Detroit Retirees Vow to Fight on

Detroit Retirees Vow to Fight on

By Diane Bukowski  October 6, 2015 DETROIT—William Davis, president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), says he is not at all discouraged by U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s dismissal Sept. 29 of his appeal of the Detroit bankruptcy plan, along with four similar appeals filed by other  retiree groups. Davis’ appeal had asked  that cuts to retirees’ pensions and benefits be nullified, on grounds that they violated Art. 9, Sec. 24 of the Michigan State Constitution, which states public retiree pensions cannot be “diminished or impaired,” as well as provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The Illinois State Supreme Court recently ruled vigorously against cuts to state retirees’ pensions and benefits  based on an almost identical clause in that state’s constitution. The Court held the Constitution represented “the will of the people,” and could not be challenged. “It really wasn’t a surprise,” Davis said. “We are going to continue to fight, exercising all our options in further appeals. I still think the whole thing is racial. The bankruptcy defrauded poor people and Black and Brown people and they just don’t care. Even if Friedman ruled in our favor, the city would have appealed. This changes nothing. The battle continues. It just gives us more time to raise money and recruit more people. We recently did a mail-out to over 12,000 Detroit retirees.” Davis thus disagreed with the Detroit Free Press’s headline claim that the “appeal was the final challenge to the plan of adjustment.” Freep reporter Matt Helms quoted Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin (Butch) Hollowell. “We’re pleased that Judge Friedman granted the city’s motions, and we are...
Color of Debt, How College debt affects Black neighorhoods

Color of Debt, How College debt affects Black neighorhoods

by Paul Kiel and Annie Waldman, ProPublica October 8, 2015 On a recent Saturday afternoon, the mayor of Jennings, a St. Louis suburb of about 15,000, settled in before a computer in the empty city council chambers. Yolonda Fountain Henderson, 50, was elected last spring as the city’s first black mayor. On the screen was a list of every debt collection lawsuit against a resident of her city, at least 4,500 in just five years. Henderson asked to see her own street. On her block of 16 modest ranch-style homes, lawsuits had been filed against the occupants of eight. “That’s my neighbor across the street,” she said, pointing to one line on the screen. This story was co-published with Marketplace. Have You Been Sued Over a Debt? You can help us investigate questionable debt collection practices by completing a short survey about your experience. Share your story Interactive See the black neighborhoods where collection suits hit hardest. Explore the app Read our methodology And then she saw her own suit. Henderson, a single mother, fell behind on her sewer bill after losing her job a few years ago, and the utility successfully sued her. That judgment was listed, as well as how one day the company seized $382 from her credit union account — all she had, but not enough to pay off the debt. As the lines of suits scrolled by on the screen, Henderson shook her head in disbelief, swinging her dangling, heart-shaped earrings. “They’re just suing all of us,” she said. That’s not only true in Jennings. The story is the same down the road in Normandy...