DETROIT (WXYZ) - "Detroiters don't know exactly what they want but they certainly know what they don't want: Don't touch pensions and DIA art." That's the opinion of veteran Channel 7 pollster Bernie Porn who just completed an exclusive WXYZ/Detroit Free Press survey of eligible Detroit voters.
As part of Detroit's chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, emergency manager Kevyn Orr is trying to eliminate the city's debt estimated to be $18-20 billion. Fixing the problem won't be easy and Detroiters have strong reactions about the best course of action.
Orr has proposed that Detroit's creditors accept payments of only 10 to 20 cents for each dollar they are owed. According to our survey of 400 Detroit residents, 41 percent say they support Orr's offer, 37 percent oppose it, and 22 percent are undecided.
Reaction to another Orr proposal leaves no doubt where Detroiters stand. Seventy-five percent of the survey respondents say the emergency manager should not cut the pensions of former city workers in any way. Nineteen percent favor reducing pensions, 4 percent aren't sure what to do, and only 2 percent believe pensions should be eliminated.
If it turns out that city pensions are reduced to pay down the Motor City's staggering debt, only about one-fourth say reduce the pay less than 5 percent, 17 percent favor of reduction of 10 – 29 percent, and only 1 percent would cut the pensions in half. The largest number, 39 percent, still say, "Don't cut pensions at all," even when suggested there have to be reductions.
Kevyn Orr's statement that every city asset should be on the table for consideration, including art treasures from the Detroit Institute of Arts, is flatly rejected by Detroiters. More than three out of every four people asked, oppose leasing or selling paintings and other art exhibits of the DIA. Seventeen percent like the idea and 5 percent can't make up their minds.
Bernie Porn, president of the Lansing-based EPIC MRA polling firm that conducted our exclusive survey, summed it up this way, "Detroiters know the debt elimination money has to come from somewhere but they'll be darn if it comes from them." Governor Rick Snyder has said publicly many times that roughly 38 percent of the city's budget is spent of "legacy costs."
Polling was done over the phone between September 17 and September 19, 2013. Twenty percent who answered the survey did so on their cell phones. The poll has a margin or error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Voters go to the polls in November to select a new mayor and City Council who will have to work with Detroit's emergency manager to make tough decisions about what budget items to cut and where money can be saved.
FULL POLL QUESTIONS AND RESULTS (Margin of error: +/- 4.9%)
"Several proposals have been made to reduce spending and balance the budget of Detroit. One proposal would require businesses that provided services to Detroit to accept payments of only 10 to 20 cents for each dollar they are owed. Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose this proposal as one of the ways of balancing the budget?"
15% Strongly favor
26% Somewhat favor
41% TOTAL FAVOR
37% TOTAL OPPOSE
16% Somewhat oppose
21% Strongly oppose
"Under another proposal, the pensions of past, current and future Detroit City workers would be eliminated or reduced to pay down the debt. Based on what you know or have heard or read about the pension proposals that have been mentioned, do you favor the total elimination of pensions for City workers, do you favor reducing the amount of pensions city workers would receive, or, do you oppose making any reductions in the pensions of City workers at all?"
75% Do not cut pensions of City workers at all
19% Reduce pensions paid to City workers
2% Totally eliminate pensions of City workers
"If the pensions of City workers are reduced as part of the actions taken to pay down debt and balance the budget, what percentage reduction do you think should be made?"
1% - 50 percent or more
2% - 30 to 49 percent
17% - 10 to 29 percent
6% - 5 to 9 percent
21% - Less than 5 percent
39% - Do not cut pensions of City workers at all
14% - Undecided/Refused
"Under another proposal, paintings and other art exhibits at the Detroit Institute of Arts, many of which were donated by supporters of the arts, would be sold to balance the budget. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?"
7% Strongly favor
10% Somewhat favor
17% TOTAL FAVOR
78% TOTAL OPPOSE
8% Somewhat oppose
70% Strongly oppose