Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Judge Steven Rhodes approved a key settlement in Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case Friday.

The deal will settle a costly interest-rate swaps agreement with two banks, UBS and Bank of America, for $85 million.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has pushed hard for such a deal. Detroit had guaranteed the swaps with casino revenue, and paid out about $200 million since 2009.

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week, host Jennifer White discusses the latest developments in the Detroit bankruptcy case and examines the implications.

There was a significant breakthrough yesterday. A settlement was announced between the city of Detroit and three major bond insurers. The insurers will get about 74 cents on the dollar, a significant increase from what emergency manager Kevyn Orr originally offered, and the roughly $50 million in savings will go to support retirees.

The question now is whether retirees will accept further cuts to their pensions, given the fact that Gov. Rick Snyder has stated that the state will not put any money forward unless the retirees agree to cuts. Ken Sikkema says it's imperative that retirees back the plan.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

There have been two big developments this week in the high-stakes showdown over Detroit's pensioners, its art treasures and creditors who hope bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes will pressure the city to put those art treasures on the table.

There's a lot to try to sort out. So, as we do each Thursday, we spoke to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Listen to the full interview above.

If you heard my commentary yesterday on the latest in the Detroit bankruptcy battles, I began with the news that the city had reached a deal with the holders of its general obligation bonds.

All we knew then was that an agreement had been reached, and I said the bondholders were, to quote myself, “evidently going to settle for less than 20 cents on every dollar owed them.”

Well, I was astonishingly far off.

In fact, they ended up settling for 74 cents for every dollar. But there is a reason why I was so wrong.

Could tobacco settlement money help the DIA?
DIA

One group who stands to lose a lot in Detroit’s bankruptcy has upped the ante in the battle over the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Financial Guaranty Insurance Corporation, a major bond insurer, has gone out and solicited bids for the museum’s assets.

And in papers filed in federal bankruptcy court Wednesday, FGIC said it’s received four tentative bids for the museum’s assets, or portions of them.

The bidders include:

If you aren’t following every twist and turn in the saga of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may think things are well on track.

Today, in fact, came the good news that the city has apparently reached a deal with its unsecured bondholders, who are evidently going to settle for almost 75 cents of every dollar owed them. 

But the biggest and toughest challenges are ahead.

And if you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again.

Here is how things stand:

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Mediators in Detroit’s bankruptcy case have made a potentially huge breakthrough with some of the city’s bondholders.

Bondholders are one of the city’s biggest groups of unsecured creditors.

That means they’re also one of the most important groups for emergency manager Kevyn Orr to get on board with his plan of adjustment, and avoid a protracted legal battle that could bog the city down in bankruptcy court for months or years.

Now, negotiators for the city and three major bond insurers have announced a settlement deal.

Yesterday was the deadline to file objections to the disclosure statement spelling out Detroit's plan to climb out of its bankruptcy hole.

And yes, objections poured in – long lists of objections to the disclosure statement.

Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood joined us today to tell us who's objecting, why, and what comes next.

Listen to the full interview above.

Judge Steven Rhodes will make a major ruling in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy case this week.

Rhodes will decide whether the city can settle an interest-rate swaps deal with two major banks for $85 million.

Detroit had hoped to hedge against interest rates rising when it entered into the swaps deal on some city pension debt in 2006.

But interest rates fell to nearly 0, and Detroit has been forced to shell out about $200 million to UBS and Bank of America since 2009.

NOAA

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the impact of a fourth member of the state's congressional delegation who won't seek re-election, Medicaid expansion, President Obama's trip to Michigan to talk about the minimum wage, and Detroit's latest plan for bankruptcy.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit pensioners are trying to turn up the heat on emergency manager Kevyn Orr Tuesday – just as he’s doing the same thing to them.

Protesters filled the street in front of Detroit’s federal courthouse on Tuesday to slam Orr’s proposed cuts to city pensions.

Orr filed a revised version of his bankruptcy restructuring plan there Monday. An earlier version, known formally as a plan of adjustment, was filed in February.

DIA/Flickr

Even before Detroit officially filed for bankruptcy last July, many Michiganders and outsiders feared for the future of the Detroit Institute of Arts – the city’s so-called "crown jewel."

With the city in financial turmoil, the newly appointed emergency manager of Detroit started a catalog of city assets. Many feared the DIA's status as a city asset would mean part of the museum’s collection could be sold off to satisfy creditors.

Courtesy of Bridge Magazine

Long before Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr rolled out his proposal in February for paying back the city’s creditors, bankruptcy experts knew the pain would not be spread evenly.

Because so much of the city’s debt – nearly $6 billion owed to pay back loans for the city’s sprawling water and sewer department – cannot be reduced in bankruptcy court, the creditors feeling the brunt of the cuts are retirees and city employees.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On the one-year anniversary of his appointment, Detroit’s emergency manager spoke about the latest developments in the city's bankruptcy in a speech at the University of Michigan.

One thing in the works is getting a $120 million loan from Barclays of London. A state board approved the loan today. The Detroit City Council also approved the deal, despite concerns that the money might be used to pay big-money bankruptcy consultants. But, emergency manager Kevyn Orr says, ‘not so.’

wikimedia commons

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking at potential private operators for the city’s water system.

Orr says the city has been forced to consider leasing the water system to a private operator because talks to create a regional authority with suburban customers broke down.

user aMichiganMom / Flickr

Ninety-five years ago, the Detroit Institute of Arts was in deep, deep financial trouble.

It kept the doors open by turning over the building and its art to the thriving city of Detroit in exchange for annual funding.

And now it stands, poised to flip that arrangement upside down, hoping to cut Detroit's ownership of the DIA in order to protect its treasures from hungry creditors.

There's quite a long and complicated history between the DIA and the city.

And yet, despite nearly a century tied together, the reaction of Detroiters to the proposed spin-off of the DIA is pretty muted – certainly much different than the reaction when the state took over operations of Belle Isle.

Detroit Free Press writer Mark Stryker explored this in his piece for last Sunday's paper.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit's municipal bankruptcy has made the world aware of what Michigan already knew. Detroit is broke. No matter how it turns out, bankruptcy is not going to change things very quickly. Detroit will still be broke. That’s going to force the city to get creative.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: the state of Michigan is not going to bail out Detroit.

And the state of Michigan is not going fully restore revenue sharing from the sales tax with cities such as Detroit.

 

The judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy case has pushed a scheduled trial on the city’s reorganization plan back by at least a month.

Judge Steven Rhodes had set a mid-June date trial date on the city’s proposed plan of adjustment. That plan is emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s basic road map for getting the city out of bankruptcy, and a key document in any municipal bankruptcy.

City lawyers had asked for the extension, reportedly to them more time to solicit votes for the plan.

Ron Reiring / Flickr

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans on August 29, 2005, we here in Michigan – along with the rest of America – watched in horror and shock. The scenes from New Orleans were practically beyond comprehension.

It's been eight and a half years since Katrina. New Orleans is still rebuilding and still recovering.

And, in the process, lessons have been learned that might benefit Detroit as it struggles back from bankruptcy and years of shrinking resources and population.

Writer Campbell Robertson's recent piece in the New York Times, A Lesson for Detroit in Efforts to Aid a New Orleans Devastated By Katrina, gives Detroiters and decision-makers much food for thought.

Robertson joined us today.

*Listen to the audio above.

  As Detroit continues to move through the bankruptcy process, an outstanding issue is a plan to protect artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. A group of foundations and private donors have pledged over $300 million that would help cover city pensions and offset the need to sell the artwork. 

A recent op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy questions the wisdom of this plan. William Schambra is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal in Washington D.C. and he joined us today.


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