Mad as Hell in Detroit
February 1, 2014 | by Lou Dubose
On the Friday before Christmas, I was interviewing 15 members of the AFSCME Local 98 Retirees Executive Board when one man became impatient with my questions. In less than 700 words, Mark Phillips described the winners and losers in a city controlled by an emergency manager who has turned pensioners into creditors in bankruptcy court. —L.D.
Can we give you some facts, as opposed to you going around here asking questions about pensions? There’s a number of corporations in this city who owe back taxes. As retirees, we do not owe back taxes. OK.
The Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, and the governor decided to give these people a pass. Which include, to give you a little history, Mr. Mike Ilitch. Ilitch, if you are not aware, is the owner of the Detroit Tigers. He owns the Detroit Red Wings. His wife owns the Motor City Casino. He owes back taxes. That’s revenue.
They just passed—the state passed a referendum just the other day—to build him a brand new hockey stadium in downtown Detroit, which will cost us, the taxpayers of Detroit. We are on the hook for 58 percent of it. OK. That’s lost revenue.
Now the way we see it, they are looking to build Detroit up on the backs of retirees and taxpayers, pensioners. You understand?
And I’m going to say this. Just like Wilma said, she gets $3,000 [a month]. The majority of us get half of that. You understand?
You really want to know our feelings? We’re mad as hell, and we ain’t taking it no more. Print this in your paper. How the fuck you think we feel, they’re trying to take our pensions and our health care? That’s the sentiment of everybody in this room.
How the fuck you think we feel?
Let me also give you another little highlight. There is a provision within the state Constitution, now I didn’t say city, I said state, voters within the state of Michigan voted to say that pensioners should be able to maintain and keep their pensions until they die. You get that?
Now the governor and that House up there decided they’re going to go to the feds and trump that because you got these people that think the rich people should not pay and we should.
Because what Mike Ilitch doesn’t own downtown, another millionaire by the name of Dan Gilbert owns.
We don’t own nothing. We just pay our taxes.
Now if you going to strip us of our pensions, how the hell you think we going to pay our property taxes. That’s revenue that comes to the city.
How long you been in our fair city? You said a week, right? You seen the snow come, right? You seen that the streets were kind of snow-covered? You know why? They done laid off all the workers that move that snow.
That’s a benefit for us, but they don’t care.
So actually, Lou, you don’t have to ask any of us anything else because we done told you how we feel.
But I’ll give you another big hint.
The citizens of this state, again not this city, they had this emergency manager law, the citizens voted [in a statewide referendum] to cancel it.
What did the governor do? He went back to the Legislature, they met in secret session and passed a new emergency manager law granting the man even more power than he had.
And guess what? When people brought it up and said we want to vote, they said “no.” They say we passed a law, so it’s legal.
But we don’t see it as such.
We look at that as not only lawfully wrong, we look at is it is definitely morally wrong. Cause what you have done is you have taken away the vote of the people of Michigan. Not just the city of Detroit. To take away our pensions.
You asked what I did. I worked at the Department of Public Works. Thirty years. Hey, cleaning the snow. Moving the snow. Putting down streets. Fixing automobiles. The city cars, the garbage trucks, the whole nine yards.
What is my pension? I’m telling you I don’t make $3,000. The half of it.
With that, I’m going to get off my soap box and go home. Nice to meet you, Lou.
Lou Dubose is the editor of The Washington Spectator.
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