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The Daily Oakland Press
By Jerry Wolffe
March 22, 2005
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a motion making the Justice Department a co-plaintiff in the federal lawsuit to make Detroit's buses accessible to wheelchair users and other disabled riders.
Four plaintiffs, who are disabled, originally filed the suit along with attorney Richard Bernstein last summer against the city of Detroit and the Detroit Department of Transportation, to require DDOT to have wheelchair lifts on buses in working order.
In January, Detroit began losing $1 million a month for not having complied with the lawsuit being heard by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. The city, which is facing an estimated $386 million deficit over two years, has already announced plans for widespread layoffs.
The Justice Department assigned five attorneys last Thursday, when the motion was filed, to work on the case with Bernstein of Farmington Hills.
"This is a huge step toward the rights of the disabled being fulfilled," Bernstein said.
The Justice Department has a wide range of punitive actions it can take against Detroit for non-compliance.
By June, Detroit will have lost $6 million in matching state transportation funds if it doesn't fix the wheelchair lifts. That's enough funds to keep 700, $30,000-a-year workers on the job.
A spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had no comment.
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