They all got the weather-crisis memo
I am very excited, having found the much whispered about mythical weather crisis memo from the president of the United Association of Professional Politicians (UAPP). The cost of drafting this memo is thought to be about $100,000. UAPP hired a public relations firm to draft strict marching orders for politicians on how to prepare their constituents for severe weather situations, be they major snow storms (Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have blown it this past winter) or hurricanes like Irene that recently hit the East Coast.
While the memo is too long to include here, I will summarize the main points that the consultant, one Pita Problematicus Ph.D., offered his dues-paying members, including governors, mayors and county executives. Remember, every penny that is spent on reports like this comes out of your tax dollars, which is why I have no problem sharing this purloined document with you.
Point One: Always appear in situ from a bunker somewhere. These emergency headquarters demonstrate the seriousness of the situation and underline the fact that you are working full time for the people’s welfare. If you can pose in front of a long group of TV monitors with Doppler-like weather devices behind you, so much the better. Be absolutely sure to use Twitter and Facebook to reiterate any advice you might be giving since that’s where most of the kids are getting their news.
Point Two: Always tell people to stay in inside once the emergency actually arises. Scare the hell out of them. There is no such thing as overstating the obvious. For example, tell them that they should not touch live electrical lines. Tell them that they should stay inside their homes no matter what. Tell them never to go through standing water either in or out of a car and point out that people have drowned that way. Tell them that they MUST evacuate low lying areas and that you are in the business of saving lives, which is the first priority. That way, you’ll appear to be a human being.
Point Three: List for them what products to have on hand. We are talking about bottled water, batteries, boats, generators, flashlights, canned food, pet food, cash (in case you need to buy something and bank ATM’s are out of money). Tell them to fill up the bathtubs with water so that they can flush the toilets in the house in the event of a power failure.
Point Four: All politicians MUST dress appropriately. In order to emphasize that you are working around the clock, you should wear T-shirts or open polo shirts. Never, ever wear a tie or a suit, which will mark you as a professional pol. No matter what, order your staff to keep an eye on the other politicians who may have developed a new wrinkle.
President Obama looks lean and mean compared to the corpulent New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, who certainly gives us a good reason for buying one of those wide screen TVs. While you may think this is mean, just remember that people vote on the way politicians look.
Point Five: Keep coming back for updates. Have your staff call television and radio stations to schedule brief five-minute conversations. There will never be a better time to meet with your voters than now. Remember that weather emergencies are nonpolitical. No one can put you down for this so these crises should never be wasted. They are opportunities. It doesn’t get any better.
Point Six: After the event, make sure to hold a news conference thanking all the people on your emergency team. It will make you look big and generous and you will, of course, get the credit for having done the hard work. If someone has blown it, make sure that you couch some words about doing better next time in some areas. No one will ever forget George W. Bush telling his failed Katrina chief, “You’re doing a hell of a job Brownie.”
Clearly, everyone has received and read the memo.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 8/30/11