Detroit Bankruptcy Documentary Maker: Your Town Could Be Next

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This made the DIA the target of creditors ranging from the widow of a murdered police officer to a Bermuda-based municipal bond insurer who wanted what was owed.

In virtually every other city in America struggling with underfunded pensions and other debts (think Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore), there isn’t a museum full of Van’s masterpieces. Gogh, Matisse, Monet or Rivera belonging to the city.

In other words, art—and to a lesser extent Detroit’s water and sewer system—was Detroit’s paddle down that proverbial creek.

The bankruptcy documentary takes a close look at how Detroit managed to get out of bankruptcy court in less than 17 months by leveraging the DIA to produce the “big deal” – the $816 million lifeline of philanthropic foundations, corporate donors and Michigan taxpayers that was used to greatly reduce pension cuts.

The big bargain has been Detroit’s keystone in avoiding a protracted battle in the U.S. Supreme Court over whether retirement benefits could be jeopardized in bankruptcy (Detroit Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes, concluded that they could because pensions are a contract and contracts are broken in bankruptcy court every day).

The film cost $2 million to produce and was underwritten in part by some of the foundations that supported the big market, Katz said.

Katz co-produced and co-directed the film with Detroit filmmaker James McGovern, owner of JCM Film and Music. Other producers on the project included former Detroit Free Press reporters Chastity Pratt and Nathan Bomey, who was the lead screenwriter. (Full disclosure: I’m in the movie chronicling an epic run through the Ingham County courthouse by city pension fund attorneys who unsuccessfully tried to block Orr’s bankruptcy filing.)

A series of free screenings of “Gradually, Then Suddenly” are scheduled for Southeast Michigan over the next week, including public broadcasts Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township (RSVP to [email protected] for tickets) and at 7:30 p.m. on May 4 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor (tickets can be booked here).

After that, Katz plans to pitch the film to civic organizations, chambers of commerce, other state legislators, and graduate schools of law, public policy, urban affairs, and journalism to showcase the disappearance documentary. Detroit tax in the face of current and future decisions. -manufacturers.

Katz thinks it’s this smaller audience that needs to know how municipal bankruptcy — which isn’t even allowed in most states — can be the best way forward to keep other cities from collapsing. under the financial weight of public debt.

“This case proved that municipal bankruptcies are political — you can’t think of ending the business and selling all the assets,” Katz said. “And you can’t have a result that favors institutional investors over retail investors. And I think that was an eye-opener (in Detroit).”

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