Skinnin’ and grinnin’ for thirsty folk
In the photo at left, Detroit City Councilpersons Andre Spivey and Mary Sheffield appear happy to be celebrating with Gov. Rick Snyder. The specific piece of legislation that has Snyder so gleeful is what he and his emergency manager Kevyn Orr call the Grand Bargain.
It’s what retirees call the Grand Theft. Under the Grand Theft deal, which passed with supporting amendments offered by Detroit Reps. Thomas Stallworth and Fred Durhal, retirees give up their hard-earned money, and more importantly their right to sue — their right to due process, for a promise of $816 million over the next 20 years and only a 4.5 percent cut in their pensions.
Part of the Grand Theft calls for the state, the Detroit Institute of Arts and foundations to raise the $816 million to throw into the pension pot. If the money isn’t raised, the retirees are out and also gone will be their right to sue.
Furthermore, the legislation also keeps the city under state control for another 13 years, or even indefinitely if the city doesn’t adhere to certain mandates for 10 consecutive years. Second-class citizenship for Detroiters forever.
Most retirees are rightfully urging their colleagues to “reject” the Grand Theft — to vote no. If they do, retirees will retain their constitutional right to sue.
Lawsuits are expected to come when the emergency manager’s house of cards collapses, and the court challenges to PA436, the bankruptcy and the state’s abandonment of the constitutional protection of pensions are successful. Snyder and lawmakers will be forced to obey the Michigan Constitution and protect the pensions.
Spivey and Sheffield — who drove to Lansing for the celebration, no doubt did so on the city’s dime — are also two councilpersons who have not spoken out against the water shutoffs that are leaving children and pregnant women without water. While Sheffield voted no, Spivey voted last week to increase water rates by 8.6 percent. Ironically, the Council vote is meaningless, serving only to rubberstamp Orr’s omnipotent powers.
Who they represent isn’t hard to figure out. Perhaps they just want to make Rick happy. This is the governor who took 15 Detroit Public Schools buildings and students with some of the worst-performing students in the city to create the experimental Educational Achievement Authority. The EAA has failed. Many students are performing worse than when they entered it two years ago. Snyder created this Jim Crow district — separate and unequal — with 15 school buildings Detroiters are paying for, and will be paying for another 25 years.
This governor put Orr and Orr’s former law firm Jones Day in place to push Detroit into bankruptcy, strip retirees of health benefits, threaten retirees to vote their way, take a portion of retirees’ pension; and redirect every viable asset of the city so it is under control of some authority — not the people’s duly elected representatives.
But when the people have representatives like Spivey and Sheffield, Stallworth and Durhal —who are happiest doing the governor’s dirty work — the people really haven’t got much.