Five Years After Detroit’s Bankruptcy, Kevyn Orr Stands By Decisions

The former emergency manager is a lightning rod for debate and criticism, but says the city is in a better financial state today because of his decisions.

It has been five years since Detroit’s historic bankruptcy, but the effects of it are still being debated

Former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr joined Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson with other experts to take the pulse of Detroit post-financial crisis.

Click on the player above to hear the full discussion on bankruptcy and Detroit’s path forward. 

While sensitive to the experiences of Detroiters, Orr is in no way conciliatory about his time as emergency manager. In fact, Orr says he would not have done anything differently during the bankruptcy. Doubling down, he insists that in hindsight he actually may have expedited some of his plans, including pushing Belle Isle to be run as a state park.

“Financial crises are episodic. There’s a rhythm to them. The real issue is, do you have the capacity to absorb them?” – Kevyn Orr, former Emergency Manager 

Looking forward, Orr is confident in the city’s ability to weather potential forthcoming financial storms.

“Financial crises are episodic. There’s a rhythm to them,” Orr says. “The real issue is, do you have the capacity to absorb them? Which I think the city does.”

Other guests on the show include:

Dave Massaron, Detroit City Chief Financial Officer, echoes Orr’s cautiously optimistic stance.On the current state of Detroit public services, especially public safety, Massaron says, “We’ve made a lot of progress improving those services and we still have a long way to go.” Ultimately Massaron is impressed with the city’s current responsible approach to financial decision-making, confident that this conservatism will lead to a sounder financial position.

Peter Hammer, Professor of Law and Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School, and Shirley Lightseyformer president of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association, both see the bankruptcy through a more humanistic lens. Lightsey says that a lot of retirees are justifiably angry, still feeling the financial impact from the bankruptcy. She says that while she is happy to witness the growth in Detroit, she can’t forget the undertaking and sacrifice many Detroiters made to make that possible.

For his part, Hammer says that the bankruptcy plan did not go far enough to eradicate deep-rooted issues of racial inequality in Detroit and that the current trajectory is a return to the status-quo. He says the city should invest in human capabilities, like lifelong education, fight income inequality and prioritize income and political inclusion.


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