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Voices of Pensioners: A Year After Bankruptcy

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Image credit: Annamarie Sysling

With cuts to checks, rising health care costs, Detroit’s pensioners are feeling the city’s bankruptcy.

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For City of Detroit retirees, the changes made by the bankruptcy case are measured in the cuts they’ve taken to monthly pension checks and health care benefits. Here’s what some of the roughly 20,000 current pensioners had to say about life after history’s largest Chapter 9 case.


Belinda Myers-Florence

Belinda Myers-Florence, 61, retired from the Detroit Department of Transportation. Belinda worked for the city for 35 years. She passed away days after participating in this interview about her life in the year following Detroit’s exit from bankruptcy.

“I did what they told me to do, I went to work— sick well or in between— I went to work, and this is how I’m repaid?”







Don Taylor

Don Taylor, retired Detroit police officer and president of the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighter Association. Don worked for the city for 26 years.

“The biggest hit personally and to our members was the loss of health care. Police and fire don’t participate in Social Security so many of ours don’t qualify for medicare. Personally I worked side jobs so I did qualify for Medicare, but the additional cost that I assumed when the bankruptcy went into effect, I went from paying basically zero for healthcare premiums to roughly $950 a month.”







Donald Richardson

Donald Richardson, 65, retired from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Donald worked for the city for 30 years.

“The way I feel now, I have no confidence in the system, I don’t have confidence in the courts and I just have no confidence in any of this.





Maryann Perrone

Maryann Perrone, 61, retired from the Detroit Civic Center Department. Maryann worked for the city for 31 years.

“It makes me think twice before I do something like plan a trip or even just go buy some new clothes. You think, ‘Well, gee, I guess I don’t really need this.’ It’s not like I’m going to work where I’d need nice clothes to wear, but sometimes you just like to do that, but you really have to think twice about even doing little expenses like that.”






Rudolph Markoe

Rudolph Markoe, 66, Detroit Department of Transportation retiree. Randolph worked for the city for 29 years.

“The people who were supposed to be our advocates, at the end of the day, they all sold us out for whatever silver they got out of the deal. And you feel abandoned you feel lied to, you feel cheated.”





Shirley Lightsey

Shirley Lightsey, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department retiree and president of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association. Shirley worked for the city for 30 years.

“Really we are responsible for our own destiny and we’re going to have to stop depending on people that tell us things. Show me the proof so when it happens, I have something to take wherever I have to take it. That’s it.”







William Davis

William Davis, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department retiree and president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association. William worked for the city for 34 years.

“The whole thing was just wrong, and, as far as we’re concerned, it was illegal, and there are other groups that bought into it and some people would say, were bought off, but it’s our contention and we continue to pursue it, that we were done wrong, and we are in federal court.”


Annamarie Sysling, Environmental Reporter and Producer, Detroit Today

Annamarie Sysling is a producer for “Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.” When she’s not at work, Sysling is likely walking or biking somewhere in the city, listening to a neuroscience podcast or eating ice cream.

annamarie.sysling@wdet.org Follow @asysling

Detroit Bankruptcy: One Year Later Series

This post is a part of Detroit Bankruptcy: One Year Later Series .

For a month, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative journalists will explore the impact of the city’s bankruptcy case, including its impact on people and neighborhoods and its long-term implications.

Audiences are invited to a free, community event where they can hear directly from key figures in the case and ask questions. The 6 to 8 p.m. program on Wednesday, Dec. 9 will be at Wayne State University’s Community Arts Auditorium. Learn more.

Presented by WDET in partnership with the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Support for this project comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



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