August 4, 2013 at 1:00 am

Let Kevyn Orr eat crab cake

If emergency manager Kevyn Orr is successful in reducing Detroit's debt load, Orr is worth his weight in crab cakes, Finley writes. (Elizabeth Conley/The Detroit News)

Here’s my feeling on the stink over Kevyn Orr’s expenses:

Let him eat crab cake.

And steak bites. And calamari. And shrimp po’ boys, cuban sandwiches and chocolate cheesecake. Let him run the menu, and if he decides to bill taxpayers for his late-night snacks — he hasn’t yet — they’d still be getting a deal.

Orr is one of the top bankruptcy attorneys in the nation. He’s left his home and family in a cushy Washington D.C. suburb to take up residence in a downtown Detroit hotel room while he tries to wipe away at least half of the city’s $18 billion in debt.

If the city had to hire Orr at his hourly rate to walk it through bankruptcy, the bill would reach into the millions. Yet Detroit is paying him $275,000 a year, plus some expenses.

So what if Orr ends up costing Detroit $500,000 or more before he leaves town. A half-million dollars invested to get rid of $9 billion in obligations?

Anyone who can’t tell that’s a bargain is a dolt.

Which brings us to Mark Schauer. After it was reported that Orr, in his three months in Detroit, had spent $3,000 on room service, the Democrat who hopes to unseat Gov. Rick Synder next year flew into a rage of indignation. He demanded the governor launch an investigation into Orr’s “wasteful spending” and insist Orr reimburse the city for money wrongly spent.

Schauer didn’t rescind his hissy fit after it was confirmed Orr picked up his own room service tab.

But he did give us a glimpse into his campaign strategy: Instead of presenting serious positions on the challenges still facing Michigan, he’s going to wage a class war.

There’s an audience for that, of course, particularly in Detroit. Orr’s salary — a fraction of what he earned at the Jones Day law firm — gets mentioned at every candidate forum.

No one suggests the Detroit Tigers ditch Justin Verlander’s $20 million a year salary and hire a beer league pitcher to face down its American League rivals. Well, Kevyn Orr is as valuable in a bankruptcy courtroom as Verlander is on the baseball diamond. Elite talent costs money.

Schauer knows that. He was briefly in Congress, where he and his colleagues spent more in three seconds than what Detroit is paying Orr for a year’s work.

Orr’s doing a really big job, and if he does it well, Detroiters will see their streetlights come back on, more cops on their streets, EMS units that arrive while they’re still breathing and blight swept away from their neighborhoods.

If saving Detroit from its creditors makes Orr peckish for chicken and waffles in the middle of the night, I’d rather pick up the bill myself than give another tax dollar to a pandering politician who thinks the real problem in Detroit is what Kevyn Orr is eating.

nfinley@detroitnews.com
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Schauer (Ricardo Thomas/The Detroit News)
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