DETROIT–The emergency manager brought in to save the crumbling industrial city of Detroit from financial ruin faced protesters Monday and reached out to angry local leaders who fought against creating his job.
Detroit is the largest U.S. city ever put under state control. The city, long linked to the U.S. auto industry, is one of several left behind as the national economy migrated to other industries and countries.
Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy attorney and turnaround specialist who represented automaker Chrysler LLC during its successful restructuring, met with Mayor Dave Bing as he began an 18-month term.
“I want to offer a sincere olive branch and an opportunity for us to work together,” Orr said brief impromptu news conference with Bing.
Outside City Hall, about 150 protesters argued that Orr’s presence takes away residents’ voting rights.
“Anybody who believes the right to vote is sacred, ought to stand with us,” the Rev. Alexander Bullock told the growing crowd. “This is about a (governor’s) administration trying to destroy democracy.”
The city faces a US$327 million budget deficit and more than US$14 billion in long-term debt.
Orr was hired earlier this month after a national search by Gov. Rick Snyder, who along with a review board determined Detroit is in a financial emergency and has no adequate plan to address it.
State law allows emergency managers to negotiate labor contracts and deals with vendors. He can sell off city assets to raise money and cut the salaries of elected officials to save money.
“I think they are taking away our right to vote and govern ourselves,” protester Brenda Nuamah said.