Detroit EM Kevyn Orr holds public informational meeting
Detroit emergency manager to crowd: City's known since 2011 financial course 'not sustainable'
Detroit has been on the road to trouble for at least 18 months, state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr told people attending a public informational meeting Monday evening at Wayne State University's Law School.
A spillover crowd of at least 350 people was on-hand at the start of the meeting, which was open to Detroit residents and required under Michigan's Local Financial Stability and Choice Act.
About 250 people were in the room, and about 100 were being kept out because of crowding.
"From at least December 2011, the city has known it's on a trajectory that's not sustainable," Orr told those at the meeting. He said Detroit has $15 billion in unfunded debt.
Orr said public safety is the key service that citizens need and want.
Orr is scheduled Friday to sit down with city creditors and debt holders. The Washington-based bankruptcy lawyer was chosen by Gov. Rick Snyder to fix Detroit's finances.
He was hired in March.
The city's budget deficit could reach $380 million by July 1.
In his first report after taking the job, Orr declared last month that Detroit is broke and at risk of running completely out of money.
He later called Detroit's fiscal predicament "dire" and said the city can make payroll through the rest of the year, but some other bills and obligations are not being paid or are being deferred.
In his report, Orr described the city's operations as "dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption."
Orr was blunt in his assessment of what brought the city to this critical point.
"Someone was asleep at the helm and the only answer they had to deal with the problem was to borrow and borrow a lot at a very high rate and now the bill has come due," Orr said.
Orr wants to make deals and concessions with creditors and debt holders to forgive some of the money Detroit owes to them.
Orr said he wants to avoid a bankruptcy filing, but he is determined to do whatever is needed to help the city recover.
"I have a powerful statute and I have an even more powerful Chapter 9. I don't want to use it but I am going to accomplish this job," Orr said.
Last week, Orr sent letters to several dozen, including unions, inviting them to a meeting Friday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Despite concerns that Monday's evening might be disruptive, most in the audience were attentive. Financial Advisory Board member Dr. Glenda Price praised the audience.
"People challenged, they had questions, but they asked them in a way that allowed him to give reasonable answers without there being any real antagonism," Price said.
As the meeting drew to a close, the audience gave Kevyn Orr a round of applause.
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