“Let’s face it: having $500 million is better than not having $500 million,” Orr said. “If we can find a way to allocate that to pensions — the other creditors might have something to say about that. … That’s a big, big help, but even that amount isn’t going to solve the problem.”
Orr said he hasn’t noticed any change at the bargaining table since Rhodes’ decision. He wants to file a remedy for $18 billion in long-term debt by early January, including $3.5 billion in two underfunded pension funds.
“We’re running out of time even now. … I can’t really say that the creditors’ tone has changed in any fashion,” Orr said. “They’re in very hard positions. There’s no money.”
Orr declined to say whether the pensions of firefighters and police officers should be treated differently in bankruptcy than the pensions of other rank-and-file retirees. The public safety pension fund is in better shape, and its beneficiaries typically get more. He said he has an opinion but considers the issue “too sensitive” to share publicly.
A safe, clean city could stop the flow of people leaving Detroit and even attract some to move in. The population has fallen to 700,000 from 1.8 million in the 1950s.
“There’s never going to be a whole bunch of new money,” Orr said. “There’s always going to be needs for the city that exceed the level of money we have. … If it takes somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three years to deal with it all that’s a pretty good deal.
“And if we can demonstrate what it’s going to look like in the first nine months, that’s pretty significant.”
(AP Photo: Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Detroit, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013.)