A Powerful Testimonial on Michigan Public Sector Pensions

Only once before has Democracy Tree highlighted a reader comment, and that was in the face of a threat of physical violence for daring to suggest, in the wake of the Sandyhook massacre, that kindergarten teachers might not in fact wish to be compelled to carry concealed weapons.

Today, we have an entirely different kind of comment that must be shared. The writer was responding to a Democracy Tree piece on the recent financial emergency declared in the City of Lincoln Park.

I don’t know the sender, and cannot attest to the veracity of her story, but it was clearly written with a great deal of thought and patience. She tells a powerful story of what it is to be a family from Southeast Michigan dependent on a public sector pension under the shadow of state take-over.

Helen Switzer says:
April 24, 2014 at 7:31 am

I am the spouse of a past employee of the City of Lincoln Park. His retirement was in 1993, after 25 years of service in the DPW. This was the first wave of “early retirement” and most of those he retired with have since passed on. In the early to mid 2000′s, the city “took” approximately 4million out of the pension fund, that was solvent and contributed by the retired and municipality. On my behalf, my husband delayed half of his retirement so that I could have a small pension to live on when he passed away. Not many opted for this choice. It was a very nice gesture for my husband to make. Now, there are hundreds of retirees in the metro Detroit area that have their pensions on the line. That is all they have to live on. If the city center of Detroit fails, so does it’s bedroom communities. It’s not rocket science. If the powers that be want to “fix” this problem, they have to promote the whole area to create more revenue. Can you find a full service grocery store in the City of Detroit? No. They come to the suburbs to shop. If there are no Queen Bee’s, the hive will die. The workers leave and it is barren. I grew up in Lincoln Park, my family is and was blue collar. When NAFTA and the Free Trade agreement happened, the big boys took their business’ elsewhere, to cheap labor and off shore accounts. People outside of Detroit were jealous of the prosperity, and soon, it was gone. Sadly, the same companies that built the Detroit Metro area, destroyed it when they left for cheaper labor and imported parts. This was our “Trickle Down Economy”. I only hope that they can find a way to help these communities without hurting their work forces, both current and past. The small business has left the “Outer Ring” of Detroit, i.e. River Rouge, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, Allen Park..these were once “job shop communities”. Everyone keeps moving further and further out to the once farmland and wild woods. This receivership will not help anyone. If we can “donate” billions to other down and impoverished countries, why can’t we help our own? The bottom line is this. Michigan has been failing for decades. Too many hands in the pot, so to speak. Mostly due to the loss of industrial and mechanical jobs. There are no incentives to bring other business’ to the state. Therefore, the entire state suffers. No trips “up north” for those who are working, brings us to no jobs for those who live outside the ring of fire…..It’s not just the City of Lincoln Park that is suffering, it’s the whole state. I feel that if something fails during a “term” of a politician, they should be held accountable. Allen Park invested everything they had into the film industry. Then, the rug was pulled out from under them. Lincoln Park has too many empty taxable business’ and derelict homes. It’s domino’s from there…..

She sure earned my attention and respect with her story.

dtree-default-imageAmy Kerr Hardin


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2 Responses to A Powerful Testimonial on Michigan Public Sector Pensions

  1. Diana Menhennick says:

    Thank you for sharing that story. What this individual is saying is so true. Public sector employees who have worked hard for their pensions and have nothing else are being touted as a causality of the fiscal wars between the municipalities and the State of Michigan. I feel for all those who have worked years for this promise of retirement income that continues to be at the center of bad policy and politics. Policy makers are refusing to realize that retirees and workers are human beings and not numbers.

  2. James Navarre says:

    As a lifelong resident of River Rouge I find it ironic that an individual would mention our city in her commentary. Usually the city of Lincoln Park has always wanted to distance themselves from those two (Ecorse and Rouge) even though a significant amount of your residents lived in or had family who resided there. But when someone gets put in a bind they recruit as many people as they can to empower ones voice. Well in 1969 Lincoln Park refused to rebuild the Mill street bridge, this was obviously to keep Ecorse residents out. That spot is perfect for a covered bridge for pedestrians to use but L.P. wants nothing to do with its neighbors. Then they closed Austin street to further isolate the community. At this time L.P. is in the same condition Rouge and Ecorse was in about 1965. You will eventually lose population therefor revenue and therefor clout. We have to adapt as a region with new ideas and revenue sources.
    It has to be accepted that the manufacturing sector is gone and will only return through legislation that I don’t see forthcoming. Americas first industry was whaling every thing else was cottage industries. Where is that at?
    The SE Michigan area has to promote ideas that can save the region as a whole. So basically what I am saying is do not look down on your neighbors and lets unite and incorporate the whole for the good of the whole.
    The young adults are the ones who deserve our concern and compassion. With so many of our 18-28 year olds not working they have not got an income that they can depend on where as you do. I am willing to agree that this is something you deserve but it is a little different between public and private pensioners. Private pensions are chronically underfunded and when things get out of whack the Feds take over the plan, in the public sector many consider a pension as a continuation of income where it is a supplement! That mentality cost the employee low on the totem pole. He has to pay for a retired administrator who gets thousands a month of taxpayer money!

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