Kevin Orr, Detroit's incoming emergency financial manager meets with The Detroit News Editorial Board in Detroit on Friday. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
It's hard to bring myself to say I'm optimistic about the city of Detroit, even though I'm extremely encouraged by Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of Kevyn Orr as the city's emergency manager.
Sit down with Orr, as I had a chance to do last week, and you start to believe there's a path back to functionality and financial stability.
But I've seen too many fresh starts turn into false starts to break out my cheerleader pom poms.
Orr arrives in Detroit as perhaps the most competent person ever to walk through the doors of City Hall. He's got an impressive turnaround pedigree, as well as a tanker full of hubris. If the job can be done, I believe he's the one who can do it.
But that's the big question: Can the job be done? Detroit looks for all the world like a city that has already slipped past the tipping point.
Operationally, everything is broken in Detroit. Residents don't pay their taxes. Cops can't keep the streets safe. The lights are still out. Technology is out of date. Orr and his team can develop strategies for making city departments more efficient. But can they change the culture of incompetence that has been allowed to steep at City Hall for decades?
While he promises to be a consensus builder and weigh the human impact of his decisions, in reality Orr is going to have to march through the bureaucracy like Sherman through Georgia.
He'll have to once and for all establish that city government is a service provider, not a job provider.
Orr says that restructuring Detroit without a bankruptcy can be done, and quickly, if everyone cooperates and acts in good faith. But this is Detroit. Can anyone remember the last time everyone worked together for the good of the city?
Snyder said something similar nearly a year ago when he signed the consent agreement with Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council. It will work, he said then, if everyone does what they've promised to do. They didn't, and now it's on Orr to get it right.
He's got the skills, for sure. But there are several things outside Orr's control that can trigger a bankruptcy. He'll have to artfully use the bankruptcy lever to bring in line both creditors and unions.
Orr shows a toughness honed during 30 years of bare-knuckled negotiations in the private and public sectors. He'll need it to get deals done with interests that up to now have not seen any reason to bargain.
I'm impressed by Orr's confidence, intellect and affability. He comes off as a guy eager to get to work. His mind seems to be constantly turning over problems and kicking out ideas. He promises frequent communication with Detroiters, and if he carries through, he'll charm their pants off.
He's done tough jobs before, and will be backed by Snyder's team and the best consultants money can buy.
So while there are lost of reasons this new beginning won't work any better than the previous ones, it just might.
Follow Nolan Finley at detroitnews.com/finley, on Twitter at nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Fridays on “MiWeek” on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.