Thu, 20 March 2014
The “People's Plan” to Save Detroit
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“Detroit is encircled in a courtroom full of corporate barracudas.”
When the state of Michigan disenfranchised the people of Detroit and imposed bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr as emergency financial dictator, the corporate vultures licked their chops in anticipation of a feast. Bankruptcy court is a predatory corporate habitat, the antithesis of anyone’s notion of democracy. Detroit isn’t even allowed to have its own lawyer, but is instead represented by the same corporate firm, Jones Day, that has represented many of Detroit’s corporate creditors. And those Jones Day lawyers answer, not to Detroit’s powerless city government, but to Kevyn Orr, the state-imposed financial dictator. Detroit is encircled in a courtroom full of corporate barracudas – some of whom pretend to be the city’s lawyers.
The grassroots activist organizations D-REM, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, and the Moratorium Now! Coalition will go on record before Judge Steven Rhodes’ bankruptcy court on April 3 with their objections to Kevyn Orr’s plans to settle accounts with the city’s creditors. Thousands of Detroit pensioners have already flooded the court’s electronic filing system with objections to Orr’s proposed pension cuts. The activist groups oppose paying anything to the predatory banks that depopulated the city through home foreclosures and ensnared Detroit in fraudulent financing schemes. The Emergency Manager’s plan, says D-REM: “Will not fix the financial problems facing Detroit; benefits wealthy Wall Street bankers and bondholders, while stripping valuable public assets, cutting services, and gutting union contracts; is used primarily against African American communities;” and “removes from power 75% of the elected African American officials in Michigan.”
“The activist groups oppose paying anything to the predatory banks.”
The activists say what’s going on in bankruptcy court has little to do with the real causes of Detroit’s crisis, which “results from decades of revenue decline caused by redlining, housing discrimination and deindustrialization.” Detroit’s deep debt is rooted in “misguided and racist decisions by Wall Street bankers and regional corporate elites” – but the poor, mostly Black city is being made to pay.
Since Kevin Orr and the Jones Day lawyers cannot be trusted, the activists ask that Judge Rhodes appoint a trustee to look after the city’s interests. The judge should also call into question the land use and development schemes Kevyn Orr has already put in motion, giving valuable Detroit property away to corporate developers even as the city is starved for funds. They want Judge Rhodes to halt Kevyn Orr’s efforts to regionalize or privatize Detroit’s water treatment facilities – which have long been coveted by corporations. And, the activists emphasize that public transportation is key to the city’s revitalization.
But nothing – nothing! – is as important as democracy, from which the legitimacy of any plan for the city must flow. As D-REM has written: “Detroit’s rebirth will be the result of the People’s unrelenting demand for democratic self-governance” and “equal access to and management of the natural and economic resources of the city.” They have formulated a “People’s Plan” for restructuring Detroit. But no bankruptcy court will implement such a plan. Essentially, this is not a legal fight, at all. It’s about breaking the power of Wall Street – before Big Capital plunges the whole country into dictatorship, like Detroit.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.