Blog: Ric Geyer

In the winter of its economic downturn, the city of Detroit is doing an upriver crawl. Jump in with Ric Geyer, managing partner of 4731 Consulting (and long-distance swimmer), as he discusses Citizens for Cities, heroism, and his annual 14-miler across Lake St. Clair.

Post 6: Love and Heroism

First, I want to formally thank Metromode for asking me to provide my thoughts.  It has been a thought provoking and delightful, if not humbling, experience.  You'll see there are several blog entries tucked in here.  I hope you enjoy them.

Two Kinds of People…

There are really only two kinds of people.  Those who care about others and those who care only about themselves.  This notion transcends economics and culture and color.  The truth is that if all of us cared more about the fate of others, this would be a much better place to live.  

Janice Winfrey was recently re-elected as the City of Detroit Clerk.  In her inaugural speech, which was excellent, she issued a call to action for Detroiters.   "You say you love Detroit", she said, "but remember, 'Love' is an action word".  She went on to stir up the crowd with examples.  In this context, I think people who care about others get what she said immediately.  It's not only about making money, it's also about helping the guy down the street, or taking the neighbors' kids to task if they get out of line.  It is about active participation in the civic process, and we need to realize how important each of us is to that process.  

And we need to ask ourselves about the people around us.  Do they also care about the world in which they live?  Do they treat others as you would have them treated?  I once turned down a job offer because my interviewer was incredibly rude to a waitress at lunch.

If we want people to act nicer and be nicer, then reward people for being that way.  Buy from companies that support the community.  Seek out the people who care and reward them with your support, your business, and your respect.  

There but for the grace of God go I…  

Every now and again, I imagine what life would be like if I woke up and found my life completely different.  Do you ever have that dream where your life is completely upside down?  Imagine you woke to find that you had just gotten out of prison, you were 30 years old, had no identifiable skill, read at about a 6th grade level, and lived in a neighborhood that had nothing positive to offer – no role models, no opportunities, no chances.

What would you do?  How would you survive?  To whom would you turn?  What sliver of hope would you cling to – if in fact you wanted to cling to something that suggested you could get out of this existence, that you could better your life.  

These people need our help, as much as we need them to be part of the solution.  I support SHAR and ASWD, two organizations that deal with these issues everyday.  This problem won't go away by itself.  Ignoring it isn't just the wrong answer, it is irresponsible.   

Next time you see someone who needs help – think about it – what if it were you?


In the context of urbanism, heroism is when your actions are intended to help others more than they are intended to help you.  

Carolyn Mosher was one of my heroes.  She was one of those people whom you can't forget.  Love her or not, she made an impression.  And she had a passion.  "We need to reuse these materials," she would say.  "It is a waste of landfill space and you can't replace this stuff anyway."  She, of course, founded the Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit and worked there daily.  It is now ably run by Tom Friesen, who is taking it to a whole new level.  

Colin Hubbell and I sat at Avalon Bakery as I told him about Rickie and learning of his diagnosis.  He told me about the "new normal", and how, when things change completely, this new normal will manifest itself, and things will move on.  He was a guy who loved what he did, loved his wife, loved his kids, and most of all, loved life with a passion that most of us can only long for.  

Bill Beckham – should have been the Mayor of Detroit.  He was talented, committed, and experienced.  Had he not passed suddenly, he could have guided the city these last 10 years or so.  We would clearly be in a different place had he been Mayor.

Doug McIntosh – When we lost Doug, we lost one of our most ardent supporters of the historical built environment.  He went to uncommon lengths to get buildings saved, renovated, or just plain appreciated.  I worked with Doug on Preservation Wayne some time ago, and even if I didn't always agree with him, his heart was pure and his convictions were without question.  I will never forget standing shoulder to shoulder with Doug as Madison Lennox came down.  His partner in McIntosh Poris, Michael Poris, continues to argue passionately for good design and for preservation and pursues award-winning architecture for those lucky enough to hire him.

Chuck Forbes – OK. So, one day, this Ford exec gets the idea that Detroit needs to save its three theaters and that he's the man to do it.  After years of effort, he currently owns and operates the State, he started the original effort to save the Fox, and he moved the Gem Theater rather than allow it to be torn down.  At a time when people trade buildings like stocks, this man adopts structures and treats them like they were his own designs.  He does quality work and has singlehandedly changed the face of this city because of his passion, his determination and his spirit.  If the rest of us had half the energy he still has, we'd get twice as much done.

Sue Mosey, Kathy Wendler, David DiChiera, Maggie Disantis, Karen Brown, Therese Ireland; these people have changed the face of the city and continue to make positive progress every day.

Mike Finney – Executive Director of Spark.  Originator (I think) of "Open Source Economic Development".  He believes in the prosperity of the region, and his actions bear that out.

Phil Cooley – Smart beyond his years.  I say, turn it over to him and see what happens.  Just look at what he did with Slow's BBQ.

Ken Harris – the young, extremely talented and very organized Executive Director of the Detroit Black Expo.  If the future ends up in his hands, I think we'll be OK.

Hubert Massey – excellent artist/engineer/humanitarian.  And one heck of a nice human being.

We lost a couple of others as well.  Our friend Jason Ellison – an extremely creative, caring artist.  And Randy Eaton – a GIANT among men. His wife, Gillian and his son Tristan (Thunderdog Studios) continue to make a huge difference (positive) in the world.  The whole damn family is awesome.   

Tyree Guyton, Victor Pytko, Darcel Deneau, Jack Johnson, Jerome Ferretti, plus the entire group at the Pioneer Building – there are hundreds of great artists in the city.  Find them.  Buy their paintings.  Support their creativity.  Do it for them – do it for us.  It is something you can do right now to make a difference.