Greetings from Bankruptcy Court: Retiree Tales Vol. 1

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The court docket for Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case is filled with a never-ending stream of legalese and detailed plans that intend to reshape the fundamental structure of the city.

For city retirees, the impact of those plans may be immense: Under Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s currently proposed bankruptcy-exit plan, police and fire employees could lose as much as 10 percent of their monthly pension check; for general employees, the loss could be as high as 34 percent.

Those who could be affected by such cuts have a unique opportunity in Detroit’s bankruptcy case to file a legal objection to Orr’s plan. And they’re making use of the chance to speak their mind: hundreds of those objections are wedged between filings from Detroit’s counsel, attorneys representing creditors, orders from the judge overseeing the case, and more.

Some are brief, handwritten calls for help that suggest Orr’s team hasn’t offered a clear resolution for the layman to understand; others deliver blow-by-blow heartbreaking stories about how such cuts could send them into poverty. Considering the objections are public documents for anyone to see, we figured, instead of letting them sit at the bottom of a court docket, it’d be worth offering them an additional platform to let their stories be known. We’ll do our best to publish a handful every Tuesday on our website. For now, here are a couple examples of what to expect: It is simply a genuine snapshot of just how much of an impact Detroit’s bankruptcy is having.

Anthony Fuller, of Warren

“Your honor, I am a 62-year-old former Detroiter who was born, raised and lived in Detroit for 54 years. I enjoy Belle Isle, Hart Plaza, Science Center, Art Institute, Charles Wright Museum, New Center area shops, restaurants, and the world-class theaters that Detroit has. Your honor, five generations of my family have enjoyed these venues. Please!! Consider my objection. PS: Say no to the dying process of my city.”

Thomas Agens, of St. Clair Shores

“[The Plan of Adjustment] will affect my family and my life. I want to stay whole; I'm an active employee. I don’t understand anything about it; no one explained!”

 Vincent Cooleyof Detroit "The end result of this action would be detrimental to my future. I have around 10 years left to go for retirement, but [the finances] I had relied upon to be in place would not be there and would prevent a retirement from becoming  a reality." Hani Dickowof West Bloomfield "I object to the filing because: Retirees who would be asked to take the hit were not responsible for creating the problems. Retirees who did nothing but get up every day and go to work would be asked to pay the bill. However, there's a whole lot wrong with cutting pensions for those already retired. ... The City ... eliminates the cost of living increases, which means our pension will get smaller and smaller every year and we will have deep cuts on our health care benefits. I am 62 years old with a family of four and I am not in good health, but if there is a job opening I will work. And I had to cut a number of medications due to costs. ... I manage the expenses of my family on a promised pension and in 2009 I purchased a home, which caused me to have a mortgage. My mortgage is $350,000, and my house is worth half of what it was in 2009. I have several bills, some of which include my car insurance bill, medical bills, and cable bill. My two daughters are still in college and I support both of them by providing them with books, food, transportation and shelter. ... Please Hon. Judge Rhodes, protect the weak and vulnerable retiree. The city is delivering a death sentence to all retirees. This would be devastating. Devastating. Have mercy on us.

About The Author

Ryan Felton

Ryan Felton was born in 1990 and spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Livonia. In 2009, after a short stint at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to Detroit where he has remained ever since. After graduating from Wayne State University’s journalism program, he went on to work as a staff writer...
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