A judge pledged Monday to make a swift decision on Detroit's plan to get out of bankruptcy, signaling that the largest U.S. case of an insolvent local government could close in just a few more weeks.
Judge Steven Rhodes said he'll start hearing final arguments on Oct. 27 and announce whether Detroit's plan is fair and feasible no later than Nov. 7. He disclosed the timetable during a brief hearing.
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"I don't want to pin myself down exactly at this point in time, but sometime toward the end of the week of Nov. 3," Rhodes said.
That will be a big week in Michigan. On Nov. 4, voters will decide whether to re-elect Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who has vigorously supported bankruptcy as a last-ditch effort to turn around Detroit city government and eliminate billions in debt. He approved the extraordinary step in July 2013.
If Rhodes' schedule sticks, the bankruptcy could end less than 18 months after it began. Major creditors opposing the reorganization have been reaching deals since a trial started in September — settlements that make the judge's job much easier as he decides whether to approve the plan.
Bond insurers, which pressed hard for the sale of city-owned art to raise money, have dropped their challenges in exchange for cash, valuable real estate and long-term leases on parking garages and a tunnel connecting Detroit and Canada.
Thousands of retirees agreed to a 4.5 percent pension cut after the state of Michigan, foundations and philanthropists came up with an $816 million bailout to prevent the sale of art and avert even deeper pension reductions.
If Rhodes agrees, Detroit is promising to spend more than $1 billion to improve quality-of-life services in a city that has lost 27 percent of its population since 2000.
The judge still needs to hear from Marti Kopacz, a Boston-based financial expert whom he hired to look at Detroit's plan. She will testify Wednesday.
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