Thursday, August 08, 2013

Memo to Kevyn Orr

To: Kevyn Orr, Emergency Manager for the City of Detroit
From: The Warrendale (Detroit) Blog
Re: Your comment to the Wall Street Journal

It's been a little more than two months since you and I had our extended interview at Chick's Bar. Based on the media firestorm that continues to encircle your office after you referred to Detroit as "dumb, lazy, happy, and rich" and the approximately 672,000 references to it that are currently found on-line, I believe it is time that we talk again.

You're busy. I'm busy. I'll make this brief.

Mr. Orr, if you still have to explain a certain quote a week after it was published then it is time to admit that you misspoke and move on. Your "it wasn't really a mistake" shtick is creating too much of a distraction from the business of actually transforming Detroit.

The Ant and Grasshopper - Illustration by Milo Winter
You need to admit that you misspoke. You need to explain what you actually meant and you need to do it without creating yet another brewhaha. I recommend something simple and familiar, such as a reference to Aesop's The Ant and the Grasshopper.

And then stop talking.

People will ask questions. They will poke and prod. They will look for you to screw up again. They will want something that they can write another 672,000 articles about.

Once you have admitted that you misspoke and offered a simple, non-controversial explanation, you then need to change the subject and move the proverbial ball forward. The best way to do that is to announce a new accomplishment.

Ideally, this would be something that would improve the lives of every day Detroiters. Other options would be something to resolve Detroit's debt burden or, at minimum, something that shows that real change is close at hand, such as a high-level meeting with the two pension boards to talk about their long-term future in more detail.

You have a simple choice. You can do these things or you can allow sit back as more articles continue to be published and the noise from those things drown out everything else.

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