USA Today journalist and lead reporter on Detroit’s bankruptcy for the Detroit Free Press, Nathan Bomey, spoke about his book “Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back” April 4 in the Partrich Auditorium in the Wayne State Law School.
Bomey, along with a mix of legal scholars and attorneys, hosted a panel to discuss the causes of the bankruptcy, where the city stands now and how we should look ahead.
The accompanying panel was composed of WSU law professors Peter Hammer, Laura Bartell and John Mogk and Detroit City Attorney Ryan Plecha.
Bomey began by handing out some figures: Detroit was $18 billion in debt when they filed for bankruptcy on July 18, 2013.
“This one shattered all of the records,” Bomey said.
After that day, Bomey explained 40 percent of the streetlights in the city were turned off, the police would take a minimum of 30 minutes to respond to a call, buses and public transportation shut down and internet access went in and out so much that some emails between workers for the city government with questions and concerns regarding the state of the city never reached the intended recipient.
Bomey said, “You can list pretty much anything and it had a likely role to play,” regarding the reasons Detroit went bankrupt while he listed the fall of the big three, education, the white-flight and more as examples.
However, Bomey said one of the major events that tipped the Detroit bankruptcy was the 2005 deal Kwame Kilpatrick made that received a “Deal of the Year” award. This deal granted Kilpatrick with $1.44 billion to plug the city deficit at the time, and the plan pledged all casino money as collateral.
“The reality is that deal is what lead to the height of the Detroit bankruptcy,” Bomey said.
Emergency manager Kevin Orr was brought in and he adjusted the funding in the city to balance the debt and the revenue, and with many other philanthropists, workers of the city and people of Detroit, the city exited bankruptcy.
However, the city still needs help to attain a better education system, lower crime rates and a stable transportation system.
“These are the things the people of Detroit deserve because that’s what a city is,” Bomey said.
“We’re still in dire shape,” Hammer said. “I mean, 70 percent of jobs in Detroit are held by people outside of Detroit and 60 percent of the people who live in Detroit travel outside of the city for their job.”
“We don’t have a political answer for it,” said Hammer, referring to dealing with the education gap, the institutionalized racism and the state of the rest of Detroit.
What the city should do, Plecha said, is thank and respect the retirees who voluntarily voted to reduce their pensions and health care to get Detroit out of bankruptcy. Retirees in Detroit receive around $100-$150 for their health care and pension each month now because of that plan, which is not sufficient, he said.
He described how important it is for the people of Detroit to never forget what sacrifices were made to bail the city out.
“Once you forget where you’ve been, you’re doomed to repeat it,” said Plecha.