Detroit manager and mayor-elect agree to share power

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2013 11:27 AM
Detroit manager and mayor-elect agree to share power

By Joseph Lichterman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit Mayor-elect Mike Duggan will run most of the city's day-to-day business and emergency manager Kevyn Orr will focus on the city's emergence from bankruptcy as part of a power-sharing arrangement the two men announced Thursday.

The deal marks a departure from the circumstance under outgoing Mayor Dave Bing, whose powers were greatly constrained after Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, appointed Orr as Detroit's emergency manager in March.

Michigan's emergency manager law gives Orr wide latitude to make decisions about city operations, and Bing felt that Orr gave him little room to act.

Duggan, a former hospital executive, was elected in November in part because of his background as a turnaround specialist.

The arrangement between Orr and Duggan, which was signed Thursday morning after six weeks of negotiations, does not outline specific responsibilities. Instead, it relies on what the two men describe as seven guiding principles.

Orr will be responsible for all city financial functions, the city's restructuring process through bankruptcy court and the Detroit Police Department. He also will run a new program to oversee administration of federal grants to the city.

Duggan will manage the city's blight removal efforts and appoint all personnel in the city's executive branch who are not part of the civil service.

Duggan told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that his relationship with Orr was "very professional," and that the deal was a compromise, noting he would have liked oversight of the police department. But he emphasized that he would get to work on areas where he has authority, such as the fire department and blight removal efforts, as soon as he takes office.

Orr has said the city will likely need to cut pensions to deal with its $18.5 billion in debt. Throughout his campaign for mayor, Duggan said he would work to protect the pensions, but he said he would not publicly criticize the emergency manager or his plan to deal with the city's crippling debt.

"It's absolutely critical that the mayor who is dealing with operations does not do anything that undercuts the plan of adjustment that's being submitted to the (bankruptcy) court," Duggan said. "There wasn't really any way to shortcut this process, Mr. Orr and I needed to spend a lot of time together. We needed to understand these details well."

Orr did not appear at the news conference. In a statement, he said the arrangement would help "create a strong, vibrant and solvent city."

Duggan said he had spoken with Michigan Governor Snyder a number of times since his election and discussed what his role would be.

In a statement, Snyder praised the deal.

"The mayor-elect has extensive experience in large and complicated restructuring projects," Snyder said. "I'm confident that he and the emergency manager will be formidable partners in tackling Detroit's challenges."

On Thursday, Duggan also named former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon as deputy mayor and Lisa Howze, a former state legislator who failed in her bid for mayor, as chief of staff.

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; Editing by Leslie Adler and Andre Grenon)