The Police and Fire Retirement System of Detroit filed on Monday a motion for reconsideration, pushing back on a federal bankruptcy judge’s ruling in favor of the Duggan administration’s plan to extend the city’s pension payment obligations over 30 years rather than 20 years.
The city’s police and fire retirees are continuing litigation that has been ongoing since August when the city administration initially filed suit against the pension system to enforce a 30-year pay-out schedule. On June 26, Judge Thomas Tucker ruled in the city’s favor, stating that a 30-year amortization period is “indeed part of the (bankruptcy) Plan of Adjustment and that the Police Fire Retirement System cannot change it.”
The new motion seeks clarification of the court’s possible imposition of a 6.75% rate of return that was specifically set to expire after 10 years under the Plan of Adjustment, the bankruptcy exit plan. After June 30, the pension fund’s rate of return and its amortization funding policy are within the purview of the Police and Fire Retirement System’s Board of Trustees and Investment Committee, according to the pensioners’ filing.
At the 30-year determined rate, the city will complete its debt obligations in 2054. Police and fire retirees want their pension fund to be made whole sooner.
But this is Detroit, which has the highest effective property tax rate of any major city in America, at 3.58 percent of market value. If the tax man assesses your house at its full renovation cost, this would add $537 to your monthly mortgage bill, bringing it to $1,295.
That hefty charge might not look too bad if the quality of local government services is top shelf. As Charles Tiebout observed in his classic 1956 article on local public finance, people “vote with their feet” and shop for their preferred combination of services and prices among various localities. Some happily buy at the public services equivalent of Neiman Marcus, others at Walmart.
From public safety to education to infrastructure, however, Detroit is no Neiman Marcus. To be charitable, let’s suppose the city’s services are on par with those of other Michigan cities, where the average property tax rate is 1.54 percent. Elsewhere, then, a comparable $180,000 investment comes with a monthly mortgage bill of just $989, or $306 a month less than in Detroit.
The Detroit Free Pressreports that the mayor declined to accept a shipment of 6,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. Why? At a press conference on Tuesday, the mayor asserted, “Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the city of Detroit get the best.”
What does the mayor mean by “best”? Duggan stated, “The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 95% effective if you get two shots. Johnson & Johnson is one shot, which is nicer, but it’s about 67% effective.”
Actually, in the United States arm of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) clinical trial, the vaccine’s ability to prevent moderate to severe infection was 72 percent and it is 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease.In addition, the J&J vaccine has been shown to be effective against the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants that are now spreading across the country. And it is likely that many citizens would prefer the convenience of getting a one-and-done J&J shot as opposed to waiting nearly a month to get a second Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
In 2017, a law was passed that attempted to make forfeiture of a crooked public employee’s pension mandatory, or at least easier to pursue. But a 7 Action News investigation reveals it has seldom been used, and Michigan’s Attorney General was not even familiar with it.
Former Detroit Police officers James Robertson, Jamil Martin and Anthony Careathers were charged by prosecutors when it was revealed that each was extorting collision shop owners on the job.