Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder named Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency manager Thursday, tasking the Cleveland-based attorney with restoring the city’s dismal finances to working order. With Detroit now officially in a financial emergency, the state will take control of the city’s fiscal dealings. Orr will work on behalf of Michigan’s Emergency Loan Board to balance Detroit’s spending without the help of a state bailout.
Orr, 54, helped Michigan automaker Chrysler recover from bankruptcy after its filing in 2009. He will leave his position as a partner with Cleveland firm Jones Day to prevent possible conflicts of interest in Detroit.
His selection satisfies skeptics who wanted an African-American manager to be selected to aid the 82 percent black city. The state’s takeover of Detroit will go into full effect on March 28, with the city facing more than $14 billion in long-term debt.
“As the Detroit motto says, ‘We can rise from the ashes,'” Orr said Thursday. “It’s not that I’m altruistic, but if we can do this, I will have participated in one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of this country.”
Detroit is the largest American city to be under the financial control of a state. Mayor Dave Bing and other city leaders have voiced their opposition to state management, but have been unable to repair the city’s budget. Last year, some 40 percent of the street lights were left broken for months without the funding for repairs.
Snyder identified the failing public services, including lighting, public safety and transportation, as the central concern of the state in declaring the financial emergency. During his introduction Thursday Orr said that the services would be “the prime obligation,” but added that everything in the city could be liable to budget cuts.
Scheduled to start working at his tremendous task March 25, Orr referred to his new position as “the Olympics of restructuring.”