National News

Pastors blast plans to 'destroy' Detroit neighborhoods, schools and hospitals

By Diane Bukowski | Last updated: Apr 28, 2010 - 4:54:09 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

Pastors Bill Wylie-Kellerman, Edwin Rowe, David Bullock, Charles Williams II and Maurice Rudd (far left) denounce banks. Photo: Diane Bukowski
DETROIT ( - Pastors and community organizers gathered at Greater Mt. Tabor Baptist Church on Detroit's impoverished near-westside April 17. They demanded a halt to the destruction of city neighborhoods, schools, and hospitals providing care for the poor.

They said not only politicians but Wall Street banks and corporations are carrying out what one speaker likened to the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad by the U.S. in 2003.

“It is no accident that they are hitting us with a one-two-three attack,” Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman of St. Peters Episcopal Church said. “Within the last several weeks, they have announced the sale of the Detroit Medical Center, the closing of 42 more schools, and the downsizing of Detroit.”

Rev. Charles Williams II of King Solomon Baptist church added, “With these simultaneous announcements of land grab, handovers, and demolition, we must be working to mobilize a movement to call these institutions to accountability in an effort to include the community,”

Pastor Wylie-Kellerman, Rev. Williams, Rev. Maurice Rudd, pastor of Mt. Tabor, and Rev. David Bullock, head of the Highland Park NAACP, said they are organizing their congregations and communities to participate in the 2010 U.S. Social Forum.

Under the theme “Another World is Possible, Another U.S. is Necessary,” the USSF is expected to bring at least 10,000 activists from across the country to Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit June 22-26. The April 17 meeting was the first of three intended to mobilize Detroiters for the Forum. The next meeting will take place May 15 at the Muslim Center on West Davison.

“People coming to the Social Forum know Detroit is ground zero for economic devastation, but they also know it has an incredible history of struggle and work,” said Pastor Wylie-Kellerman. “They are coming to march, sponsor actions, and help plan a new Detroit with its people.”

Speakers targeted Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit Public Schools czar Robert Bobb, hospital CEO Mike Duggan and Vanguard Health, the national for-profit company seeking to take over the DMC. They also denounced Henry Ford Hospital, which is planning a $500 million expansion, for failing to hold one meeting with residents in the neighboring area.

Using blueprints laid out by private foundations, Mayor Bing plans to eliminate city services to allegedly underpopulated inner city neighborhoods, forcing residents to move. The land would be taken to build corporate farms and “greenways” to delight upper crust suburbanites moving back to the city, say critics.

Mr. Bobb, appointed as the DPS “emergency financial manager” by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, is currently fighting Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter's order to halt planned school closings and an overhaul of DPS academics. The Detroit Board of Education, which brought suit against Mr. Bobb, says the Granholm-Bobb team's real goal is to privatize and charterize DPS, destroying public education.

Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan announced Vanguard's plan to take over the DMC's eight hospitals, which provide the state's largest amount of indigent care, in March. Vanguard is 70 percent owned by the country's largest private equity firm, the Blackstone Group.

The state of Michigan, Wayne County, and Detroit would provide 15-year tax breaks to Vanguard in exchange for Vanguard's pledge to keep the hospitals open for at least 10 years, and borrow $850 million for capital improvements and debt retirement. Mr. Duggan has refused to provide the public with any documentation of the companies' joint plan, which is slated to take effect June 1, say opponents.

Rev. Edwin Rowe, pastor of the Central United Methodist Church, said the USSF will organize churches, community groups and other entities to withdraw their money from banks that are behind the multi-pronged attack, but have profited from billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts.

Attorney Jerome Goldberg, of the Moratorium Now! Coalition against Foreclosures, Evictions, and Shut-offs, added that government leaders should stop payment on city and school debt to the banks, noting that the city of Detroit owes nearly $600 million in debt this year alone.

“Instead of lay-offs and wage cuts for city workers and elimination of vital services to balance the budget, the mayor and City Council should stand up to the banks and place a moratorium on debt service,” Atty. Goldberg said.

Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organizations denounced DTE Energy, Detroit's electric and gas utility company, blaming the utility for the deaths of 17 Detroiters this winter, which resulted from service shut-offs. The MWRO has called for nationalization of all utilities.

Dr. Shea Howell, from Detroit City of Hope, and Mike Kelly of Amnesty International, which recently published a report on the prevalence of childbirth deaths in the U.S. and worldwide, also spoke.