LeDuff asks Kevyn Orr about 'dumb, lazy, happy and rich' remark - New York News

LeDuff asks Kevyn Orr about 'dumb, lazy, happy and rich' remark

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Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr
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DETROIT (WJBK) -

Kevyn Orr arrived under a storm of controversy taking control of Detroit's finances and filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

After five months on the job, the controversy continues for the emergency manager, most recently his decision to call in Christie's to put a value on the artwork at the DIA and a comment he made where he said, "For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich."

Fox 2's Charlie LeDuff went straight to the source to get some answers.

LEDUFF: You told the Wall Street Journal we're fat, stupid, lazy. You want to explain?

ORR: What I said, that is an idiom or phrase I've used probably a thousand times in past. I used it about myself, I think, at the June 10 hearing ... and it usually gets a laugh. So what I said was a long time ago, and I'm talking about the twenties and thirties, that's the timeframe, I said the city was dumb, lazy and rich. It was the city. It's not the people. In my 30 years of practicing, I've never insulted anyone. It's not my style. I don't call people names. I understand how people, if they think someone would say that about them, that's condescending. They'd be upset. But I never said that about anybody, and I wouldn't say that.

LEDUFF: So if they took it that way, you're sorry about it?

ORR: It's not so much sorry because I don't think they should be taking it that way. It wasn't my intent, but I want everybody to be assured I don't talk of people that way.

LEDUFF: What did you mean?

ORR: I just meant that a long time ago we were very flush, and we were very happy, and weren't paying attention. It's a phrase that's generally used to mean people are just happy where they are, and they're not paying attention to things down the road. Hey, you know what I could've said, Chicken Little or the grasshopper and the ant. I could've used another allusion. I just used that phrase.

LEDUFF: You've been here five months ... when are you going to deliver something tangible to real people's real lives?

ORR: We're opening up precincts. We have the blight authority in place. We have the lighting authority in place. We're getting more policemen into the field... If we start turning on lights, which we should later this fall, and start getting a new solid waste contract in place that does solid waste pickup every week and get the blight authority actually working on the demonstration projects that were in the Future [City] plan, we will actually start seeing deliverable results this year, and that's from me being here for 120 days plus so far.

LEDUFF: Christie's is here. According to bankruptcy law, we're not required to sell anything. Are you going to sell some art?

ORR: I have no plans to sell any art.

LEDUFF: It'd be easier if you did.

ORR: I don't know if it would or wouldn't. There are issues about the city's assets and other valuable items not being sold. New York in bankruptcy, they never rented out Central Park. So we have to be very careful because the bankruptcy code requires us to act in good faith in a reasonable manner. I do think we have to know what we're talking about.

LEDUFF: Are you ruling it out absolutely?

ORR: I said when I came in ... everything's on the table. We're going to try to do this in a really very deliberative and forward looking fashion. We want to move forward.

LEDUFF: The whole world's watching Detroit and you right now. Why?

ORR: I heard some comments that were made out of New York ... about Detroit can be an allegory or a cautionary tale and all this kind of stuff. There was a study released earlier this year that 125 other cities are in serious financial condition like us. We're not alone. You've heard the stories about Chicago and Mayor Emanuel trying to deal with those issues and other cities have come through this, but I think it's the concept that Detroit is a very storied city. It is the Arsenal of Democracy, Motown, the Motor City. It changed the way we live. Henry Ford brought the $5 an hour living wage. Automobiles created suburbs so that people could commute. Detroit has really been central to the modern America... I think in a lot of quarters, Detroit has a particular character to it that draws a lot of attention, but our situation, while deep and significant, isn't that particularly unusual.

How would you score Kevyn Orr's performance so far? Do you think he is helping to solve the city's problems or making them worse? We want to hear from you. Post your thoughts in the "Comments" section below this story.

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