detroit pension board

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DETROIT (AP) - A committee representing Detroit retirees has agreed to endorse the city's plan to cut pensions in bankruptcy. The committee is supporting deals struck last week that would cut the pensions of general retirees by 4.5 percent and eliminate cost-of-living payments. Police officers and firefighters would see a cut only in their annual inflation allowance. Detroit also wants to recover certain generous annuity payments made since 2003.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each week, Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry, and weekend host Rina Miller look back on the big news events in Michigan. You can listen to their discussion above. Below is a short summary.

Lawsuit over Taylor School District contract tossed out

I have nothing against the Theater of the Absurd. I was taught French years ago by an odd method based on the comedies of Eugene Ionesco, the master of irrational dialogue. But absurdity doesn’t work very well as a guide to life, unless, say, you are an infant, or have only months to live.

Two plus two is, after all four. If you want your children to be successful in life, they generally need to know reading, writing and arithmetic. However, we seem to have a set of leaders, both left and right, who have made careers out of denying reality.

Let’s take education, first of all. The non-partisan, respected Education Trust, Midwest released a report yesterday showing that Michigan students are performing below the national average in every category. That’s worse than thirty-five other states.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 The battle over control of Detroit’s two pension funds is heating up, with big consequences for city retirees and other creditors as the city creeps closer to possible bankruptcy.

Detroit has two pension funds: A general retirement system for most employees, and a separate system for the police and fire departments.

The dispute revolves around how well-funded both systems are. The exact number is key, because state law allows emergency managers to replace pension boards if a system is funded below 80%.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit's pension systems vs. Kevyn Orr

Detroit has two pension systems and both have posted fairly strong funding levels. But emergency manager Kevyn Orr has questioned some of those numbers. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says using more realistic projections changes the funding levels, but Detroit’s pension systems say their numbers are correct.

Michigan schools might consolidate services

Michigan schools could be forced to consolidate many of their services into county-wide systems if state lawmakers decide to go along with a plan released yesterday by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Flanagan wants services like transportation, food, and staff training to be handled at the county or regional level.

“And local districts, they can spend time on student achievement issues and not worry about all that other stuff,” Flanagan told Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher.

Detroit City Council will select new leader

The Detroit City Council is expected to select a new president today. The board typically numbers nine but now has six members after two recently resigned and the former President Charles Pugh deserted his duties.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is turning his focus to the city’s pension system.

This morning, Orr directed Detroit’s Inspector General and Auditor General to begin an investigation into the city’s pension funds.

The order specifically directs investigators to look for evidence of “possible waste, abuse, fraud and corruption”.

A spokesman says Detroit’s emergency manager has been looking into the city’s pension system, and what’s been found so far suggests further investigation is needed.

The probe is expected to take 60 days.

Faberge eggs, Rodin sculptures, and a mountainside resort in Costa Rica. And now bribe money from a heroin dealer. The plot behind the theft of Detroit pension fund money thickens. And now that Kastenes has surrendered, more answers are likely to come.

sushi ina / flickr

Detroit’s two pension boards would be required to post all of their spending online, under a bill before the state House.

The legislation is a response to stories published in 2009 about board members’ travel expenses. The boards’ trustees, their attorneys and staff racked up bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for trips to places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.

State Representative Tom McMillin in the bill’s sponsor: