“It Is Your City” – Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ Conclusion Is A Letter To Detroiters

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This week Detroit emerged from a historic bankruptcy in a time period shorter than many expected. It required a large amount of cooperation from everyone involved to get it through, and the Detroit Free Press has a long, inside look at the events that happened during the ordeal. At the end of the plan of adjustment, Judge Steven Rhodes wrote what amounts to a letter to Detroiters looking back at a turbulent time in the history of Detroit. We’ve included it below.

“We have talked a lot in this case about how a chapter 9 case is so different from all the other types of bankruptcy cases. It is, but only around the edges. In fundament ways, the Detroit bankruptcy case is just like every one of the other 30,609 bankruptcy cases that were filed in our court in 2013. In every case, we have a debtor who needs help, who made mistakes, who took unwarranted risks, who accepted bad advice, who exercised bad judgment, who was too long in denial, or who had just plain bad luck.

But no matter, our society holds dear the value of a fresh start and of second chances. That value is manifested with brilliant clarity in our bankruptcy laws. And that value is manifested the same in this $18 billion case as it was in the no asset chapter 7 cases that were filed just before and just after this case on July 18, 2013.

To the current leadership of the City, you are about to get your City back from us in the bankruptcy world. We give it back to you with the fresh start that this City needs and deserves under our federal bankruptcy laws. We hope we helped. It is now on you to implement this plan. I have found that you will do that. Please make me right. It is in the City’s best interest. The City’s true and full fresh start depends on it.

[pullquote-right]A large number of you told me that you were angry that your City was taken away from you and put into bankruptcy … I urge you now not to forget your anger. Your enduring and collective memory of what happened here, and your memory of your anger about it, will be exactly what will prevent this from ever happening again. It must never happen again.[/pullquote-right]Before I conclude, I want to address the people of the City of Detroit, whose passion for this City is remarkable in its breadth, in its expression, and in its unwavering endurance. I just said that your leaders are about to get the City back. Actually of course, it is you who are about to get your City back. It is your City.

A large number of you told me that you were angry that your City was taken away from you and put into bankruptcy. You told me in your court papers. You told me in your statements in court. You told me in your blogs, letters, and protests. I heard you.

I urge you now not to forget your anger. Your enduring and collective memory of what happened here, and your memory of your anger about it, will be exactly what will prevent this from ever happening again. It must never happen again.

When Fredia Butler testified during the confirmation hearing, she quoted the great wisdom of Marian Wright Edelman, who said, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” And so I ask you, for the good of the City’s fresh start, to move past your anger. Move past it and join in the work that is necessary to fix this City. Help your City leaders do that. It is your City.”

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