free legal representation, contact the United Community Housing Coalition Landlord-Tenant Division at 313-963-3310.
City workers protest Mayor Dave Bing’s earlier move to take over pension systems.
By Ian Suite
August 1, 2013
U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, AG Eric Holder, head of the Justice Department
DETROIT — [Regarding the attack on Detroit’s retirees], where are [U.S. Reps and Senators] Peters, Conyers, Dingell, Levin, Stabenow et. al. in this ?? And you would think the President and the Justice Department would be looking into this and have something of meaning to say to protect these retirants.
Does anyone realize the disastrous socio-economic effect that not keeping whole the current retirees would have on society as a whole ?? Many retirees would lose their homes, maybe their vehicles, have to move in with their children who probably have families of their own, causing them stress and financial burdens they did not expect and should not have. Then there are those retirees who are still caring for and/or raising minor children of their own; and believe me there are more than you think in this position. That has a generational effect too.
City workers and kids at AFSCME picnic on Belle Isle in 2012
And while we are on it, this whole news coverage of the plight of our uniformed employees and retirees is squelching the fact that many other retirees are out here who were civilians belonging to the General System. They are damn important too !!
Let us NOT forget that attendant issues involving the plight of current affairs rest with some other statutes – first is P.A. 312 , the 1969 addendum to the Public Employment Relations Act of 1965 for public employees; which historically until the mid-2000’s has given public safety personnel close to everything they demanded at the bargaining table from an economic perspective. As an example, they didn’t begin paying co-pays for their health insurance until about 2005-6, while the civilian employees started this practice in 1987 !! Astounding!
Ernst & Young, a City of Detroit consultant in the bankruptcy, did the books for Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered the 2000 economic meltdown. They are being sued by the states of New York and New Jersey for their role.
And let’s not vilify the pension boards for this mess ; these bodies were hamstrung in many instances by the statute which governs investment criteria for ALL public pension systems in Michigan, P.A. 314. This statute is arcane and has not kept up with the ‘real-world’ of invetments. And let me add that throughout this statute the State is “exempt” from the stated limitations set forth in the act for particular investment types.
And, then there are the losses connected to the “Market-Crash” of 2007-2008, manipulated as it was , which caused the funds to lose a bit over 1 billion in assets because of Wall St mischief. Where is that money ? Particularly since many of these same money-manipulators were “Bailed-Out” and were major participants in the Global-Crash.
Protest against PA 4 in Lansing April, 2011. Ten thousand participated.
Many of these same entities have recently been involved in International Money Laundering, fixing the LIBOR rates, untold insider trading and God knows what else.
Any attempt to alter retirees’ income would be criminal and societally unacceptable.
P.S. I was around in 1963 when the State Constitution was amended and Article IX Section 24 was put in there, and as a further piece of FACT this provision , along a few others , was written by Theodore Sachs , a pre-eminent Constitutional authority. Unfortunately, he passed away many years ago.
In brief, the objection makes the following points: 1. The “Retirees Committee” should not be used as a “surrogate” or “straw person” to replace the Retirement Systems. 2. The Retirement Systems have “significant resources” which should not be barred from use on behalf of the retirees. 3. The Retirement Systems object to the City’s role in selecting the retirees as a conflict of interest; they should be selected by the Office of the U.S. Trustee. 4. The committee members should be paid officials. 5. Clark Hill and Greenhill, attorneys for the Retirement Systems, have participated in extensive consultations with the Retirement Systems and have also met with EM Kevyn Orr in negotiations. 5. Orr wants the committee because he claims the Retirement Systems cannot legally bind retirees. However, neither can the Retirement Committee or any other body. 6. Orr’s motion says the Retirees Commitee would be the single representative of the retirees. The Retirement Systems object that this is “an inappropriate attempt to marginalize the Retirement Systems–the city’s two largest creditors. . .in negotiating the protection of benefits . . . and the deprive the participants of the Retirement Systems of the significant resources” the systems can bring to bear.
DETROIT – Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s motion in the city’s bankruptcy case to for U.S. Judge Steven Rhodes to appoint a separate “Retirees Committee” that could replace the city’s elected Pension Boards will be heard this Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 at 10 a.m.
David Sole, a city retiree with the newly formed “Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee” (STOP) said they and others plan to protest at 9 a.m. outside the federal courthouse at 231 W. Lafayette in downtown Detroit.
Orr wants the newly-concocted committee to represent all 23,500 city retirees.
Snyder is interviewed after repeal of Public Act 4.
“There is still a request in front of the bankruptcy judge to appoint a creditor’s committee that will include retirees, so they will be the party that will really be representing retirees,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told Channel 7 in an earlier interview, making it clear that he and Orr want to eliminate the role of the pension funds in dealing with the bankruptcy.
Such a committee would not have the financial resources or expertise to fight what Orr and Snyder have made clear is their intent to raid retirees’ pensions.
The Detroit General Retirement System (DGRS) and the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System (DPFRS) have set aside “war chests” to defend retirees in the bankruptcy case. They filed lawsuits at the state level and are currently intervening in the bankruptcy proceedings.
Bankruptcy attorney Robert Gordon of Clark Hill
“The Michigan State Constitution provides protection for accrued pension benefits,” bankruptcy attorney Robert Gordon of Clark Hill, representing the pension systems, argued during the first bankruptcy case hearing July 24. He said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder thereby had no authority to authorize the bankruptcy filing, since he is sworn to uphold the state Constitution.
“The Governor cannot unilaterally abrogate the constitution. He is seeking to do indirectly what he can’t do directly,” Gordon said.
Article 9, Sec. 24 of the Michigan Constitution explicitly forbids “diminishing or impairing” public pension benefits.
The pension funds also argued earlier in their state lawsuit that the current “Emergency Manager” act, PA 436, binds any Emergency Manager as well to comply with Art. 9 Section 24.
Detroit firefighters protest bankruptcy filing outside court July 24, 2013.
Jones Day, the city’s consultant, argues in Orr’s motion that the boards “have no authority to amend the terms of the Retirement Systems and pension plans.” They say the authority lies with the city through amendments of the City Code, and thereby with Orr.
The motion cites Detroit City Code § 47-4-4 (“The City reserves the right to amend . . . the Plans created hereunder at any time; such amendments may include termination of the Plan.”) Click on DB retirees committee motion to read full motion. Also click on DB 8 2 13 order to read agenda for Aug. 2 hearing.
The motion also argues that both pension funds are funded at levels lower than those reported by their actuary, Gabriel, Roeder and Smith. Milliman, Inc., hired by the city last year as a consultant, has made those contentions in unpublished reports. Under Public Act 436, Orr can remove one or all the elected trustees of the pension boards if that is the case.
Protest at CAYMC July 25, 2013.
Detroit’s case is unique among others in the country because it is being brought by an unelected official, Orr, with no accountability to the people, in a federal forum where there are no federal statutes protecting public pensions.
San Bernadino Mayor Pat Morris has opposed cuts to pensions as well as privatization during bankruptcy proceedings.
In the Stockton, California Chapter 9 bankruptcy case, the California Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) has been able to preserve public pensions in negotiations with the elected governments involved, while making concessions on health care. In San Bernadino, California, city officials there also held out against pension reductions.
Some union officials including Ed McNeil of AFSCME Council 25 and Dan McNamara of the Detroit Firefighters Association have misconstrued the gravity of Rhodes’ ruling, claiming it is better to be in the federal courts rather than the reactionary state courts.
USDEM Chief Judge Gerald Rosen.
After the hearing, McNeil proclaimed it a victory to retirees outside, despite the fact that AFSCME Council 25’s attorney Sharon Levine argued strenuously against the bankruptcy filing in court just hours earlier.
Judge Rhodes’ background is murky, but it is not likely that he will be any less reactionary than the state courts. He appointed U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan Chief Judge Gerald Rosen as a mediator in the case. Rosen is a member of the arch-conservative Federalist Society. Before his appointment to the bench by President George W. Bush, he worked with Miller Canfield.
That is a likely conflict of interest, since Miller Canfield is also representing the city (i.e. Kevyn Orr) in the bankruptcy filing.
A representative for Gordon said he will be filing appropriate motion(s) on behalf of the funds before Friday to protect the pension boards, but that he cannot talk to the media until after the actions are filed. She said he takes the matter very seriously.
DWSD workers including Local 207 VP Mike Mulholland at right during July 25 protest.
At a luncheon held by the Detroit Retired City Employees Association July 20, retirees were recruited to sign up for representation on some form of committee, according to several attendees. In his motion, Orr suggested that retiree associations do so.
On their website, DRCEA President Shirley Lightsey has posted a letter she sent to Orr in March asking to meet with him. She says in the letter that the DRCEA has 6500 members. Lightsey letter to Orr.
“As you can certainly imagine, retirees and beneficiaries are fearful of what may happento their pensions and medical coverage as you try to find ways to correct the financial problems of the City of Detroit,” Lightsey wrote. “We are the liaison to many of those that will be affected by your decisions; and, I feel it would be helpful and informative if you would agree to meet with myself and several Officers of the DRCEA. We understand the challenges you face and the very difficult decisions you will be required to make going forward; however, we feel it is important for us to discuss with you the very serious impact any changes will have on all retirees and beneficiaries.
“If you agree to meet, we appreciate having the opportunity to share our concerns andallowing an open dialogue before you finalize your decisions and recommendations.”
Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Dept. will be taken over under bankruptcy if Orr wins.
The federal bankruptcy court website lists Attorney Ryan Plecha as representing both the DRCEA and the Detroit Retired Police and Firefighters Association (DRPFA) in the case.
Don Taylor, President of the DRPFA, earlier told another station, “Most of the retirees live on a fixed income and their pension is all they have because the city of Detroit opted out of social security so the retirees only have their pensions. They are worried right now.”
His organization represents 6,000 retirees.
Taylor is listed with Lightsey as one of the intervenors represented by Plecha on the court website.
Lightsey was contacted by email for further information, but had not responded before this story went to press.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
In related news, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s much publicized pledge July 26 that he would file a motion July 29 to defend retirees’ constitutional rights to their pensions did not materialize. As of July 30, no such motion had been filed according to the court’s website. Schuette only filed an appearance, although he was already represented at the July 24 hearing.
VOD earlier contacted Schuette’s press representative Joy Yearout for a copy of Schuette’s release cited in the Detroit News and Free Press, but to date has not received a response.
Orr additionally pledged in the daily media that he will not cut retirees’ pensions or health care benefits for six months, but did not cite what provision under the Bankruptcy Code allows him to make such a pledge.
Some retirees have said they feel Schuette and Orr are stringing them along to prevent an all-out fightback.
To contact STOP, the Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee,” call 313-680-5508 or go to www.moratorium-mi.org. Meetings of the Moratorium Now Coalition, which initiated STOP, are held every Monday at 7 pm at 5920 Second near Wayne State University.
Watch VOD for further updates on this matter, and on the fast-tracking of the bankruptcy filing.
Tranformers 4 is shooting in downtown Detroit at this site near Clifford and Bagley.
HEARING ON MOTION TO REPLACE PENSION BOARDS AUG. 2, 2013 10 AM
Judge Rhodes takes federal jurisdiction over broad range of issues
Represents national challenge to pension rights guaranteed by states
Firefighters, other retirees mobilizing to stop the attack
City services will NOT improve, despite contentions by Orr, Freep
By Diane Bukowski
July 28, 2013
Detroit firefighters protest outside courthouse July 24. Photo: Paul Sancya, AP
DETROIT – Detroit firefighters and other city workers shouted out “This is war” in protests this week, after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes declared exclusive federal jurisdiction over actions related to their pensions and all matters connected to Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case, both present and future. The bankruptcy filing is the largest in the history of the U.S.
Judge Rhodes’ sweeping order is significant particularly because it takes the issues out of Michigan’s state courts. The Michigan Constitution has strong provisions protecting public retiree pensions, whereas there are no such protections under federal statutes.
“It was argued today that perhaps the exclusive grant of jurisdiction to the Bankruptcy Court in Chapter 9 is unconstitutional,” Rhodes said during his ruling. “I find nothing in the 10th amendment or the more ambiguous concept of federalism to support that. In all of the other recent Chapter 9 cases, the Bankruptcy Court determined eligibility. This is entirely consistent with the bankruptcy and supremacy clauses of the Constitution. There is nothing in Title 28 jurisdictional provisions that suggests that Congress intended for state courts to have jurisdiction.”
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes with his book on Ponzi schemes.
The 1oth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
His ruling as finalized reads in part, “Pursuant to section 105(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, the Chapter 9 Stay hereby is extended to apply in all respects (to the extent not otherwise applicable) to the State Entities (defined as the Governor, the State Treasurer and the members of the Loan Board, collectively with the State Treasurer and the Governor, and together with each entity’s staff, agents and representatives), the Non-Officer Employees and the City Agents and Representatives.
“For the avoidance of doubt, each of the Prepetition Lawsuits hereby is stayed, pursuant to section 105(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, pending further order of this Court.
“This order is entered without prejudice to the right of anycreditor to file a motion for relief from the stay imposed by this order using the procedures of and under the standards of 11 U.S.C. § 362(d)-(g).”
(VOD will be publishing links to other court documents later.)
JUDGE RHODES GRANTS JONES DAY MOTIONS
Heather Lennox leads Jones Day’s victorious charge out of court July 24.. Beside her is Jones Day Attorney David Heiman and in background at right is managing partner Stephen Brogan.
Judge Rhodes’ sweeping order completely granted “stay” and “extended stay” motions by the City of Detroit, as represented by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and the megalith, ultraconservative Jones Day law firm. Jones Day was hired after mass opposition from Detroit residents who said it represents most of the city’s corporate creditors in other matters.
Jones Day has a team of five in town handling the bankruptcy and debt re-structuing, including its Managing Partner [i.e. CEO] Stephen Brogan. Attorney Heather Lennox argued their case July 24.
Lennox, of their Cleveland office, according to the law firm’s website, is “a restructuring partner, has counseled manufacturing clients in various industries through bankruptcies involving significant changes (both negotiated and court-imposed) to collective bargaining agreements, retiree benefits, and pensions affecting various unions.”
NATIONAL ATTACK ON PENSION RIGHTS
Attorney Jerome Goldberg of Moratorium Now Coalition speaks against banks at Detroit Financial Review Team meeting March 26, 2012/ Photo by Diane Bukowski
Attorney Jerome Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! pointed out the national implications of Judge Rhodes’ order.
“Detroit is now in the forefront of what amounts to a national attack on the working class and pensions across the country orchestrated by the ruling class and banks who caused this crisis,” Attorney Jerome Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition said, speaking outside Rhodes’ court July 24.
“Twenty-four other states have constitutional protections of public pension benefits,” Goldberg explained. “Michigan’s law is among the best. If it is eviscerated here, this will be a signal to the other states. The real secured debts are the pensions, secured by the workers who sacrificed higher pay for them. The city’s debts to the banks must be cancelled. They have committed predatory lending both to homeowners resulting in massive foreclosures that have devastated Detroit, and to the city and other municipalities, out of greed for profits.”
Protesters carry a sign outside the Levin Federal Courthouse in Detroit, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. .(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Most civilian city workers make less than $19,000 annually in pensions, said a union attorney during the hearing before Rhodes. For many, their pensions are reduced when they become eligible for Social Security. Detroit firefighters and police, however, don’t even pay into Social Security, so their pensions are their only source of income after retirement.
FIREFIGHTERS PROTEST EN MASSE; THEY GET NO SOCIAL SECURITY
Darrell Freeman, captain of Engine 59 and president of the Phoenix, the city’s Black firefighters association, spoke to VOD as dozens of firefighters, clad in red T-shirts declaring “Detroit Vs. Everybody,” joined with Moratorium NOW! outside Rhodes court. The firefighters have been protesting daily outside the Coleman A. Young Center as well.
Detroit Phoenix members/Facebook photo
“We don’t pay into the Social Security system,” Freeman said. “This is our primary job. Firefighting is the second most stressful job after being president. Our average life expectancy is 65. We are defending our pensions for our families. It is amazing to me that the courts are not being sympathetic to the fact that we have given our lives to the city and for the city. The whole state of Michigan voted against emergency manager laws—that should play a part in Judge Rhodes’ decision.”
Freeman declared further, “They are clearly gangsters. They want to take everything we’ve earned over the years after approving Public Act 436 in the wee hours, in a lame duck session. For people not to see this is a travesty. [Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder’s plan all along was to combine our pension money into [the Michigan Employees Retirement Association]. Ours is outperforming pension funds there. He’s been after our money since he’s been in office.”
Detroit EM Kevyn Orr with boss Gov. Rick Snyder at press conference July 19, 2013./Photo Diane Bukowski
PA 436 replaced PA 4, which Michigan voters overwhelmingly repealed Nov. 6, 2012.
Orr later threatened the firefighters for claiming, as their pension fund’s actuary Gabriel, Roeder and Smith says, that the Detroit Police and Firefighters Retirement System (DPFRS) is 96 percent funded.
The city earlier hired Milliman, Inc., as its pension “consultants.” It has declared in secret reports that funding levels for both the DPRFRS and the Detroit General Retirement System (DGRS) are far lower than their actuary says.
In the bankruptcy proceedings, Orr has moved for the appointment of a “Retirees Committee” by Judge Rhodes to represent retirees, replacing the elected pension board trustees. A section of PA 436 says that if the city’s pension systems fall below an 80 percent funded level, Orr can remove any or all of the trustees and replace them.
Rhodes has set a hearing on Orr’s motion, which would essentially replace the pension boards, for Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 at 10 A.M. in Room 100 of the Federal Courthouse at 231 W. Lafayette in downtown Detroit. (Click on DB 8 2 13 order for full text of his scheduling order for July 24 and August 2.)
PROTESTERS DEMAND BANKS PAY
Detroit Health Department retiree Walter Knall protests outside the Coleman A. Young Center with dozens of others July 26.
Along with the firefighters, Moratorium NOW!, with the newly formed “Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee,” brought retirees and their supporters by the dozens to protest outside the Federal courthouse building in downtown Detroit on July 24, and outside the city’s headquarters, the Coleman A. Young Center, on July 26. They declared “THIS IS WAR!” in their fliers. They also demanded total cancellation of the city’s debt to the banks, many of which have been charged and some convicted of predatory lending, mortgage fraud, and laundering drug money.
Former UBS AG banker Peter Ghavami leaves the Manhattan Federal Court in New York July 24, 2013 REUTERS Eduardo Munoz
Orr has recognized a 2005-06 predatory $1.5 billion pension obligation certificate loan to the city from the global Swiss bank UBS AG as a chief factor in the debt crisis. On top of numerous other global charges and convictions against UBS AG related to fraud and interest-rate rigging, three former UBS executives were sentenced to prison July 24 in a New York Court “for deceiving U.S. municipalities by rigging bids to invest municipal bond proceeds,” according to Reuters.
U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer of New York on July 25 blamed another Detroit creditor, Morgan Stanley, for the devastation of Detroit’s neighborhoods in a lawsuit brought on behalf of African-American homeowners,, according to Reuters’ blog author Allison Frankel.
U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York.
“Judge Baer . . . . rejected all of the bank’s arguments for dismissing the homeowners’ Fair Housing Act claims, giving a stamp of judicial approval to the plaintiffs’ theory that ‘by creating the conditions under which New Century originated toxic loans, Morgan Stanley caused African-American borrowers to fall prey to those loans at a disproportionate rate, or put another way, to make this homeowner nightmare come true,'” Frankel wrote.
“In fact, Baer tied Morgan Stanley – which he described as “this alleged icon of the free enterprise system” – to Detroit’s economic downfall. Citing the complaint’s argument that New Century mortgages to African-Americans that were subsequently purchased by Morgan Stanley suffered unusually high foreclosure rates, Baer said that the city’s bankruptcy filing ‘only emphasizes the broader consequences of predatory lending and the foreclosures that inevitably result.’”
WILL ORDER STAY CHALLENGE TO CONSTITUTIONALITY OF PA 436?
Former Council member Gary Brown, now Chief Compliance Officer under Kevyn Orr, applauds Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. At right is former Council Pres. Charles Pugh, who has disappeared after an alleged sex scandal.
Rhodes’ order stayed all current and future proceedings, financial and otherwise, against the city, and its officers and employees, including Mayor Dave Bing and heads of the Finance and Budget Departments, and Chief Compliance Officer Gary Brown. As part of a stay extension, it barred legal proceedings against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, State Treasurer Andy Dillon, and the state’s Emergency Loan Board, related in any way to the bankruptcy case.
Judge Rhodes specifically recognized Orr as a city officer, although he was appointed by Snyder.
The stay permanently quashed three retirees’ state lawsuits which contended that Snyder has no authority under the State Constitution to approve a city bankruptcy filing without exempting pension benefits from consideration.
Attorney Herb Sanders represents plaintiffs in Phillips v. Snyder.
Judge Rhodes said he would “tweak” the order proposed by Jones Day with regard to various matters, but his order only adds, “This order is entered without prejudice to the right of any creditor to file a motion for relief from the stay imposed by this order using the procedures of and under the standards of 11 U.S.C. § 362(d)-(g).”
It is unclear whether Rhodes’ order will stay proceedings in other federal courts, including two lawsuits, Phillips et al v. Snyder et al, and that claim Michigan’s Public Act 436, under which Orr operates, is unconstitutional. A hearing on Phillips et al is set for September 13 before U.S District Court Judge Graham Steeh’s court. His clerk said they have had no order from Rhodes staying the action as of yet.
Attorney Herbert Sanders, one of the attorneys in Phillips v. Snyder, told Rhodes, “There has already been a motion for summary judgment, and arguments have been scheduled. It appears that the city seeking an extension of the stay regarding finances, but pursuant to oral litigation they are seeking relief concerning any litigation that might interfere with city’s rights as a Chapter 9 debtor. Our case should not be included as part of the stay order. It is imperative the issue in our case should be determined before bankruptcy proceedings.”
FEDERAL LAWSUITS V. POLICE, CONSENT DECREE AFFECTED?
Nathaniel Brent, a pro se federal litigant, questioned during the hearing whether Rhodes’ order will stay federal lawsuits against Detroit police officers accused of violating federal constitutional protections of citizens.
Police siege similar to that in which children of Nathaniel Brent were kidnapped.
Brent’s five children were seized by Detroit police without judicial review. They were working with Child Protective Services worker Mia Wenk, who initiated the similar seizure of Maryanne Godboldo’s daughter in a case that has become a world-wide cause celebré.
Brent regained custody of his children later after filing pro se.
“I have a claim against City of Detroit police officers for violation of my Fourth Amendment rights, which has been pending for the last two and one-half years,” Brent said. “Now issues of their liability cannot be litigated, although they should continue to be litigated. My case is not part of the City of Detroit restructuring issues. The city has a risk management fund required to have at least $20 million.”
Detroit bankruptcy has stayed payment of $5 million to Dwayne Provience, who spent 10 years in prison as a result of a wrongful conviction.
He also questioned whether the stay should be extended to city employees who are not indemnified for their actions.
Since the city pays millions a month to a federal monitor under a police consent decree, it is unclear whether it will stay further action on that in U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook’s courtroom.
ATTORNEYS FOR PENSION FUNDS, UNIONS OPPOSED ORDER
Representing AFSCME Council 25, the union for the majority of city workers, Attorney Sharon Levine argued against Rhodes’ grant of complete federal jurisdiction, referring to state constitutional protections of pension rights.
AFSCME Council 24’s attorney Sharon Levine speaks with news media after hearing July 24. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty
“The state has not properly in fact authorized a Chapter 9 bankruptcy,” Levine said. “If chapter 9 is being used to avoid the state constitution, you are taking away fundamental constitutional rights. The state’s interests are to go after the pensions.”
She argued that state courts, where the retiree lawsuits were pending, are courts of primary jurisdiction under the U.S. constitution, while federal courts are of secondary jurisdiction.
“The people of Detroit have very, very fundamental rights to go to their state courts first,” Levine said. “The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure protect the parties and provide due process. Most of our members are at or below 19,000 a year in their pensions. Unlike the corporations, they have no safety net.”
Attorneys for the city’s pension funds and the United Autoworkers agreed with Levine.
Atty. William Wertheimer represented UAW, retirees in Flowers case.
“The Michigan State Constitution provides protection for accrued pension benefits,” Robert Gordon of Clark Hill, representing the pension funds, said. “The Governor cannot unilaterally abrogate the constitution. He is seeking to do indirectly what he can’t do directly.”
William Wertheimer, representing the UAW and plaintiffs in the Flowers case, one of the three retiree lawsuits, added, “Whether the state authorization violates the state constitution is totally a state issue. State courts already have jurisdiction. The Governor’s failure to except pension benefits violates state law.”
Ironically, Attorney Barbara Paddock, representing the Detroit Firefighters Association, the Detroit Police Command Officers Association, The Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, and the Detroit Police Officers Association, concurred with Jones Day’s arguments and even took them a step further to ask the judge to make “an affirmative rule of preliminary injunction,” which he later did.
“We are not conceding the city is eligible to be a debtor,” Paddock said. “We simply believe this court is the proper forum because of the interaction of state and federal law. We want the stay to include members of public safety unions who may be subjected to lawsuits.”
RHODES SAYS MAJOR ISSUES WILL BE ARGUED IN HIS COURTONLY
Someone painted “Bankruptcy” on wall of building on Grand River near I-75. The letters are in black, green and red, colors of the Black nation.
In his court discussion, Rhodes said he was that day making “no ruling whatsoever as to whether city is eligible to be a debtor under Ch9, . . . whether the state constitution prohibited the Emergency Manager appointment and prohibited the governor from authorizing CH 9 filing without excepting constitutionally protected pension rights . . . whether state orders should be given preclusive effect. . . .whether any order entered by state court after Ch 9 filing violated the stay [and] . . .whether C of D is proposing a feasible plan in light of State Constitution.”
Rhodes added, “Whether it serves the public interest is the most important factor of all. Granting this motion will enhance debtor’s likelihood of reorganization, create efficiency, expedite, reduce city’s costs as well as those of other parties. Court finds it is in the public interest.”
He asserted, “All issues are fully preserved, when and if raised in an appropriate way. The Court will rule on them at that time. We will address procedures in a status conference Aug. 2.”
Rhodes was appointed to the bench during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
It is not clear how Rhodes will rule on these matters. He has only presided over one other Chapter 9 case, which a press representative said he thought involved a utility. Rhodes was appointed to the court in 1986 while Ronald Reagan was president.
A Michigan Lawyers Weekley blog reported in 2007, “On a dour note, Rhodes said Chapter 7 debtors need to be more forthcoming about disclosing administered assets. Thirty-seven percent are not “fessing up” to all that they have.
Rhodes said proposed amendments to the court’s local rules, if adopted, will give trustees and the U.S. Attorney’s Office more muscle power to enforce asset disclosure rules.
“'[O]ne of our new proposed local rules would require the trustee to file a report whenever the trustee discovers an undisclosed asset after the debtor testifies at the meeting of creditors that the schedules are accurate. Another … would require the debtor to provide additional documents at the meeting of creditors,’ Rhodes explained.”
Chapter 7 is primarily used by small debtors, not corporations.
BANKRUPTCY WILL NOT IMPROVE CITY SERVICES
Cecily McClellan speaks in Benton Harbor in 2011 after EM takeover there.
Cecily McClellan, a retired city worker who is Vice-President of the Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE) said, “It appears to me that Rhodes is being taken in regarding arguments on the public good. Local propaganda about deficiencies in street lighting, quality of life, police protection, does not recognize that much of this was manufactured in order to reach this point. For example, DTE has a $154 million contract to provide energy for the city instead of using the Public Lighting Department. The new Public Lighting Authority wants to issue bonds backed by city for $160 million, in a move orchestrated by DTE.”
McClellan earlier fought the city’s de-commissioning and privatization of three predominantly federally-funded departments as part of the PA4 consent decree. They were Health and Wellness Promotion, Human Services, and Workforce Development. Along with workers in Public Lighting, who are being laid off to make way for the Authority, most of the city workers in those departments lost their jobs, further diminishing Detroit’s tax base, and services to city residents were thrown into chaos or eliminated.
Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant worker on strike Sept. 30, 2012.
Orr has said he is using the consent agreement as a blueprint for his future plans for Detroit, which he published earlier. His proposal to creditors, which he says will be the basis for the city’s plan of adjustment in bankruptcy, also follows those earlier pacts.
They include the regionalization of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department and the lay-off of 81 percent of its workforce under a contract with Toronto-based EMA, which union officials have said will lead to higher rates for Detroit residents.
A state Belle Isle long-term “lease” with no lease payments is also on the agenda, with the attendant elimination of city jobs and current contractors, and the takeover of federal funds which continue to flow to the city to improve the Island, as well as revenues from events and permits.
The Detroit Free Press published a front page interview with Orr July 28, with a banner headline declaring, “Detroit bankruptcy upside: City services will improve.”
It played on residents’ fear of crime. Orr said he plans to provide more police cars, tasers, and even on-body cameras for cops to fight what he portrayed as Detroit’s primary problem: small-scale criminals on the streets.
“The Taser issue illustrates one of the complications Orr’s team faces in improving police service,” said Freep writer Matt Helms in the article. “The city has been under federal oversight for a decade, and the U.S. Justice Department must approve any changes in the Police Department’s policies on use of force. Tasers, which use electricity to temporarily disable suspects, must win federal approval, something top aides to Orr say they believe will be granted because the devices help reduce shootings by officers.”
The city pays millions a month to the federal overseer of the consent decree. Under the stay, those payments should be halted for the time being.
Kelly Thomas died from his injuries after Fullerton, CA police tasered and beat him.
There was a huge outcry during the last decade against the use of tasers in Detroit, which have been shown nationally to cause hundreds of deaths. Opponents said they have their origins in the 19th Century Afrikaaner concept that people of African descent are sub-human, with extraordinary animal strength that must be subdued by extraordinary measures. The website “Electronic Village” reported two days ago that there have been 541 taser deaths in the U.S. since 2001.
Helms said funding for police improvements will come from $11 million annually which he claimed was released by Judge Rhodes stay. Orr recently sued city creditor Syncora, Inc., which insures U.S. Bank NA’s holding of the city’s casino tax revenues pursuant to its 2009 default on the UBS $1.5 billion pension obligation certificates loan. UBS and US Bank agreed to release the funds, but Syncora balked.
Hearing on D-DOT route cuts two years ago.
Rhodes told representatives of Syncora in court July 24 that their claims will be discussed in a status conference Aug. 2, so those funds are actually still pending for an indefinite period.
The article said further that plans are being laid to hire ANOTHER private contractor to run D-DOT, in the wake of the disastrous performance of Envisurage/Transpro, which led to drastically impaired bus service. Under the new Regional Transit Authority authorized by the state legislature, Detroit has already lost $7.8 million a year in federal funds for D-DOT, which are its primary support. Plans are being laid to subsume D-DOT and SMART into that authority.
STATE AG SCHUETTE TO INTERVENE FOR PENSION RIGHTS
State Attorney General Bill Schuette announced in a release July 25 that he would intervene in the bankruptcy case to protect public pension funds under the state constitution.
Michigan AG Bill Schuette
Schuette said the constitution makes it “crystal clear in stating that pension obligations may not be ‘diminished or impaired,’” and said Michigan cannot afford to have the standard of living for its people including its retirees further compromised.
He cited the same constitutional provisions Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina used to bar Snyder from approving Detroit’s bankrujptfy filing in the three state lawsuits.
Schuette, however, opposed her rulings. He previously called for the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately rule on the constitutionality of PA 436, and earlier in his tenure apposed affirmative action in U.S. Supreme Court proceedings, as well as relief from life without parole for juvenile offenders.
However, Schuette may be making note of provisions in PA 436 itself that actually require the governor and the EM to abide by state constitutional protections of pensions.
A brief filed by the city’s pension funds in their state lawsuit says, “It is clear that Michigan’s legislators never intended that the governor or an emergency financial manager take action in violation of Art IX Sec. 24 [protecting pension benefits]. Indeed MCL 141.1552(m)(ii) [in PA 436] expressly provides that “[t]he emergency manager shall fully comply with . . . . section 24 of article IX of the state constitution of 1963. And MCL 38.1683 provides that “[t]he right of a member or retirant of a retirement system to a retirement benefit shall not be subject to execution, garnishment, attachment, the operation of bankruptcy or insolvency laws, or other process of law and shall be unassignable.”
TO CONTACT RETIREES’ COMMITTEE THAT HELD PROTEST AT CAYMC JULY 26, CALL 313-680-5508 OR GO TO THEIR WEBSITE AT WWW.MORATORIUM-MI.ORG . They hold meetings every Monday at 7 p.m. at 5920 Second Ave. Detroit, MI 48202, near Wayne State University.
Detroit residents fill out applications at job fair in 2010/AP photo
90 percent rate among people of color, but white poverty rate increasing
By The Associated Press
Published by NBCNews.com
July 29, 2013
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
Family in Detroit waits for help finding housing. Detroit, which is 86 percent Black, has the highest poverty rate in the country.
The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.
As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused — on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.
Sheila Crowell helps community members plant trees at what was formerly Dingeman Playfield in a mixed-race neighborhood on Detroit’s near west side. Since then, adjacent Chadsey High School, a renowned mutti-ethnic institution, has been closed and the playfield taken over by the city. Poverty and crime increase in Crowell’s neighborhood.
Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”
“I think it’s going to get worse,” said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.
“If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work,” she said. Children, she said, have “nothing better to do than to get on drugs.”
While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government’s poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.
Number of white female-headed families now equals the same in the Black community.
The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.
Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.
“It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty. He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.
“There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front,” Wilson said.
Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
Man in B uchanan County, VA.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.
Buchanan County in southwest Virginia is among the nation’s most destitute based on median income, with poverty hovering at 24 percent. The county is mostly white, as are 99 percent of its poor.
Food bank line in Oswego, New York.
More than 90 percent of Buchanan County’s inhabitants are working-class whites who lack a college degree. Higher education long has been seen there as nonessential to land a job because well-paying mining and related jobs were once in plentiful supply. These days many residents get by on odd jobs and government checks.
Salyers’ daughter, Renee Adams, 28, who grew up in the region, has two children. A jobless single mother, she relies on her live-in boyfriend’s disability checks to get by. Salyers says it was tough raising her own children as it is for her daughter now, and doesn’t even try to speculate what awaits her grandchildren, ages 4 and 5.
Smoking a cigarette in front of the produce stand, Adams later expresses a wish that employers will look past her conviction a few years ago for distributing prescription painkillers, so she can get a job and have money to “buy the kids everything they need.”
“It’s pretty hard,” she said. “Once the bills are paid, we might have $10 to our name.” Continue reading →
Juror B29 Says Zimmerman “Got Away with Murder,” Intensifying Scrutiny of Prosecution & Florida Laws
July 26, 2013
Juror B-29: Maddy
The only person of color on the all-female jury that voted to acquit George Zimmerman expressed anguish over trial’s outcome in her first interview since the trial. Speaking to ABC, the 36-year-old mother of eight who is of Puerto Rican descent said she believes Zimmerman “got away with murder” for killing Trayvon Martin, and claimed she shares the grief of his mother. Identifying herself only by her first name, “Maddy,” the juror explained her “not guilty” vote by saying the “Stand Your Ground” law was in conflict with her heart, forcing her to let Zimmerman walk free despite believing he was culpable. “It is hurtful as a lawyer for someone to say ‘I fought until the end,'” says Seema Iyer, an attorney specializing in constitutional, criminal and civil rights law who followed the Zimmerman trial closely. “No, she didn’t — if she had fought until the end, we would’ve had a hung jury.”
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: “Zimmerman Mindset” Endangers Young Black Lives with Poverty, Prison & Murder
Michelle Alexander, Author of “The New Jim Crow.”
“Justice for Trayvon” protests are planned in more than 100 cities this weekend as activists seek federal charges against George Zimmerman and the repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and dozens of other states. We speak with Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State University and author of the best-selling book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Alexander says the biases that led to Martin’s death and let his killer go free are deeply embedded in U.S. society and in the criminal justice system itself: “The [Zimmerman mindset] that views black men and boys as a perpetual problem to be dealt with has infected our criminal justice system, infected our schools, has infected our politics in ways that have had disastrous consequences, birthing a prison system unprecedented in world history, and stripping millions of people of basic civil and human rights once they have been branded criminals and felons. It’s this mindset that some of us, defined largely by race and class, are unworthy of our basic care and concern and can be dealt with harshly, written off with impunity.”
Cornel West: Obama’s Response to Trayvon Martin Case Belies Failure to Challenge “New Jim Crow”
President Barack Obama speaking on Trayvon Martin case.
For a response to President Obama’s comments on the acquittal of George Zimmerman and racism in the United States, we’re joined by Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary and author of numerous books. On Obama’s remarks comparing himself to Trayvon Martin, West says: “Will that identification hide and conceal the fact there’s a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of precious, poor black and brown brothers? [Obama] hasn’t said a word until now — five years in office and can’t say a word about a ‘new Jim Crow.’ … Obama and [Attorney General Eric] Holder — will they come through at the federal level for Trayvon Martin? We hope so — [but] don’t hold your breath. There’s going to be many people who say, ‘We see this president is not serious about the criminalizing of poor people.'”
The people of Sanford, FL marched for justice in the name of Trayvon along with cities across the country.
The Dream Defenders are calling on Floridians to call Gov. Rick Scott’s office @ 850.488.7146 and leave a message with these 2 demands:
1. Call for Special Session & look at the Trayvon Martin Civil Bill of Rights.
2. We demand our Floridians’ lives be valued NOW!
Trayvon Martin rallies took place in 101 cities across the country July 22.
DETROIT YOUTH SELL BEAUTIFUL TRAYVON MARTIN T-SHIRTS
Detroit T-shirts use this image, only in red and white on black, and declare “Justice for Trayvon Martin.”
VOD spotted several Detroit youth selling “Justice for Trayvon Martin” T-shirts at 7 Mile and Greenfield July 26, for only $10. The high-quality T-shirts are black with a red and white Trayvon Martin photo on the front, which declares “Justice for Travyon Martin.” On the back is the slogan: “We are all Trayvon! The Whole Damn System is Guilty!” with a silhouette of Trayvon in a hoodie in gray and white. If anyone knows how to contact the youth selling these shirts, please let VOD know. I wish I had stopped and gotten their contact information. Whether it was their own enterprise or part of a larger Trayvon Martin effort, they are to be commended for transmitting the message at prices our youth can afford.
Aiyana Jones, murdered by Detroit cop Joseph Weekley; at right, her mother Dominika Jones reacts to hung jury verdict in Weekley trial.
During hearing days after Aiyana’s birthday, Weekley pre-trial rescheduled to Aug. 21, with trial “before end of year”
Commander who authorized raid on Aiyana’s home fired for “sexting” photo of genitals to female cop
Hathaway sympathizes with Howard, who filmed police raid that killed 7-year-old child
Dominika at her daughter’s graveside during July 20th 11th birthday family commemoration.
By Diane Bukowski
July 26, 2013
DETROIT – Wayne County District Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway on July 25 adjourned a pre-trial hearing for Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley, who shot 7-year-old Aiyana Jones to death three years ago, to Aug. 21 this year. She claimed she has a full schedule and hopes Weekley’s re-trial will happen by the end of the year.
Weekley’s first trial ended in a hung jury in June.
“This is not fair.” Aiyana ’s mother Dominika Jones, who was in the courtroom, said. “It’s been too long since he killed Aiyana. It means his trial will happen after Thanksgiving or Christmas, while he celebrates the holidays with his daughters.”
DPD Inspector Don Johnson testifies during Weekley’s first trial.
Weekley has been free on personal bond since killing Aiyana, while her father and her aunt’s former fiancé languish in jail on first-degree murder charges in the death of Je’Rean Blake. Hathaway, apparently in direct collusion with both Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Morgan and Weekley’s defense attorney Steven Fishman, has repeatedly postponed trial proceedings in Weekley’s case since Nov. 2011.
In related news, Detroit police chief James Craig fired Inspector Don Johnson, head of the city’s Department of Homeland Security and also the official who gave the final approval for the raid on Aiyana’s home. Johnson was fired for sending a photo of his genitals to a female police captain.
Weekley’s defense attorney told Johnson on cross-exam during Weekley’s first trial that “someone” (Aiyana’s grandmother Mertilla Jones) had testified that police murdered Aiyana.
“You’ve got to be joking,” Johnson replied.
Aiyana’s family celebrates her life at birthday graveside memorial July 20, 2013.
The courtroom July 25 was packed with news media, including cameramen and a reporter from Japan’s Fuji TV.
Hathaway also sentenced former A&E producer Allison Howard, charged with obstruction of justice in the case, to two years of probation with lenient terms and astonishingly sympathetic comments, including encouraging Howard to resume her career filming police actions.
Howard supervised “First 48’s” filming of the horrific raid on the child’s home by a police military squad in riot gear which threw a stun grenade into the window under which Aiyana was sleeping with her grandmother May 16, 2010.Weekley then entered the home and shot the child to death with an MP5 submachine gun within three seconds, according to testimony in his first trial.
Aiyana’s family members at her graveside on her birthday July 20, 2013.
The hearing happened only days after Aiyana’s birthday July 20, when she would have turned 11. Her family said they gathered that day at the cemetery to remember her and celebrate her life and their love for her with a birthday cake and balloons, as they do every year.
Aiyana’s father Charles Jones and her aunt’s former fiancé Chauncey Owens face a pre-trial exam Sept. 21 and a trial date of Oct. 20 in the killing of Je’rean Blake, 17. They have both been incarcerated in the Wayne County jail without bond, Owens since the day Aiyana was killed, and her father since November, 2011.
Aiyana’s paternal grandmother Mertilla jones during birthday celebration July 20, 2013.
A family friend who was present said, “They’re probably trying again to postpone Weekley’s trial until after Aiyana’s dad’s case. It doesn’t seem fair that the judge should postpone it because the trials that have been on her docket the longest should be the first ones heard. They’re trying to make people forget about Aiyana.”
Another friend said, “It will be three and a half years since they killed Aiyana, and her dad has been sitting in jail for two years. They’re basing his case on what someone in jail said. They shouldn’t be able to use word of mouth. If someone in jail can say they heard someone say he was involved in Je’Rean’s killing, why can’t I testify and say he told me he was not involved? Who could say my voice is not stronger than a jail-house informant who is probably trying to get out?”
Close-up of Aiyana birthday T-shirt.
“Jail-house” snitch Jay Schlenkerman testified at Jones’ preliminary exam that Owens claimed Jones gave him the gun to kill Blake, which Owens denies. According to Jones’ attorney Leon Weiss, another jail-house snitch has come forward to testify about what he claims Jones told him.
“They should let Charles out on bond,” said the friend, who is not being identified since family member and friends are continually being harassed, arrested and framed up by Detroit police in the wake of Aiyana’s horrific death.
“He has missed the whole growth of his youngest child who is three now.”
Dominika Jones said hers and Charles’ son Christan was born Feb. 14, 2010, just three months before their only daughter Aiyana was shot to death.
Allison Howard and killer cop Joseph Weekley at earlier court hearing.
Former A&E producer Allison Howard appeared with her attorney Robert Garrison for her sentencing on a plea deal after the Weekley case. Howard was present with “The First 48” crew, which filmed the assault on Aiyana’s home.
Many in the community feel the raid was set up to put on a show for the cameras. Weekley and other SRT team officers are featured as stars on A&E’s previous “Detroit SWAT” website. Testimony during Weekley’s first trial showed that police could have arrested the target of the raid, Chauncey Owens, when he left the flat where he lived upstairs from Aiyana’s home twice during the day, under heavy police surveillance.
Family surrounds Aiyana’s grave July 20, 2013.
Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran earlier contended that Howard went to a party in the Detroit suburb of Canton with a police officer the night of the raid, and sold a copy of the A & E videotape to another man.
In a separate, less publicized case, Detroit police locked up two men in the Wayne County jail for several months, saying they showed a copy of the police videotape of the raid to a third party. A source told VOD earlier that police replaced that videotape, which was the one shown to the family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger, with a second tape, wiping out crucial evidence.
The police videotape was not shown at Weekley’s first trial.
Howard pled “no contest” to one charge of obstruction of justice, in exchange for the dropping of perjury charges.
Moran said, “This is a serious felony. Her obstruction of justice was severe as a result of the lies she told to the grand jury. It cost us seven months’ worth of investigation time, thousands of untold hours and dollars, and delayed her indictment and Joseph Weekley’s indictment.”
Aiyana’s maternal grandparents Jimmie Stanley and Danielle Fields with her mother Dominika and another family member.
Hathaway sentenced Howard to 24 months of probation, which she can serve in her home state of Massachusetts. The judge told her she has to report in person only the first six months, and in writing every six months afterwards. She assessed her a $2,000 fine and “up to” 200 hours of community service, including her photography skills, to benefit residents of Wayne County.
Hathaway said she is likely to waive court costs if Howard meets the terms of her probation and that she will consider shortening the probation. She added that Howard can do the community service “electronically” from her home state.
Aiyana Jones (l) playing in swimming pool with cousins before Detroit police killed her.
“This has been a pretty traumatic experience for you as well as others,” Hathaway told Howard, who is white, speaking kindly, unlike the tongue-lashing she gave to a young Black man just previously, in sentencing him to three years of probation including one in the Wayne County Jail.
“You are currently unemployed and have given up taking any assignments related to police raids, according to the probation report,” Hathaway said. “You probably do need a break, but I would encourage you to think about resuming [that work] in the future.”
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing forbade any further reality TV filming of Detroit police actions after Aiyana’s death, although he never met with the family to express condolences.
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway
Hathaway concluded, “The court accepts the sentence agreement and thinks some real good can come out of this heart-breaking situation.”
Ron Scott, representing the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Inc., reacted with anger.
“This is a travesty,” he said. “The judge is letting Howard walk out of there just like it’s a holiday, while Aiyana’s family is still grieving because of the raid she filmed. The woman benefited from Aiyana’s death. She SOLD that tape. She should have been given a much more stringent sentence.”
Aiyana Jones would have been 11 on July 20, 2013, but was killed by Detroit police at the age of 7. Her family still celebrates her birthday every year. Photo: Dominika Jones
Detroit city worker’s child demands “Back off our pensions” during strike at Wastewater Treatment Plant Sept. 30, 2012.
State Judge Aquilina barred attack on pensions
Major city creditor UBS announces record profits, settles mortgage fraud suit; Orr wants retirees to take 10 cents on dollar
City creditor US Bank NA charged in Ponzi set-up; Judge Rhodes co-authored “The Ponzi Book: A Legal Resource for Unraveling Ponzi Schemes”
Emails show bankruptcy planned as early as January, in advance of negotiationswith pension funds, unions
By Diane Bukowski
July 23, 2012
DETROIT – In the first hearing on Detroit’s Chapter 9 filing July 24, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will deal with Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s request to block further proceedings in state lawsuits filed by the city’s pension boards and two groups of retirees. Both Orr and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder have openly said they are seeking to reduce pension benefits through the bankruptcy filing.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina with three of her five children.
The federal hearing is set for Wed. July 24 at 10 a.m. in Judge Rhodes’ courtroom at 211 W. Fort, Suite 1800.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on July 19 enjoined Snyder and Orr from targeting pension benefits in violation of both the State Constitution and Emergency Manager Act PA 436.
“I don’t think the constitution should be made to be Swiss cheese,” Judge Aquilina said July 22, to a courtroom packed with journalists representing global media. “Once we erode it with one hole, there will be others.”
She adjourned that hearing until July 29, 2013 at 9 a.m. at the request of the pension boards, not concurred in by defendants Orr and Snyder. She asked that numerous briefs be filed prior to the next hearing. Judge Aquilina’s court is located in the Ingham County Veterans Memorial Courthouse in Lansing at 313 W. Kalamazoo, Lansing, Michigain.
UBS profits soar along with goat sculpture in front of its offices.
Meanwhile, major Detroit creditor UBS AG, which holds at least $1.5 billion in Pension Obligation Certificate (POC) debt, just announced increased profits and a $919 million settlement with the Federal Housing Financing Authority on charges that it defrauded homeowners on mortgage loans prior to the 2008 global economic crash.
UBS, one of the world’s largest banks, embroiled in numerous criminal fraud scandals, has not agreed to cut city payments on the POC loan itself, although Orr has touted its agreement to take 75 cents on the dollar in a related $379 million swap deal.
Robert Davis at union rally on Hart Plaza July 12.
Also on July 22, union activist Robert Davis revealed a mass of emails obtained through a state lawsuit. He said the emails show members of the Jones Day law firm, Orr’s former employer and now Detroit’s “debt-restructuring consultant,” conspired as early as January to plot a bankruptcy filing.
The city’s pension funds and unions have contended that Orr has not conducted good-faith negotiations with them prior to filing bankruptcy, a requisite for the judge’s approval of the petition for bankruptcy.
The city’s two pension funds, the Detroit General Retirement System (DGRS) and the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System (DPFRS), joined two individual groups of retirees in filing for a temporary restraining order against any impairment of pension benefits on July 17, just prior to EM Orr’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing July 18.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit EM Kevyn Orr at press conference July 19, 2013.
The pension fund lawsuit says that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Orr are violating both the Michigan Constitution and Emergency Manager Act PA 436 by demanding drastic reductions in pension pay-outs. It cites Chapter IX, Sec. 24 of the Michigan Constitution which says, “[t]he accrued financial benefits of each pension plan of the state and its political subdivisions shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby.”
Attorney Jerome Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition said Michigan has one of the strongest constitutional protections for pensions in the country. The city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, cut pension benefits after filing bankruptcy, but its state constitution has no such protections.
In addition to the state constitutional issue, the pension funds’ lawsuit challenges Orr’s authority under PA 436 to attack pension benefits, since PA 436 specifically provides that such benefits will be paid.
City workers at Belle Isle picnic July 28, 2012 demand “No EM.” Michigan citizens overwhelmingly repealed PA 4 Nov. 6, 2012, but Snyder replaced it with PA 436.
In their brief, the pension funds note, “It is clear that Michigan’s legislators never intended that the governor or an emergency financial manager take action in violation of Art IX Sec. 24. Indeed MCL 141.1552(m)(ii) [in PA 436] expressly provides that “[t]he emergency manager shall fully comply with . . . . section 24 of article IX of the state constitution of 1963. And MCL 38.1683 provides that “[t]he right of a member or retirant of a retirement system to a retirement benefit shall not be subject to execution, garnishment, attachment, the operation of bankruptcy or insolvency laws, or other process of law and shall be unassignable.”
In other words, say the pension funds, “[t]he governor may authorize and the emergency financial manager may petition for a chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy only to the extent that such action does not impair or diminish accrued financial benefits.”
Miller Canfiled attorney Mike McGee at City Council table April 4, 2013, the day Council passed the disastrous consent agreement.
The pension funds are represented by Attorney Ron King and others from the law firm of Clark Hill.
Snyder and Orr are represented by Miller Canfield. The Detroit City Council last year approved an extension of the city’s contract with Miller Canfield, whose attorney Mike McGee helped draft Public Act 4, the predecessor to PA 436, as well as the April 4, 2012 PA4 “consent agreement” between the city and the state, passed by the City Council 5-4. Miller Canfield is also advising the city on the bankruptcy filing.
UBS PROFITS UP DESPITE GLOBAL LITIGATION; SETTLES MORTGAGE FRAUD CASE WITH FHFA
Bloomberg Businessweek reported July 22, “UBS rose in Zurich trading after posting net income of about 690 million Swiss francs ($734 million). Profit climbed from 524 million francs a year ago and beat the 586 million-franc mean estimate of four analysts surveyed this month by Bloomberg. UBS attracted about 12.8 billion francs in net new funds to its wealth management units and increased its capital buffer, the bank said.
“UBS is exceeding analysts’ profit estimates for a second quarter in a row after Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti announced 10,000 job cuts last year and a strategy to exit most debt-trading businesses at the investment bank to focus the firm on money management.”
The UPI reported the same day, “The Swiss bank UBS said Monday it had struck a deal with U.S. authorities to settle charges that it misrepresented mortgage bonds issued in 2004 through 2007.
“UBS settled with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has accused 18 big banks of overstating the value of bundled mortgage securities in advance of the 2008 financial meltdown that was largely caused by overwhelming numbers of defaulting home loans.
Christina Livingston, a supporter of people who had lost their homes to foreclosure, or have been battling banks over loan modification, reacts to cheers from fellow protesters as she is arrested outside a Chase bank branch in downtown Los Angeles.Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. Police arrested 22 protesters who blocked the doors to the bank in acts of civil disobedience. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
“Details of the agreement were not disclosed but The New York Times reported UBS said it was accepting a one-time, pretax charge of $919 million related to the settlement.
“The FHFA filed the lawsuit in 2011, seeking billions of dollars in compensation from the banks. FHFA losses involving UBS loans totaled $900 million, the Times said.”
In addition to those charges, UBS is involved in a criminal fraud lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. It has agreed to a $1.5 billion fine while two UBS Japan traders are facing trial. UBS is one of the banks on the LIBOR (London Interbank-Offered Rate) panel which are facing charges globally for rigging interest rates to benefit themselves. LIBOR sets interest rates for practically every loan around the world.
LIBOR lawsuits have been filed by municipalities, states and other investors in the U.S. and globally.
US Bank NA let Russel Wasendorf, known at the “Midwest Madoff,” use customers’ money in Ponzi scheme.
US Bank NA is a city creditor that has been holding Detroit’s casino tax revenue hostage to ensure payment of the UBS debt.
On June 5, 2013, the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission sued US Bank NA, alleging that it knowingly allowed Russell Wasendorf Sr., founder of Peregrine Financial which has since imploded, to use customer money held at the bank to finance his lavish lifestyle. Wasendorf is currently serving a term 0f 50 years in prison for taking over $215 million in client funds.
Since U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Rhodes is a co-author of “The Ponzi Book: A Legal Resource for Unraveling Ponzi Schemes,” he might want to look into US Bank NA’s role in Detroit’s debt situation.
EMAILS SHOW JONES DAY SOUGHT BANKRUPTCY AS EARLY AS JANUARY
Also on July 22, union activist Robert Davis and others held a press conference at the AFSCME Council 25 headquarters in downtown Detroit to reveal a slew of emails obtained through Davis’ lawsuit against Snyder’s appointment of Orr.
Jones Day attorney Dan Moss
One email, sent by Jones Day attorney Dan Moss on Jan. 31, 2013 to Orr, already proposed to become Detroit’s emergency manager, says “It seems that the ideal scenario would be that Snyder and [Mayor Dave] Bing both agree that the best option is simply to go through an orderly Chapter 9. This avoids an unnecessary political fight over the scope/authority of any appointed emergency manager and, moreover, moves the ball forward on setting Detroit on the right track.”
Davis said in published remarks, “It’s an outright slap in the face to the citizens in the city of Detroit . . .“You already see what their agenda is. It clearly indicates from day one … the decision [to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy] was already made.”
Mike Mulholland protests 80 percent cut to DWSD workforce which is also part of Orr’s plan.
Davis’ contention is important because the U.S. Bankruptcy Code requires that good-faith negotiations with creditors be conducted prior to filing a petition for bankruptcy. Both the pension boards and the city’s unions have said that Orr blind-sided them with his “Proposal for Creditors,” which caused their representatives to “nearly jump out of their seats,” June 14, according to AFSCME Local 207 Vice-President Mike Mulholland.
Mulholland said Orr made it clear at that meeting that he intended to remove the elected pension boards which oversee the funds. At a press conference July 19, Orr said he will file a motion to appoint a representative for retirees instead.
Orr held two meetings after June 14 with pension and union officials. Many exited the meetings in fury after Orr demanded that they sign confidentiality agreements about the discussions and would not back down on his original demands.