Audience members had much to say to the featured speakers of WDET’s Bankruptcy: One Year Later event last night at Wayne State’s Community Arts Auditorium.
The event, which featured Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, was cut short after audience members began protesting.
Christy McDonald of PBS Detroit and WDET’s Steven Henderson hosted the conversation, discussing the current and future state of the city of Detroit following the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Henderson thanked the esteemed panel of speakers and emphasized the importance of Detroit citizens to the evening.
“We’re going to hear from real people, folks here in Detroit, people who are living through tremendous times in our city and those are the folks I think we are most proud to have with us tonight to tell the story,” Henderson said during the discussion.
Governor Snyder was met with a chorus of boos entering the stage and was consistently interrupted through his interview with Michigan Radio’s All Things Considered host Jennifer White.
“There’s a lot of work done with the city to avoid bankruptcy,” Snyder said during the discussion. “We eventually got to bankruptcy but that was after three years. We did have to ask for some sacrifices from pensioners and I truly appreciate that. They stepped up.”
Pensioners in the crowd expressed their disappointment with the grand bargain and verbally disagreed with the governor’s perspective. Shouts about everything from water shutoffs to Snyder’s “pure baloney" policies prompted Henderson and McDonald to ask for respect from the audience following the governor’s interview.
“I’m a native Detroiter. This is not Detroit behavior. We will not tolerate disrespect,” Henderson said during the discussion.
“They’re disrespecting us,” responded an audience member.
A panel led by Sandra Svoboda led a panel on the bankruptcy process featuring representatives from the DIA, Great Lakes Water Authority and Detroit Retired City Employees Association. President of the DRCEA Shirley V. Lightsey expressed how difficult the bankruptcy process was.
“Disheartening, unexpected and very disappointing in many ways,” Lightsey said during the discussion. “Bankruptcy Chapter 9 superseded everything else.”
Though she said that the bankruptcy ultimately saved Detroit, she noted that it wasn’t without severe sacrifice from many.
“When you step back and look at the city, you have to be responsible for your own destiny at some point when you see the system isn’t working,” Lightsey said during the discussion.
Judge Rhodes spoke briefly about the bankruptcy until he was silenced by shouts from the audience members at the event. A Black Lives Matter protester was escorted to the back by police officers as the judge left the stage.
Henderson and McDonald announced shortly after that the event was over, with no appearance from Mayor Duggan.
Twitter opinions on the productivity of the evening shared via the event’s #DETNEXT varied.
Detroit student poets from Frank Cody High School’s Inside Out Literary Arts Project also shared their experience with the bankruptcy by performing an original poetry piece at the event.
“Our iron fist fight back don’t call it a comeback cause we never left,” they said in their performance. “Breakthrough bankruptcy to the other side, from what I know we are rich.”