Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr touched on several hot-button questions relating to the city’s bankruptcy process and financial restructuring in a broadcast interview Wednesday.
From pensions for city employees and the bankruptcy threat to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the recently announced lease deal for Belle Isle, Orr discussed how the city’s restructuring will lay the groundwork for emerging from bankruptcy.
“We’ve been dealing with 60 years of deferred issues and we’ve got to deal with that fact ... we’re running out of time,” he said, referring to his 18-month deadline. He began his post in March.
Orr also talked about his out-of-pocket expenses since coming to Detroit as the emergency manager and how it is affecting his family. The live session was called “Questions Orr Answers” on WXYZ-TV (Channel 7).
Just last month, Gov. Rick Snyder revealed that some of Orr’s living expenses at the luxurious Westin Book Cadillac hotel downtown and flights back home to Maryland were being paid for by Snyder’s nonprofit civic fund, the Snyder’s New Energy to Reinvent and Diversity or the NERD fund.
But Orr said Wednesday night he has been paying “several tens of thousands of dollars” for several expenses including commuting and malpractice insurance. The NERD Fund is spending $4,200 a month on Orr's lodging.
“It’s having an impact on me and my family — that’s not fair,” Orr said, who told WXYZ he is also paying for his food and room service out of his own pocket.
As for active employee pensions, Orr said workers would have a pension “of a kind.”
“We are going to have to adjust your pension because that’s the reality of the situation,” he told WXYZ anchors Stephen Clark and Carolyn Clifford. “You will have a pension of a kind, but the decisions were made … they were made by your compatriots (pension fund trustees).”
Orr backed his decision to lease Belle Isle to the state, saying it would save Detroit $6 million annually.
When the hosts asked Orr about the DIA, he said its value to the city needs to be weighed as well.
“When New York (nearly) went bankrupt they didn’t have to sell Central Park,” said Orr. “I see the DIA as something with similar value.”