Wayne State University

Aim Higher

FOCIS presents BANKRUPTCY: What could it mean for Detroit?

How did Detroit go broke? 

We once were known as the Paris of the Midwest. For decades we were the destination of thousands of immigrants. We earned worldwide fame as The Motor City. Now we’re the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. 

It is too late to wonder how that happened. What matters now is what bankruptcy will mean for the city, its citizens and its rebirth. Local pundits, politicians and ordinary citizens have voiced their anger, opinions, frustration and fears about the city’s status and prospects. But no one knows for sure what will happen. 

Today’s program will feature panels of experts from other cities that are in or emerging from significant financial stress, up to and including bankruptcy. From them we will hear what we can and should not expect, and what steps we can take to bring our city through this dangerous time in its history. 

One panel includes elected officials and an educator whose cities went through the anguish of bankruptcy. They were the mayors, commissioners, council members or candidates who supported or opposed their communities’ taking such a drastic step. We will hear their thinking past and present, and their rationale for the actions they took or opposed. Others on the panel are managing their cities’ transitions now under the burden of bankruptcy. 

The second panel comprises advocates for the various players in those municipalities. They were the lawyers who represented the pensioners, bondholders, city officials, ordinary citizens and the municipalities themselves in federal court. They are the few experts in this relatively new area of law, for what is known as Chapter 9 clearly is different from other forms of bankruptcy. 

These voices from other places can teach us a lot about what we citizens of Detroit may be facing for years to come. Come hear for yourself what other communities have gone through, and how they are rebuilding toward a new prosperity following the trauma of bankruptcy.