Orr's message to Detroit: "I'm going to accomplish this job"

Jun 11, 2013

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr didn’t share much new information at his first public meeting Monday night—but he did set the stage for an upcoming meeting with the city’s creditors.

At his first public meeting—required by the emergency manager law that empowers him--Orr told a story we already know: Detroit hasn’t been paying contractors, making pension payments, and has only survived by borrowing billions.

But Orr also vowed he’ll fix the situation with some powerful tools at his disposal as emergency manager--or failing that, Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.

What are the odds it’ll go there? Orr is still holding his cards close, for now.

“I will know more in the coming weeks, once we have discussions with stakeholders and creditors,” he said.  “But right now …I’m not predisposed, but I also want to leave myself some latitude.”

Orr said he’ll try to work out a “collaborative” deal with the city’s debt holders first—but also issued a warning.

“I’ll say that with this caveat--I have a very powerful statute,” Orr said, referring to the emergency manager law.  “I have an even more powerful Chapter 9.

“I don’t want to use it…but I’m going to accomplish this job. That is going to happen.”

Orr is slated to sit down with Detroit’s retirees, unions, and bondholders for an initial meeting on Friday.

After laying out the city’s grim financial picture, Orr fielded questions from the public that ranged from how he planned to improve public safety, to whether he had any plans for Detroit’s Belle Isle.

Orr did say he’ll pursue a deal to lease Belle Isle to the state—a deal the Detroit City Council rejected earlier this year. He said he would not under any circumstances sell the island.

While the meeting itself was calm, protesters did gather outside. Some called on Orr to lay off pensions, saying the banks and financial institutions that created the housing crisis should bear the brunt of Detroit's debt restructuring.

Others protested Orr, Governor Snyder and the “anti-democratic” emergency manager law. At least 100 people were locked out of the public meeting, which was held at the Wayne State University Law School.