Michigan Gov. Snyder Appoints Kevyn Orr Detroit Emergency Manager

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On Thursday, March 14, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made a historic appointment. The state's largest city, Detroit, will be placed under emergency management. The Detroit Free Press says the governor appointed 54-year-old D.C. attorney Kevyn Orr emergency manager. Orr will be charged with bringing the city out of fiscal instability and staving off municipal bankruptcy in the Motor City. The EM will have the ultimate say over city finances and will supercede Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council.

Leadup to Detroit's EM

Gov. Snyder confirmed his appointment of Orr at a press conference in Detroit's Cadillac Square, says The Detroit News. This announcement comes one day after the governor received a report from Mary MacDowell, chief deputy state treasurer, outlining an appeal Detroit City Council members had made to halt the appointment of an emergency manager. City and state have been working under a consent agreement to repair city money problems. Detroit has a $327 million operating deficit and owes $14 billion in loans.

Emergency Manager Appointment Process

Under a 1990 law, the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board, a governor-appointed panel of three, oversees emergency management nomination for troubled cities and school districts. The board met Wednesday in Lansing to approve the Detroit EM nomination. The governor typically has a say in the selection and interview process. This board will also set Orr's salary, payable by the city of Detroit.

Gov. Snyder's Appointee

Orr worked on the 2009 Chrysler bankruptcy to restructure the company. His assignment as Detroit emergency manager will be the biggest state takeover of a major metropolitan city in U.S. history. Along with long-term liability and high deficit, the city is experiencing a shrinking tax base from an unprecedented drop in population. During Thursday's press conference, columnist Tom Walsh with the Detroit Free Press tweeted that Orr will be leaving his position at law firm Jones Day. Orr called the task of bringing order to Detroit's books the "Olympics of restructuring." He said his first order of business is to look at city data, which will drive future decisions.


The mood in the Motor City is tense. Michigan's controversial emergency management law has generated much debate. Public Act 4 was repealed via popular vote last November. In December's lame-duck session of the Michigan Legislature, another slightly tweaked version of the law was passed in a flurry of legislation, says the Daily Kos.

Detroiter Jim Rehberg said, "I have a mixed bag of feelings today. First off, this is still so wrong and has been wrong on every city this has come to. The stripping of democracy because of debt is wrong.The appointment of a high-paid administrator is wrong. If city assets are sold off against the will of the people, that's wrong. The lack of knowledge about what is going to happen by too many of the citizens of the city is wrong. The small band that will protest is not enough. I live in a state that strips your citizenship if your city is broke."

"The announcement that an emergency manager is coming to Detroit is disappointing," said Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, pastor of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park, Michigan. "We don't see any relationship between financial recovery and destroying democracy. We intend to continue to oppose emergency management and fight to protect our voting rights."

Charles Brown, another Detroit resident, said, "Debts and payments to Wall Street municipal bondholders must be forgiven and cut in balancing Detroit City's books. Emergency financial managers or 'tyrants' in other Michigan cities have harmed the public health, safety, and welfare, which it is the legal purpose of city government to serve. Taxation without representation is tyranny. Free Detroit!"

Demonstrations by those against state takeover have been slowing traffic, says another Detroit Free Press article. The Detroit City Council may appeal the governor's decision in circuit court.

With a finger on Michigan's political pulse, native Michigander Marilisa Sachteleben writes about issues in the state's most pivotal city of Detroit.

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