DETROIT BANKRUPTCY: Judge listens to residents, retirees in first of two hearings Thursday

(WXYZ) - Dozens of Detroit residents and retirees took their chance to speak directly to Judge Steven Rhodes who is presiding over the Chapter 9 Bankruptcy in Federal Court.

They lined up at the door of Federal Court Thursday morning.  All filed objections with the court, some hand-written, to get their three minutes of the judge's time.  

Many argued they are opposed to Detroit filling for bankruptcy because it will mean cuts to their health care and pensions in retirement while others said they are opposed to Detroit under the control of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.  

Hassan Aleem told the judge that Orr "is not the sharpest knife in the drawer" and was picked to be EM "only because he's black."  

Judge Rhodes cautioned people to not make personal attacks.  

Paulette Brown who is a retired Detroit City employee said they are being "treated worse than animals."  Leola Crittendon objected to giving city money to millionaires and billionaires who want to build hockey stadiums, a reference to the Ilitch family's proposal on a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings.

Sylvester Davis told the judge, "If you have God in you, do the right thing and don't allow this mess."  Judge Rhodes replied, "Well spoken, sir.  Thank you."  

Sheilah Johnson was almost in tears explaining her grandson asked about her future in retirement. "I'm not a slave," said Johnson. She said the city took deductions from her paycheck. She argued her retirement benefits are earned.  

Sam Riddle who was convicted in a Detroit City "pay for play" scandal asked the judge "Do dollars trump democracy?" He argued the bankruptcy should be stayed.

Federal District Judge Bernard Freedman is set to hold another hearing to decided if the MI constitution protects public employee pensions from being cut.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has reported the city's deficit at $18 billion dollars and underfunding of employee pensions at $3.5 billion.  Retirees health care and pension benefits are not being cut by the city until next year. 

Bruce Bennett from Jones Day representing the city said the city has made no payments into pension funds in the last two years and while going through bankruptcy they are doing their best to make maximum distributions to creditors. 

"No one will ever argue that bankruptcy is a good thing." The judge concluded this session was "truly extraordinary" and "democracy at its finest" with the public comments.

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