In Detroit, a Resigned Acceptance of Bankruptcy

Many leaders in Detroit say they don’t like the idea of bankruptcy for the city, but that there was little choice in the matter.

Posted: 07/19/2013 05:35 PM EDT

Detroit’s new status as the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy protection is being met by local leaders and ordinary citizens with resigned acceptance with many saying that the city’s finances were so dire that the move seemed inevitable.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, there is no question about it,” said the Rev. James Perkins, the pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church on Detroit’s East Side and the vice president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention,

“But the way I look at it, it’s the best course for us at this time,” Perkins said, in an interview with BET.com. “You have $18 billion in debt and no one has really figured out how to address the issue. There is no real plan on the table and no money coming into Detroit to make a difference.”

Even the mayor, who has long opposed the idea of a bankruptcy filing for Detroit, seemed to be resigned to the reality of the city’s financial future being relegated to a bankruptcy court.

“I said when I entered office four years ago that our city was in a financial crisis. I also said we cannot simply cut our way out of this situation,” Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement.
 
“This action will hopefully be the foundation for the fiscal turn-around of our city,” the mayor’s statement said. “Our citizens have suffered long enough and deserve better. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a better path forward for our city and our people.”

Nonetheless, there are still many civic and community leaders who remain opposed not only to the bankruptcy filing, but also the presence of the emergency financial manager. They remain critical of the appointment of Kevyn Orr, who was picked by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and who has nearly unlimited power over Detroit’s finances.

"Many of us feel like this was a move that was premature and unnecessary,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, the head of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, speaking with BET.com.

Anthony, like many Detroiters, says that the presence of the non-elected emergency manager is essentially bypassing the power of city officials who were elected by the voters of Detroit.

“We believe that the mayor, who is the duly elected head official in the city, has the right to do this kind of thing. But we have never supported the emergency manager position for Detroit.”

Nonetheless, several people in leadership in Detroit said that there was little choice for a city that is facing mountainous debt.

“It was disappointing for Detroit to reach that point but, unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil,” said Maurice Morton, the president and chief executive of the Detroit Academy of Arts and Science, a charter school.

“It seems like this is the only track that will get us back to financial prosperity,” said Morton, speaking with BET.com “I do feel bad for the retirees who now face the prospect of losing their pensions and their health care coverage. All of that is now in jeopardy.”

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(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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