Detroit Bankruptcy and Beyond

 Conference to seek solutions for financially distressed cities

A conference featuring noted national experts will explore ways to advance equity and inclusion in cities facing bankruptcy and financial crisis Monday, April 7, and Tuesday, April 8, at Wayne State University Law School.

The event, “Detroit Bankruptcy and Beyond: Organizing for Change in Distressed Cities,” is free and open to the public. The conference will be in the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at the law school, 471 W. Palmer St. Parking will be available for $6.50 (debit and credit cards only) in Structure 1 across West Palmer Street from the law school.

Two keynote speakers are planned from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, April 7. Two keynote speakers, as well as panel discussions and breakout sessions, are planned from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 8. Participants can attend the entire conference or individual sessions. Register at

“This conference brings together organizers, policymakers, community members, researchers and the public from Detroit and across the nation to advance equity and inclusion in cities facing bankruptcy and financial crisis by analyzing shared challenges and root causes and crafting strategies and solutions,” said Professor Peter Hammer, director of Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.

The Keith Center is sponsoring the event with the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California-Berkeley and MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength), a congregation-based Detroit social justice organization.

Keynote speakers will be:

• Monday – Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a $3 billion private foundation based in metropolitan Detroit. An attorney and expert in urban policy, Rapson assumed leadership in 2006 and has focused the foundation on efforts to influence the quality of life for future generations by creating access and opportunity in underserved communities, improving the health of low-income people, supporting artist expression, increasing college achievement, assisting in the revitalization of Detroit and advancing methods for dealing with climate change. He sits on the boards of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Downtown Detroit Partnership, M1 Rail, Local Initiatives Support Corp. of New York and Living Cities.

• Monday – Thomas Sugrue, the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology and director of the Penn Social Science and Policy Forum at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a specialist in 20th-century American politics, urban history, civil rights and race. He is a sought-after speaker and author of a number of award-winning books, including Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (Princeton University Press, 2010), and more than 30 scholarly articles. Outside the classroom, Sugrue combines scholarly research and civic engagement. A longtime resident of Philadelphia, he has served as co-chair of the board of directors of the Bread and Roses Community Fund, a foundation that supports grassroots organizations working for racial and economic equality.

• Tuesday – Carol O’Cleireacain, who has a doctorate in economics and is an economic and management consultant and senior fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She served as New York City’s budget director and finance commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins. She is of counsel with The LIATI Group LLC investment bank firm in New York City and also served as a senior consultant with the Task Force on the State Budget Crisis in New York from 2011 to 2012. She is a sought-after speaker and is widely published on municipal budget crisis issues.

• Tuesday – Ron Sims, former deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 2009 to 2011, he managed the day-to-day operations of the agency. Prior to his appointment at HUD, Sims served for 12 years as the elected executive of King County, Wash., the 13th largest county in the nation with 1.8 million residents and 39 cities including Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond. As county executive, Sims was nationally recognized for his work on the integration of environmental, social equity and public health policies that produced groundbreaking work on climate change, health care reform, affordable housing, mass transit, environmental protection, land use, and equity and social justice.

For more information about the conference, call the Keith Center at (313) 577-3620.