• Post-Bankruptcy in the Neighborhoods: Citizens learn to monitor city’s progress

    Detroit exited bankruptcy with a plan to balance city budgets and improve services to residents.

    While elected leaders have the responsibility of overseeing those actions, residents can help measure improvements – or declines – in their neighborhoods. They’ll get help learning to do that at two free events presented by Citizen Detroit. Dinner is included.photo

    The “Dinner & Dialogues” are planned for 5 p.m., Wednesday March 25 and April 22 at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, 111 E. Kirby. They are open forums where Detroiters can learn more about how the city’s post-bankruptcy “blueprint,” the Plan of Adjustment, was drafted and how it will be implemented, says Sheila Cockrel, former Detroit city councilwoman who is part of Citizen Detroit, a Wayne State University project aimed at educating and engaging the city’s residents in local government. It’s part of the Forum on Contemporary Issues, run by former WSU President Irvin Reid.

    More information on the Dinner & Dialogue event as well as how to register for it can be found here.

    “The idea was that regular Detroiters really want to understand the factual basis for the situations that the city was facing,” Cockrel says. “A hallmark of this program would be that we would deal in factual formation but also give people the opportunity to experience the complexity of making decisions.”

    At the events, WDET’s Stephen Henderson, host of “Detroit Today,” and Sandra Svoboda, who covered the bankruptcy and blogs at NextChapterDetroit.com, will play the roles of Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes and Martha Kopacz, who was the judge’s “expert witness,” in the case. Working off a script based on her testimony in October, the duo will  reenact Rhodes questioning Kopacz in court as part of the bankruptcy confirmation hearing.

    “What we’ve done is excerpt the transcript because there’s multiple tiers and layers. It’s way too much information for one session. The part we’re going to focus on are the restructuring initiatives,” Cockrel says. “because that’s the place where, I think, are the things citizens really care about.”

    Rhodes chose Kopacz as his expert witness after  issuing an order that he was seeking an “expert witness” to assist him in assessing the feasibility of any bankruptcy settlement for the city. In late April, he selected Kopacz, of the Boston-based Phoenix Management Services (a business consulting firm,)

    She reviewed the city of Detroit’s legal filings, budget audits and financial projections, and interviewed city officials to determine the feasibility of Detroit implementing its Plan of Adjustment.

    steven_rhodesIn October, Rhodes questioned Kopacz in court about the bankruptcy exit and any suggestions Kopacz may have had. In short, she held a positive outlook on the city’s restructuring as it moved forward, saying the Financial Review Commission (established by Gov. RickSnyder to oversee the city’s finances as Detroit rebuilds) was a step in the right direction and that along with Mayor Mike Duggan should keep the city on track financially.

    The Citizen Detroit project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


  • On NPR: Frida-Diego exhibit signifies city’s comeback

    “The DIA spent much of the last two years under threat as its owner, the city of Detroit, looked for ways to emerge from bankruptcy,” NPR reports in a segment that aired on “All Things Considered” this week. As the exhibition “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” attracts visitors, NPR finds the famed murals and the couple’s historic legacy now has much more to do with a resilient city’s future following its bankruptcy case.

  • WDET honored by Michigan Association of Broadcasters

    It’s nice to be recognized!

    photo (43)With gratitude to our sources, readers, listeners, those involved in the case and our other supporters, WDET is the proud recipient of 10 individual category awards in the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Broadcast Excellence Awards for work in 2014.

    The station also won “Public Radio Station of the Year,” a huge honor!

    Several pieces related to Detroit’s bankruptcy case and future revitalization were among the entries. The complete list of the station’s honored projects is below. Our partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, Detroit Public Television and Michigan Radio, also received awards in the annual contest.

    And now we go back to work. Congratulations to all!

    WDET General Manager Michelle Srbinovich (center) holds the Station of the Year award, surrounded by some members of the WDET team.

    WDET General Manager Michelle Srbinovich (center) holds the Station of the Year award, surrounded by some members of the WDET team.

    BEST in Community Involvement Category

    The NextChapterDetroit.com “Community Lighting” meeting broadcast on Detroit Today.

    BEST in Hard News and Current Events Story

    “Police Poaching”

    BEST in Marketing Materials

    For Kevyn Orr and the “Love Train” on Detroit Today

    BEST in Membership Appeal

    This is What Pat Says – Spring 2014

    BEST in Special Interest/Cultural Programming

    “Blue Collar Musicians”

    BEST in Newscast

    Morning Newscast 8-12-14

    MERIT in Community Involvement

    The NextChapterDetroit.com “Blight” meeting broadcast on Detroit Today.

    MERIT in Membership Appeal

    “Martina Community”

    MERIT in Mini Documentary or Series

    Detroit Agenda Series

    MERIT in Station of the Year

    By in DJC, Feature, WDET
  • Wayne County Finances: Here’s the report

    Wayne County has a $70 million structural deficit on a roughly $550 million annual budget, says County Executive Warren Evans. Here’s the report, produced by Ernst & Young, that Evans distributed this week showing the dismal state of the county’s finances.

    Wayne County Financial Report

  • Judge Rhodes to Graduates: Lessons learned from the Detroit bankruptcy case

    IMG_2556Judge Steven Rhodes used his 18-minute speech at Walsh College’s commencement to offer graduates a few lessons from history’s biggest municipal bankruptcy case in Detroit. Numbering them one through five, Rhodes translated from the 17-month case five lessons learned, and he explained to the crowd at the Zion Christian Church in Troy how they applied to their post-graduation lives.

    Among Rhodes’s advice from the case: Ask for the help that’s out there. Do not be in denial of problems, and get help when you need it. Use teamwork to get the help you need. To get help, give help.

    Here is the full audio of his address. The full text of his speech appears below.

    Here’s what he said about some hallmarks of the case:

    On why bankruptcy happened

    “…the city of Detroit got into trouble because people ran the city. People who were not perfect. People who made mistakes. People who took unnecessary risks with the assets and the responsibilities that were entrusted to them.”

    On what bankruptcy isIMG_2559

    “…people a second chance, a fresh start, to forgive them. That’s of course what bankruptcy is all about. It’s a chance for people who have fallen on hard time or made bad choices to start over. “

    On how Detroit’s situation got so bad

    “…. It’s simply called “denial.” People who need help deny needing help, and they deny it for too long.”

    On the $1.8 billion pension financing deal in 2005

    “…that was a bad deal because it involved a financial gamble that the city would never be able to pay off and it was a bad deal because it only delayed the inevitable. If you can’t pay your debts, it doesn’t help just to substitute a new creditor for your old creditor. Worse yet, that deal almost certainly violated state law by evading the city’s legal debt limit and worst of all, the consequence of that deal made the process of resolving Detroit’s problems eight years later when it did file bankruptcy much more challenging and much more expensive. “

    On teamwork involved in the case

    “…there was teamwork between the city’s professionals in the bankruptcy case and its elected officials and employees. As a direct result of that teamwork, we have a much more feasible, effective and efficient plan to revitalize the city with full buy-in. And so it was that that little teamwork among me and my colleagues led to an important level of teamwork in creating a viable plan for the city of Detroit. Now teamwork does not necessarily mean that everyone agrees on everything all the time. No. In the Detroit case there was serious litigation over big and little issues from the beginning to the end: whether to sell the art at the DIA to pay creditors was probably the biggest issues. But even that litigation was conducted by the professionals in a cooperative, professional way.”

    On why creditors agreed to settle

    “…Certainly there was a measure of self interest in each of their settlement decisions. Let’s not doubt that. But there was much more to it than that. Much more. A big reason all of this happened is because the mission of the city of Detroit is to help people.”

    IMG_2565In summary

    “Lesson No. 1 from the Detroit case: We Americas love to give help. Lesson No. 2: Ask for the help that’s out there. Lesson No. 3. Denial is a river in Egypt. Come on, Denial is a river in Egypt. (The audience says it with him.) Get help when you need it. Lesson No. 4: Use teamwork to get the help you need. Lesson No. 5: To get help, give help. It’s who we are. May you get the help that you need to run a straight course up the mountaintop of success in business and may the help that you need never require a trip to my bankruptcy court.”



    Detroit Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes at Walsh College Commencement

    By in Bankruptcy Court, Feature, WDET
  • Orr to Atlantic City? Yes, as an advisor

    6:15  p.m.

    Plenty of proverbial ink is being spilled reporting that Atlantic City is under emergency management — and former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will act as a special consultant to the EM in the New Jersey city.

    Here are some of the media reports about the news:

    The Press of Atlantic City “Gov. Christie names emergency manager for Atlantic City”

    Gov. Chris Christie appointed an emergency manager to oversee Atlantic City’s government and shaky finances, an extraordinary state takeover that critics called an abuse of power that could marginalize local elected officials.

    NJ.com “What you need to know about Christie’s Atlantic City plan”

    With Atlantic City’s finances in dire straights, Gov. Chris Christie todayannounced the hiring of an emergency manager and a consultant who helped guide Detroit out of bankruptcy to draft a road map for putting the once-thriving gambling destination back on firm footing.

    The Detroit Free Press

    Detroit’s recently departed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, will act as a part-time legal adviser to financially troubled gambling mecca Atlantic City, N.J., that state’s governor said today.

    The Detroit News

    Former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is not becoming the new boss of Atlantic City, New Jersey, but he will be an adviser to an emergency management team Gov. Chris Christie appointed Thursday.

    5:45 p.m.

    Here’s what Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian had to say about Gov. Chris Christie’s appointment of an emergency manager and Kevyn Orr as “special consultant.”

    Guardian“After expecting the worse, and hearing rumors of measures that were possibly being discussed about stripping the Mayor and City Council of executive and legislative powers, I was finally able to meet the emergency manager Kevin Levan and counsel Kevyn Orr today at the Governor’s Summit for the first time and found them to be very professional and deferential to us. They made it clear that they recognized myself and City Council as the locally elected representatives of the people of Atlantic City and that they wanted to work together with us in the spirit of cooperation. Although no time table was given, they communicated to us that they wanted to get in, help us fix the City’s finances and get out. From my perspective, Governor Christie has given us more tools to help bring Atlantic City out of its financial distress and restore its long term viability.”

    4 p.m.

    Here are a few side-by-side comparisons of Detroit and Atlantic City, related to each city’s financial situation and emergency management.


    Detroit Atlantic City, New Jersey
    Population (2010 U.S. Census) 714,000 39,500
    Median Household Income $26,300 $29,200
    Current Annual City Budget $1 billion $258 million
    Approximate No. of City Employees 9,400 1,100
    Monthly City Revenue from Casinos $16 million $18 million
    Financial Situation at the time of Emergency Manager Appointment $327 million budget deficit in FY 2012. Decades of population decline.  $35 million budget shortfall. Loss of 8,000 casino jobs

    1:15 p.m.

    Gov. Chris Christie issued a statement about “Taking Action to Solidify Atlantic City’s Finances.” In it, he named Kevyn Orr as the “Special Consultant to Atlantic City’s Emergency Manager.”

    Here’s part of the release from Christie’s office:

    As part of his commitment to bringing long-term stability of Atlantic City, Governor Christie believes that expert and objective leadership is needed to restructure the operations, finances and culture of its government. Today the Governor signed Executive Order 171 which appoints an Emergency Manager and Special Consultant to develop and oversee a comprehensive overhaul of Atlantic City’s government.

    12:30 p.m.

    An executive order from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie names an emergency manager for Atlantic City, but it’s not Kevyn Orr, The Detroit News reports. 

    The former Detroit EM will serve as special counsel to Kevin Lavin, who will be the city’s emergency manager.

    “He’s just an adviser to the team,” Orr’s Detroit spokesman, Bill Nowling, tells NextChapterDetroit.com. 

    Here is the link to Gov. Christie’s executive orders.


    Conflicting reports have emerged about whether former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has a new job.

    First, New Jersey media reported yesterday Orr would head to Atlantic City to oversee the struggling city’s operations. But Orr’s Detroit-based spokesman, Bill Nowling,told The Detroit News the reports weren’t quite accurate.

    Then today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office distributed as a media advisory an article from the Wall Street Journal that reported:

    …Christie is bringing in an emergency manager to take over the day-to-day operations and troubled finances of Atlantic City, an unprecedented extension of state control over a New Jersey municipality.

    The Republican governor is expected to announce Thursday that he is hiring Kevn Lavin, a corporate-finance and business-restructuring lawyer…Mr. Christie is also tapping Kevyn Orr – who guided Detroit through its bankruptcy proceedings as its emergency manager – as a part-time consultant in the effort in Atlantic City.

    The WSJ reports an unnamed source said the duo will begin work “immediately.”

    Gov. Christie’s press office tells NextChapterDetroit.com that he will discuss the emergency management team later today at the “Atlantic City Summit.” The meeting is the third in a series attended by casino executives, local, state and union officials who are discussing how to stem a budget shortfall and revenue declines in the 39,500-resident seaside resort town.

    At the second summit, held in November, Christie proposed an emergency manager to oversee spending and hiring. Four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos shut down in 2014, and another three are in bankruptcy.



    By in Feature, Kevyn Orr
  • State of the State: What Snyder said about Detroit

    It took him little way into his 2015 State of the State speech, but Gov. Rick Snyder gave Detroit, its bankruptcy and its emergence from it a few minutes during the annual address last night.

    Here’s audio of the whole speech:

    Here’s what he said about Detroit:

    (Begins at 16:11 into the speech) In terms of local government, one thing I have to mention in terms of opportunity and great outcomes, is the city of Detroit. We emerged from bankruptcy from the city of Detroit, a tremendously hard, difficult process that many people came together to do special things that stand out. And I do want to recognize the people that really made that happen, I want to recognize the retirees who made a sacrifice, who went through very difficult times and they were with us though to support the grand bargain. I want to recognize the hard work of the people at the DIA in terms of raising resources, the foundation committee for raising resources, all the great work that took place through this process to make Detroit a stronger, better place. In particular, I want to thank Mayor Duggan. Mayor, thank you and the city council for your strong effort. (APPLAUSE) 

    A gentleman, a fellow U of M alumni who did tremendous work, we want to get him back in the state of Michigan Kevyn Orr. (APPLAUSE) and some of the individuals couldn’t join us, but Judge Rosen and Judge Rhodes did tremendous work in this effort, and I want to thank each and every legislator, for your conference, your courage to come together to stand up as Michiganders to say we are all one state. We’re strongest when we recognize it’s Detroit, Michigan, and the thing I’m proudest to say, after how many decades can each one of us say now that we all have the common goal of not dwelling on Detroit’s past, but saying let’s grow the city of Detroit, in particular put an emphasis on the neighborhoods to bring them back to be a great place to live in our state. Let’s see Detroit keep continue going up and Mayor you have my support and partnership in helping make that happen. Thank you (EXTENDED APPLAUSE to 18:32)


    Then at 40:30: To give you an update on something though is of interest to many people on the whole situation of emergency managers, since I’ve been governor we’ve had 11 different cities or school districts that have had an EM. I’m pleased to report six of them have left emergency manager status and we have a seventh on the way. The system is generally working well, but the point is let’s avoid emergency managers, let’s do early warning, and the other thing I’m calling for is we need to do a scorecard for all local jurisdictions and state jurisdictions about financial performance and performance in terms of objectives that’s easier for our citizens to use and to see. Let’s create this easy-to-use scorecard that our citizens deserve so we can be more accountable and transparent on how we’re operating and what our challenges are within government.

  • Beyond Bankruptcy: WDET explores life in Detroit in the post-Chapter 9 era

    Following the bankruptcy trial, WDET headed into Detroit’s neighborhoods with panels of city officials and neighborhood advocates. We met with residents, heard their questions, asked our own and got some answers. Here are those meetings, recorded, as they aired on WDET’s Detroit Today program. Topics: City services, public safety, blight, lighting and (inclusive) development.