Policy: Entitlements

Detroit bankruptcy judge may take tour of city

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News,Business,Detroit,Entitlements,Michigan,Budgets and Deficits

DETROIT (AP) — The judge in Detroit's bankruptcy said Thursday he's leaning toward a three-hour tour of the city but suggested the details may become a secret because of concerns about safety.

The city believes a tour of warts and jewels would help Judge Steven Rhodes as he considers whether to approve Detroit's plan to get out of the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history. Trial is set for Aug. 14, a month after the deadline for creditors, including thousands of retirees, to cast ballots.

Bond insurers likely to suffer big losses in the bankruptcy have discouraged Rhodes from taking a tour, saying he doesn't need one to determine whether Detroit's plan to shed $18 billion in debt is fair and feasible.

A creditor's attorney, Vince Marriott, said a three-hour tour reminds him of the ride aboard the S.S. Minnow in the 1960s TV sitcom, "Gilligan's Island."

"We know how that turned out," Marriott said, referring to the shipwreck that set the basis for the show.

Another lawyer, Robert Schwinger, warned that a tour "could turn into a spectacle."

But Detroit lawyer Robert Hertzberg visited the undisclosed sites himself Wednesday and said the judge would benefit from seeing "living, breathing" parts of the city, especially since the bankruptcy exit strategy calls for plowing more than $1 billion into services in the years ahead.

"The court needs to see where the money is being directed. ... This is not a blight tour," Hertzberg said. "The court is going to see many good things."

Rhodes said he's inclined to take the tour but first will meet with all sides as well as the U.S. Marshals Service. He said details about a ride around Detroit probably would remain private.

"We're talking about our personal safety here," said the judge, who didn't elaborate on his concerns.

On other issues:

— Rhodes told the city to stop talking publicly about the results so far of a two-month vote by creditors on the bankruptcy plan. The deadline is July 11. In May, emergency manager Kevyn Orr said the vote among retirees was running about 2-to-1 in favor.

"That was an unfortunate remark to the press," city attorney Heather Lennox said. "We don't expect that to be happening again."

— The judge said state Attorney General Bill Schuette doesn't have to sit for a deposition by creditors about his opinion that art at the Detroit Institute of Arts can't be sold to raise money in the case.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap .

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