Judging the Bankruptcy, One Year Later

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Image credit: Michael Ference

Detroit’s Bankruptcy Judge: City’s second chance working out but concerns remain over pension system.

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Within several weeks of the conclusion of Detroit’s bankruptcy case, the presiding judge, Steven Rhodes, retired. He had been scheduled to step down from the federal bench before Detroit entered Chapter 9, the biggest municipality to do so in U.S. history.

But Rhodes stayed on the bench, leading the proceedings. Since the case’s conclusion, Rhodes has spoken around the country, consulted on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and spent time with his family.

He spoke with WDET’s Sandra Svoboda about where he perceives Detroit to be a year after the case concluded.

Michael Ference
Michael Ference


The Highlights

His overall assessment of what Detroit leaders have accomplished during the last year:

I’m very pleased at the progress the city has made since the bankruptcy was closed. The path that we set seems to be holding. In fact, by all accounts the city is doing better financially than we had projected but I always express my concerns when asked about the city’s future, and they remain first the pension plans. I’m a little bit concerned that the city’s investments in its pension plans have not done as well as we had projected, which will mean a larger underfunding that the city will have to deal with in due course.”


On his biggest worry in Detroit:

I remain concerned about the city’s school system, which was not a part of the bankruptcy but it’s clear that families will want to move into the city only when the schools are fixed. Now the governor is working hard on that, as is the Legislature but we don’t have a consensus on how to solve that problem yet and I am concerned about that.”


On the effects of the case:

I think that the bankruptcy has shined a light on the city of Detroit and it has turned out to be a very positive light. People all over the country and indeed all over the world have been rooting for the city of Detroit now to succeed. And it’s been very gratifying for me to go all over the country and witness this enthusiasm for the city. We also see enthusiasm for investments in the city and that’s very gratifying to see.”

Sandra Svoboda, Special Assignments Manager

Recovering Bankruptcy Reporter/Blogger looking forward to chronicling regional revitalization on-air, digitally and through community engagement.

ssvoboda@wdet.org Follow @WDETSandra

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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