Detroit's emergency manager brings hope, fear

The skyline of Detroit's downtown.

The city of Detroit has a very new -- and stark -- economic reality today.

A new face is in control of the city's finances, and it isn't an elected mayor.

Gov. Rick Snyder installed a emergency financial manager to guide the city out of it's deep financial hole.

His name is Kevyn Orr, and his background is as a bankruptcy lawyer. The role of the emergency financial manager was created in 1990, and was granted the powers of the mayor, plus more.

"So if he wants to go after labor contracts, he's able to go after labor contracts," said longtime Detroit journalist Micheline Maynard, now a contributor for forbes.com. "One thing I think a lot of people hope for is that the city streetlights will go back on, because there are big swaths of Detroit that are in the dark, literally."

It's a move that's not without controversy, and maybe a little hope, as well.

"There two schools of thought. Detroit's got this fledgling little recovery; there's been some new investment in the city. Everybody wants that to take flight," Maynard said. "Then there's another side that thinks this undemocratic -- that the people of Detroit don't have a voice in this, and that this goes against the rights of the citizens to decide who's going to run their city and who's going to fix their city."

Maynard said she's seen the city go through a lot to find a way to recovery.

"I think they can fix Detroit, but they have to actually do the work."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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I was very disappointed with this segment as it was aired.
I understand that Marketplace is focused on money and economics rather than politics, but it is inexcusable to report on this story without at least mentioning that the emergency manager is appointed under an amended form of the law that was repealed by ballot initiative last November and has since been re-enacted. The story here is undermining local democracy, not whether the manager will magically fix the city in only 12 months or use his full 18 month term..

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