From Lansing

  • From Lansing: Watch live as testimony continues on Detroit aid package

    Testimony continues today on the 10-bill package for Detroit that includes measures for state funding for pensions, oversight of the city’s finances and other terms. The bills are being considered by special House Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future. Committee member Rep. Thomas Stallworth III spoke with WDET’s Craig Fahle this morning about what he likes — and doesn’t — in the bills.

    Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr kicked off testimony yesterday. Today several officials are scheduled including Detroit Chamber of Commerce CEO Sandy Baruah, Business Leaders of Michigan CEO Doug Rothwell, Michigan AFSCME Director Nick Ciaramitaro, Retired Detroit Police and Firefighters Association Board Chair George Orzech and Board Member Sean Neary.

    Watch it live here:

    By in From Lansing, WDET
  • The DJC Poll: What it revealed about voters’ view of Snyder

    Impressions of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder are more negative than positive among voters, even when you factor out the heavily Democratic city of Detroit, according to a poll released yesterday. Commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, the poll sought to assess attitudes about proposed legislation that would send funds and require oversight in Detroit…but more questions than that were asked. Michigan Radio filed this report.

     

  • On The Craig Fahle Show: Rep. Stallworth defends the Detroit bills

    The special Michigan House Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future is meeting this week to consider a package of 10 bills that would provide funding, oversight and other terms for Detroit.  Rep. Thomas Stallworth III (D-Detroit) is a member of the committee and he spoke with WDET’s Craig Fahle today.

    Here’s a transcript of what he said. Craig’s questions are paraphrased:

    Craig Fahle (CF): What are these bills about?

    Rep. Thomas Stallworth (TS): We’ve got thousands of people who are retirees, whose future, their quality of life, really, depends on our ability to get this legislation through. Equally important is moving Detroit out of bankruptcy and putting it on a path to future prosperity, and, quite frankly, in doing so we not only help Detroit but we help the state of Michigan.

    CF: What is the reason for the proposed 20 years of oversight for Detroit that is part of this legislation?

    TS: Quite frankly, we looked at where a large municipal bankruptcies or financial crises have occurred around the country, whether it’s the District of Columbia or New York, which seems to be the model most people look at. Oversight is always a component of any financial assistance, and, in fact, from a practical standpoint, that’s going to be a requirement in order to get the funding. So I’m OK with some level of oversight but I’m not OK with oversight that really steps on our ability to be self determined and self governed.

    CF: What are your thoughts about the oversight provisions in the bills?

    TS: One is that if we’re having an oversight board or commission that local elected officials have some input or representation on that board, that being the mayor and city council, so that their voices are heard as well. Secondly, I think we need to be clear on what the metric or performance level is … to get out from under the oversight. Currently that’s unclear in the legislation. I think what’s critical is being clear and reasonable about the level of performance that the city needs to have to come out from under oversight and not leave the door open for continued, unjustifiable oversight.

    CF: What amendments do you expect?

    TS: As you know, very few bills end up as they start out so we have started the process, we’re in dialogue, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed and I’m confident that we’ll be able to address them. My hopes are that we’ll land in a position that, again, protects our retirees and affords us the opportunity for some assistance with our pensions and that if there is oversight, that it is reasonable and justifiable.

    CF: Does Kevyn Orr have the ear of legislators?

    TS: I think Kevyn laid out a reasonable game plan in the Plan of Adjustment. I believe he has some credibility with Republicans and the governor’s office and if there’s one thing I would emphasize more, and I tried to emphasize it in my questions, is just providing a deeper understanding of just how severe the cuts to the pensions, wages and benefits would be … Secondly, the impact of this would have on the state’s economy and the need for additional public assistance dollars for senior citizens otherwise would not be.

    CF: Did he make that case adequately? One of the questions that I get asked all the time is, “What happens if the grand bargain doesn’t work?”

    TS: I think we’re going to have to continue to explain to people just how critical this is and the severity of cuts to quality of life that affect seniors, retirees and active employees. … It’s not a one-time compensation, and of course, there are those in the state who probably feel like they don’t necessarily want to help Detroit or that Detroit doesn’t deserve it. Detroit is a legal entity, and this package of bills is primarily set up to help people who are on fixed incomes and who, absent this package, would probably be facing some 50-60 percent reduction in their monthly pension checks, ultimately putting them in poverty.

    CF: Do you think the full Legislature, with its Republican majority, will support this legislation?

    TS: I think that was made clear when the so-called Grand Bargain was initially announced at a press conference held by the governor where he was joined by (House) Speaker (Jase) Bolger and Senate Majority Leader (Rand) Richardville. All three at that point in time indicated that they were supportive of the idea an that they would be supportive of putting a process together to see if we could move the legislation forward that ultimately would help resolve the pension crisis.

    CF: What is the effect of having the special, small, five-member committee that’s considering this legislation?

    TS: I think that the purpose of having a smaller committee is one that ensure that we have people on the committee who are going to be careful to not overly politicize the issues and really stay focused on the main objectives. And the main objectives are again, to protect seniors and retirees first and foremost, secondly to get the city out of bankruptcy as quickly as possible because quite frankly, as the city goes through this bankruptcy process, the state overall will suffer severely as well. And then lastly, of course, we can’t forget that the bills are designed to provide some security for the DIA.

    CF: What are you hearing from your constituents about the proposed legislation?

    TS: It’s a mixed bag, and it’s very interesting because I think the way I see it is a lot of how people see it has to do with age and circumstance. Those who are near retirement or at retirement feel very strongly about moving this package of legislation through. I think maybe some of my younger constituents are much more concerned about oversight and retaining our rights to self governance. I think each is equally important, and what we’ve got to do is really strike a balance where maybe not everybody is happy but we’re accepting of the end product.

    CF: Are we getting close to adopting the legislation?

    TS: It’s a little early, Craig, a little early, but I have confidence. I have confidence in the committee members that have been assigned. I have confidence that at the end of the day, the general public and the Legislature will understand just how important this is to the state’s future.

  • The Ballot’s In the Mail…and other bankruptcy updates

    Detroit this week sent out roughly 100,000 ballots to its creditors, including about 32,000 pensioners, who will weigh in on the city’s debt-restructuring plan and the cuts it makes to their benefit packages. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will consider the results at the July confirmation hearing but because of agreements reached with two creditors, Rhodes by bankruptcy law could approve the plan as is.

    What’s tricky here is if either group of  pensioners — former police and fire fighters and non-uniform worker/retirees — fail to vote in favor of the plan, the so-called “Grand Bargain” goes away under the current terms the city has presented to the bankruptcy court. That’s the deal supported by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Gov. Rick Snyder and others that would bring together foundation, Detroit Institute of Arts-raised and state money to help fund the pension system and protect the museum’s collection from sale to raise cash to pay creditors.

    Without affirmative votes from both groups of pensioners, the cuts to pensions reach deeper. As the plan currently stands, all pensioners lose most of their previous cost-of-living increases and general retirees’ payments are dropped by about 4.5 percent. In addition, retirees who received annuity payments that had a guaranteed rate of return (with the difference between that rate and actual value being paid to them from the pension system funds) would “pay back” up to 20 percent of their annuity’s value through reductions to their future pension payments.

    With a “yes” vote, retirees also give up any existing or future legal claims they have against the city or the state involving the bankruptcy or the emergency manager law.

    What makes the voting environment even more complicated is that just as retirees are beginning to receive their voting packages this week, Michigan legislators are just beginning formal, public deliberation about the state’s proposed funding and oversight package for Detroit. Kevyn Orr was in Lansing May 13 and hearings are planned over the next week. A poll commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative found support throughout Michigan for using state money to help “bail out” Detroit.

    Meanwhile, House Speaker Jase Bolger continues to advocate for labor unions chipping in toward the Grand Bargain, a demand that has put him at odds with many.

    The city has reached agreements with the leadership of several retiree and employee associations (two police and firefighter groups notably withstanding), but now the individual members will vote. Ballots aren’t due back to the city until early July, so these creditors will have some time to see what happens in Lansing with the aid-accountability package and in bankruptcy court as Judge Rhodes considers a series of objections to the city’s Plan of Adjustment and Disclosure Statement.

    Bankruptcy is a busy business.

    -By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda

    @WDETSandra and nextchapter@wdet.org

  • Orr in Lansing: Detroit committee opens legislative hearings on bailout

    Rick Pluta from the Michigan Public Radio Network had this report from Lansing today:

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr  told a state House committee that Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement and recovery plan cannot succeed without an infusion of money from taxpayers.  Orr says it would be a wise investment for taxpayers to help turnaround an iconic American city.

    “I can’t imagine California without San Francisco or LA. I certainly can’t imagine New York state without New York City. I can’t imagine Florida without Miami or Orlando. Likewise, I can’t imagine Michigan without Detroit,” he said during a meeting of the House Special Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future.

    The most likely plan at the moment would have state taxpayers put up roughly $200 million  as part of the settlement. Orr says the state’s investment would also help avert pushing the city’s pensioners close to the poverty line, or forcing the Detroit Institute of Arts to sell off many of its masterpieces.

    State Representative John Walsh chairs the House Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future. He says the city and its residents have been victims of mismanagement and corruption, but also changing economic forces.

    “Whatever the cause, Detroit has crashed. And I would maintain that Detroit isn’t just broke, it’s broken,” Walsh says.

    Walsh expects the committee to move quickly on the legislation.

    By in DJC, From Lansing
  • From Lansing: Watch the hearings on Detroit aid, oversight package

    The House Special Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future is holding hearings this week on a set of bills that would provide funding toward pensions and protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts collection from sale to pay creditors.

    Watch it live here:

     
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    By in From Lansing, WDET
  • The DJC Poll: Results show voters want state money earmarked for pensions, art

    A new poll released today shows widespread support throughout Michigan for providing state money to Detroit especially when it’s designated for pensions or maintaining the Detroit Institute of Arts collection.

    Roughly eight in ten respondents in the new poll say they view Detroit’s financial health as very important or essential to the health of the state. Nearly two-thirds of people in the survey say it’s a top priority or important for their elected officials to address Detroit’s financial recovery. 

    The poll results are being released today by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative … a group of local media outlets that includes WDET

    By in DJC, From Lansing, WDET
  • The DJC Poll: Here’s the collection of coverage showing statewide support for supporting Detroit

    The Detroit Journalism Cooperative wanted to know what voters outside of Detroit think about the state proposals to support the city’s pensioners and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts collection as part of the bankruptcy case. So we asked them in an EPIC-MRA poll, commissioned by the DJC with support from Renaissance Journalism through a grant from the Ford Foundation. We sought to measure how voters outside Detroit think about the city, and whether they back a state financial contribution to help Detroit emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

    What did they say? Below is a round up of all the partner coverage of the poll results.

    The results are especially timely as  today in Lansing legislators begin taking testimony and considering a 10-bill package to providing funding for and oversight of the city.

    From Bridge Magazine:
    State should send help to Detroit, Michigan voters say

    Michigan voters, including Republicans and those who live far from bankrupt Detroit, want the state to provide financial support to its largest city as part of a “grand bargain,” according to a statewide poll. What’s more, voters across the political spectrum said they would not hold a vote in support of Detroit financial aid against their own elected representatives. The findings come as lawmakers in Lansing debate a $350 million funding package for Detroit that critics deride as unwise and unfair to other struggling Michigan communities.

    From Michigan Radio:
    New poll: Save Detroit art and retirees’ pensions

    A new poll shows Michigan voters outside of Detroit approve using state money to support the so-called “Grand Bargain” to bolster City of Detroit retirees’ pensions and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection. It found almost half of voters outside the city of Detroit support the state government contributing $350 million to help solve some of the sticky issues of the bankruptcy. Forty-nine percent favor the contribution, 34 percent oppose it.

    People like the plan better when they learn that the $350 million would go to bolster the retirees’ pension funds and protect the Detroit Institute of Art from having to auction off part of its collection.

    Bernie Porn is with EPIC-MRA, the firm that conducted the poll. He says after you boil it down, when people know the money goes to retirees and to help the art museum, more people approve. “When you do that, you end up with 62% support for the proposal and that includes 74% of Democrats, 58 percent of Republicans, and then only 51 percent of independents,” Porn explained.

    From WDET Radio:
    Voters want state money earmarked for pensions, art

    A new poll released today shows widespread support throughout Michigan for providing state money to Detroit especially when it’s designated for pensions or maintaining the Detroit Institute of Arts collection.

    Roughly eight in ten respondents in the new poll say they view Detroit’s financial health as very important or essential to the health of the state. Nearly two-thirds of people in the survey say it’s a top priority or important for their elected officials to address Detroit’s financial recovery.

     

  • The DJC Poll: Michigan voters support state money for Detroit

    A new poll shows Michigan voters outside of Detroit approve using state money to support the so-called “Grand Bargain” to bolster City of Detroit retirees’ pensions and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection. Here’s Michigan Radio’s report on the results of the survey, commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.