Detroit Today: How has Detroit progressed since filing for bankruptcy 10 years ago?

While Detroit’s finances have improved, city retirees saw their pensions and benefits affected by the bankruptcy.

Protesters carry a sign outside the Levin Federal Courthouse in Detroit, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Protesters carry a sign outside the Levin Federal Courthouse in Detroit, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

It was 10 years ago today that Detroit made history when it became the largest U.S. city to ever file for bankruptcy.

Prior to filing for bankruptcy, the city was $18 billion deep in debt, leading then Gov. Rick Synder to intervene and appoint Kevin Orr as an emergency manager. Orr recommended bankruptcy and oversaw Detroit through a massive restructuring of debts and assets.

While the city’s finances are in much better shape a decade later, many retired city employees continue to receive lower pensions than promised.

Michigan State University’s Eric Scorsone, ProPublica reporter Anna Clark and Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association President William Davis joined Detroit Today to discuss the impact of Detroit’s bankruptcy a decade later.

Listen: Reflecting on Detroit’s bankruptcy and its legacy 10 years later


Eric Scorsone is the Director of Michigan State University’s Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy. Scorsone mentioned that many of the pensioners of the city of Detroit received lower monthly amounts than they were promised.

“The retirees were one of the biggest creditors in the situation, so the haircut was targeted at them,” says Scorsone.

Anna Clark is a Detroit-based reporter and journalist covering issues in the Midwest for ProPublica. Clark says the emergency management laws that allow an unelected official to take power in the city of Detroit continue to exist.

“The law has remained on the books, it is unchanged in any way,” says Clark.

William Davis is the president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association. Davis highlights the thousands of employees disadvantaged by their decreased pensions.

Detroit’s vibrant downtown “is all basically on the back of the city of Detroit retirees,” Davis states.

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