Orr gets it. He went after pension debt, the city's biggest foe, and is now winning that fight. Simply put, his continued focus on pension reform is the solution that Detroit needs. With that said, Detroit still faces a long, up-hill climb.
Why did Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr rush through a settlement that even the bankruptcy court found to be fundamentally out of balance while simultaneously pounding away at the public employee pensions?
When a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that municipal pensions are vulnerable under federal bankruptcy law, no one was surprised. Little about life in 21st-century America prepares anyone to expect a judge to stand up for public pensions.
A community is made up of much more than just dollars and cents. Don't get me wrong: Detroit must make hard financial decisions. There's no way to hide from them or put them off any longer. But don't sell the soul of the community in the process.
Kevyn Orr can reduce wages, force city workers to pay more for health care and pensions, and arrange for public-private partnerships, such as businesses adopting neglected parks. But he can't do anything to change the fact that Detroit is a city no longer capable of supporting itself.
Is Detroit in 2013 the New York City of 1975? It could be too ridiculous a question to ask. While the differences are many -- a difference in population of several million is the most glaring -- there are several key commonalities.