Detroit struggle ramps up versus emergency manager

The struggle of Detroit residents to save our city from ruin by the banks and financial institutions has gone into high gear with the calling of two important demonstrations by the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs. Several dozen activists from many key organizations involved in the struggle against the imposition of the “emergency [financial] manager” appointed by the state met on May 29 to discuss strategy and plan for building the protests.

Kevyn Orr, the EM appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, will face Detroit residents at two public forums, both inside and outside. The protests will take place on Thursday, June 6, at 5:30 p.m., at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile; and on Monday, June 10, 5:30 p.m., at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, 3200 E. Lafayette.

Orr is a financial lawyer and bankruptcy advocate who activists say is working on behalf of the state to put the banks’ financial interests ahead of the people, at devastating costs. Moratorium Now! issued a statement on May 29, which notes in part:

“Orr’s May 12 Financial and Operating Plan admits that it is the massive debt service imposed on Detroit by the banks and financial institutions which is the source of the financial crisis strangling the city.

“Orr reported that the city had negative cash flow of $115.5 million in fiscal year 2012. His report reflects that the entire deficit is accounted for by debt service payments owed to the banks. …

“Orr’s report states that in 2013 the City is paying $139.9 million in debt interest to the banks. The largest percentage of that interest is in pension obligation certificates, including swaps totaling $78.9 million, where the banks locked the City into high interest rate payments at the precise moment when the actual interest rate paid on the bonds was sinking to near zero. The City is paying an additional $105.8 million in debt principal in 2013. According to Orr’s report, debt service, principal plus interest, amounts to 19.3 percent of the City’s budget.”

These shocking statistics are bad enough, but Orr’s job is to see to it that the banks get paid. The coalition stated: “As Emergency Manager, Orr is mandated under the law to guarantee the payment of debt service to the banks. Any talk of ‘renegotiating the debt service’ by Orr is a sham to cover up his real job, to gut City services and sell off City assets on the banks’ behalf. In contrast to mandating payment of debt service, Orr is empowered under the law to break every contract that benefits Detroit’s workers and residents. He is threatening to sell off DIA [Detroit Institute of Arts] art works to pay the banks!

“Orr is looking at bankruptcy as his ultimate move. Why? Because only in bankruptcy can he go after the City workers’ pensions, which are the real target in ‘financial reform’ that only benefits the banks.”

The coalition is demanding an immediate moratorium or halt on all debt service payments by the city of Detroit to the banks. Activists point out that these same banks destroyed the city with their racist, predatory lending practices, which led to tens of thousands of home foreclosures and the devastation of vast sections of the city’s neighborhoods.

“The banks owe us billions of dollars for the destruction they have caused! They must be made to pay for the reconstruction of our communities!” said the coalition.

For more information on this anti-austerity struggle against the banks, contact Moratorium Now! at 313-680-5508; visit moratorium-mi.org; and go to detroitdebtmoratorium.org to view documents and articles on how the banks destroyed Detroit.