A parade of Detroiters and retirees tried to derail the city’s bankruptcy case Thursday, arguing the filing was not made in good faith and would slash constitutionally protected pensions.
About two dozen residents and retirees, some delivering tearful and racially charged speeches, were given a rare chance to speak directly to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes while pursuing objections challenging the city’s eligibility for Chapter 9 bankruptcy relief. The speeches illustrated the impact of the biggest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history and Detroit’s attempt to restructure $18 billion in debt.
The speeches ranged from the poignant to the political and the oddball. A widow pleaded with Rhodes to preserve her late husband’s pension, Councilwomen JoAnn Watson and Brenda Jones argued that the city is ineligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection and one man gave a nearly incomprehensible rant about aliens and claimed Detroit was a “legal fiction.”
Whether those arguments will succeed in kicking Detroit out of bankruptcy court will be decided later. Rhodes is holding a trial next month to determine the eligibility issue.
The hearing showed “democracy at its finest,” Rhodes said after more than three hours of testimony.
The residents were among more than 100 people and groups objecting to the city’s bankruptcy case.
The residents argued the Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing was not authorized by elected city officials and claimed Detroit is not insolvent because it failed to determine the value of Belle Isle, Coleman A. Young International Airport or the Detroit Institute of Arts masterpieces prior to the the July 18 bankruptcy filing.