Nine foundations, many with ties to Michigan — including the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation — have pledged to pool the $330 million, which would essentially relieve the city-owned Detroit Institute of Arts museum of its responsibility to sell some of its collection to help Detroit pay its $18 billion in debts. In particular, the foundation money would help reduce a portion of the city’s obligations to retirees, whose pensions are at risk of being reduced in the bankruptcy proceedings. By some estimates, the city’s pensions are underfunded by $3.5 billion.Whether having charitable foundations involved in this way is a good precedent is open for debate, but protecting the pensions of Detroit's workers, at least a little, and keeping the city's art from being sold off are both good ends. But $330 million isn't all that's needed, and in an editorial, the Detroit Free Press pressures the state to do the right thing:
As part of the plan, which negotiators have been working on quietly for more than two months, the museum would be transferred from city ownership to the control of a nonprofit, which would protect it from future municipal financial threats. The foundations would stipulate that Detroit must put the money into its pension system, said Alberto Ibargüen, president of the Knight Foundation.
Sources told the Free Press that the state might contribute as much as $100 million, over 10 or 20 years, but state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder, thus far, have been less than full-throated.It's definitely never a good idea to bet on Gov. Rick Snyder doing anything to help Detroit or public workers, let alone both together. But maybe the involvement of major foundations will create a little pressure on Snyder among people he actually does care about.
And that won’t do. [...]
The pledges made by the foundations are contingent upon whether the total sum amassed is sufficient to shore up the city’s pension funds, and that’s a determination only Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, creditors and mediators can make, the heads of four of the foundations leading the effort told the Free Press on Monday. But without a state contribution, the foundation heads said, it’s difficult to imagine the pot of cash reaching that tipping point.