Special Report: Creative City

Mayor Fred's 'Ransom' Video: A Small Example of a Bigger Problem

It's time to raise the bar for our leaders since too many of them seem unwilling to raise the bar for themselves. We need to sweat the small stuff.

By Graham Crawford
Published January 26, 2015

Don't pay the ransom: Fred Eisenberger has escaped.

I refer to a short, poorly produced video featuring Mayor Fred Eisenberger, posted by our Economic Development Division, in which our Mayor officially invites attendees to a province-wide conference of Economic Development professionals being hosted in Hamilton beginning February 10.

If you've seen the video, you'll know the audio is out of sync. Fred is in shadows. It lasts all of 15 seconds. It's very poor quality. And it is being posted by the City of Hamilton promoting our City to the Economic Development professionals around the province.

I tweeted my concerns to EcDev when they tweeted a link to the video on January 21. No response.

I sent an email on January 21, about the poor quality of the video to Neil Everson, Jason Thorne, Chris Murray and Fred Eisenberger. I waited 24 hours. No response.

I re-sent my email on January 22. No response.

I re-sent it on January 23, this time adding a note that I would continue to resend it until I got a response.

A few minutes later, I received a response from Jason Thorne, General Manager of Planning, Economic Development, and Culture. It was his first day back from a trip to China. He said he and Neil Everson of EcDev would be reviewing the situation.

A subsequent email from Mr. Thorne said they would be reshooting the video once they could reschedule with the Mayor. Finally some action.

On Saturday morning, January 24, I checked to see if the substandard video was still posted. It was. Let me be clear, there had been no commitment to remove the video, only that it needed to be reshot due to poor quality.

I emailed Jason Thorne and Neil Everson, copying Mayor Fred Eisenberger and City Manager, Chris Murray, as I had on all previous emails, asking why the poor video was still up and could they provide a date when it would be replaced.

The answer back was ASAP.

ASAP is one of those terms that's defined by the sender, not the receiver. ASAP to me might mean hours. To the sender, it might mean days. Weeks. Who knows?

So, I pushed a bit and asked for more specifics. Jason Thorne, to his credit, gave me his home phone number and said I could call him. I did. He explained it was his decision to leave the poor quality video up because he didn't think it was that bad, and that the matter was not urgent enough to ask the Mayor to drop everything to reshoot the video.

I told him I agreed with his latter point and disagreed with his former point. It is bad. It should not be left online.

That's just my opinion of course, but it's also the opinion of a number of Hamilton's video production professionals who weighed in on FB. The City of Hamilton, it seems, works to a different standard than our local professionals, none of whom were looking for a gig.

Mr. Thorne told me he did not appreciate me saying in my Saturday email, "Come on Neil [Everson], you're track record is way better than this, and you know I think so since I've said so many times online, in public, and in front of Council. Sorry to be so direct, but this is so bush league."

Despite his admonishment, I explained that because of his short tenure, he might not realize that I meant what I said. This was not a passive-aggressive comment. EcDev usually delivers to a high standard, in my opinion, and I've said so in the past on many occasions.

So, bottom line is that the video stays up until they can schedule something with Fred, who we know will be in Toronto all day on January 26 meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Not sure what his Tuesday looks like. Wednesday? It'll have been a week by then. Hamilton's missing-tooth smile, its open zipper, its torn flag, whatever the metaphor, will be there for all to see. Until they can't.

Many may be thinking: Why sweat the small stuff, Graham? There are plenty of bigger issues with which to deal. The thing is, I'm not losing my focus on bigger issues while I spend a few minutes on this seemingly small one.

I write seemingly because, as Jan Carleson, ex-CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, once said, "Our passengers judge the quality of our engine repair and maintenance by the coffee stains on the pull down trays." I trust the parallels to Hamilton are obvious.

It all matters. Sweat everything. Especially when you're communicating to the entire province. It reflects on you, as professional Economic Developers, it reflects on our City, and it reflects on us, as residents. It all matters.

I want us to sweat the paint used for our now-dead bus lane. I want us to sweat the quality of the videos we use that feature our Mayor. I want us to sweat providing drinking fountains at City Hall and at our new stadium for residents. I want us to sweat whether we're using a strategic vision to guide our collective decisions.

All of it. If we're trying to be "the best place in Canada", then we should look like we're the best place in Canada, even on a short video, even if it is out of character for our EcDev Division.

As the great architect Mies van der Rohe said, "God is in the details." Given its source and his background, it's a phrase Jason Thorne has certainly heard before.

This was the part of the focus of my [Culture of Average](http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/5262813-mediocrity-reigns-at-city-hall/) op-ed piece in the *Hamilton Spectator* on January 19. Good enough isn't even nearly good enough, not if you want to be the best. We need to stop accepting mediocrity as a City, both from our elected leaders and from our senior staff.

I sense there is a growing number of Hamiltonians who are tired of waiting. Who are tired of accepting pretty good instead of getting excellent Who have a vision for what Hamilton can be and who want to get on with the job of achieving that vision.

As I posted earlier in the week, and despite what some of our Councillors would have us believe, I think it's about becoming the City we can imagine, not the City we can remember.

I think it's time to raise the bar for our leaders since too many of them seem unwilling to raise the bar for themselves.

Update: It was suggested to me on Sunday that the video had been produced by the City Manager's Office, and not by EcDev. I emailed Michael Kirkopoulos, the Director of Communication, and he said that this was the case.

I'm not sure why no one felt they should mention this to me. As I told Mike, I was not looking to assign blame, but rather to get the video pulled and replaced, which I am now told will be Monday night or Tuesday.

As I said to Mr. Kirkopoulos in my follow-up email, "It's pretty clear that my incredulity that EcDev had produced such a poor quality video was well-founded because they didn't produce it. I've always been impressed with the quality of work produced by Neil's EcDev team - print, video, text, even the EcDev business office space itself. All to a high standard. Just as it should be."

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

33 Comments

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 09:30:48

Oh boy. That's bad. It should be removed immediately.

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By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 09:47:38

It has now been removed, denying me the right to see and judge for myself. Thanks a lot Graham!

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By Peng (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 09:48:54

Way to go Graham. Keep up the good works

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By frayed sew (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 10:20:18

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 12:15:09 in reply to Comment 108387

My focus is on ensuring Council and senior management (and thereby all City staff0 are working, together, on achieving the same vision and its related metrics. We don't do that now. Not even nearly. There's plenty of talent at City Hall. In my view, we could leverage that talent if we had a more strategic focus.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 10:58:58

I'm a firm believer that excellence comes not just from getting a few big things right but also from getting a lot of little things right. This story is a perfect case study in the Culture of Average at City Hall.

I'm reminded of the infamous video the Liberal Party of Canada shot with party leader Stephane Dion in December 2008, during Canada's constitutional crisis over Prime Minister Harper proroguing parliament right after the election to avoid a vote of non-confidence.

The video had poor lighting and poor sound quality, and the Conservatives got a lot of mileage out of using it to argue that if the Liberals couldn't even run a video shoot, how could they be expected to run the country? Dion and the Liberals never had a chance.

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 11:03:55

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 12:07:27 in reply to Comment 108391

Jay, I'm retired and I don't produce videos. Nor am I paid to do any of the things I do. As a paid PR professional, what did you think of the video? Did you feel it fairly reflected the professional standards we should expect of our City? I get that you don't like me, but surely that should't cloud your professional judgement.

Comment edited by H+H on 2015-01-26 12:34:51

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By Ray Jobb (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 11:06:43 in reply to Comment 108391

So when you point a finger at Graham for pointing a finger at the City, are your other 4 fingers pointing back at yourself? Or is criticism only a problem when other people do it?

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By myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 11:17:34

Wow. This article nails the flip side of the auto-immune disorder piece from Ryan last week.

To the majority of people who live near or have travelled past Hamilton, the vision is simple - industrial wasteland belching fire and smoke (Thanks Burlington Skyway!) and any time we accept mediocrity, we PROMOTE this view.

Incredibly cheap things that Hamilton could do to improve the view:

1) ALWAYS LOOK YOUR BEST -- When I share videos (from EcDev, from Joey, music videos shot in Hamilton) with my non-Hamilton friends, they are absolutely blown away.

2) ENFORCE BYLAWS ON THOROUGHFARES -- If you drive down any of the major thoroughfares of Hamilton, you'll see some pretty obvious examples of 'Hey, no one will notice if we board up this commercial building with chipboard (paint optional) and convert it to slumlord residence'. I know that bylaw enforcement is based on a complaint model - I've had that neighbour myself. Can't we do better? Could not the councillors each take a half day a month to cruise their ward?

3) POWERWASH THE CITY -- We all know who should pay for this, especially those of us who live within a few km radius of the mills... but if it's not part of the PanAm plans to power-wash the buildings near the stadium where the cameras will see them... well, it wouldn't be the first obvious PanAm screwup either.

There are so many other things we could do... but we won't. Because we are incapable of the most basic respect and our civic leaders can't handle getting along at a level that is considered minimum standard in our classrooms.

Sigh.

AND NOW - MONDAY!!!!

(edited for format only)

Comment edited by myrcurial on 2015-01-26 11:18:00

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By J (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 11:24:08

when you have a bad time on SAS you don't get to speak to the VP of operations about it. Send a complaint, fine. Don't expect the whole city to jump on your every Very Important Demand.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 12:12:12 in reply to Comment 108398

When I complain about a public video from our City featuring our Mayor that is being sent directly to every Economic Development professional in the province inviting them to the conference that will be held in Hamilton, I think it's fair to expect a quick decision. Can't believe any self-respecting PR professional would disagree. Pretty sure that's PR 101, but I'll leave that to the experts to determine.

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By brundlefly (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 13:09:21

More of the small town mentality in a city of almost a million... Honestly, it's time to grow up.

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By brundlefly (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 13:13:10

Supposing they had gone to bid to make this video...

Race to the bottom RFP's where lowest bidder always wins, for any and all creative work still given us some "d00d" and his Nokia phone creating the exact same video.

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By stuckhere (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 14:14:12

I can't believe there is any discussion needed on such a poor piece of video PR.

The fact that the video is so black and white poor should be ALL that is required to have it pulled until a better representation is produced.

What does it take for leadership to admit it is far below standard?

And, I really can't believe that Mayor Fred could accept this ultra poor quality representation of him. He was low energy, low enthusiasm, and in my view a bland, insincere talking head. He needs to up his own bar on how he would like to be seen and characterized!

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By Yesss (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 15:30:48

YESSS!!! We got confirmation of commitment from province for full LRT funding!!! Lets get it done ASAP Hamilton!!!

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 16:12:48 in reply to Comment 108427

"ASAP" Good one! LOL!

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By osborne (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 15:52:26

I think that the issue of an allegedly poorly produced video promoting a branch of city government is a minor but not insignificant issue. The argument seems to be that mediocre rather than excellent is the city staff (and pelican's) performance. I think that Mr Crawford's vocal bitching constantly about such minor issues is petty and demonstrates his over righteous attitude that he is "special".

Most citizens do not have readily access to upper management staff in any city, let alone expect replies from upper management. I think that if a citizen has a criticism on one or two city issues city staff should pay attention and respond quickly. Crawford has set himself up as a demi god who demands attention and responses.

Mr. Thorne was correct to criticize Crawford's written behaviour.

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By Connie (registered) | Posted January 31, 2015 at 09:33:21 in reply to Comment 108428

Anyone with email has ready access to anyone at city hall. As you said, "not insignificant" given the purpose of the video. "Bitching" can accomplish a lot. Tacky quality promo videos can damage our reputation a lot.

Carry on Graham! :)

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By osborne (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 15:54:38

politicians not pelicans..lol

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By Todo (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 15:59:44

Will someone please deal with Chad Collins arguments against B-Line LRT already, specifically his objection on the grounds that cars can't turn into businesses on Queenston?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 16:45:05 in reply to Comment 108430

As I understand it, motorists won't be able to directly turn left across the tracks mid-block, but they can turn right into businesses (i.e. the traffic will essentially be one way because of not being able to cross the tracks except at intersections).

This is essentially the same issue we have already with all of the one way streets in Wards 1-3 of Hamilton where motorists must double back to reach shops on streets going the opposite direction they are travelling ... and Council seems quite happy to leave those streets one way! It is also standard design for separated LRT systems throughout the world not to allow traffic to turn across the tracks mid-block.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-26 16:50:43

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 16:33:41 in reply to Comment 108430

Hopefully he's just bucking for road-widening dollars and maximizing the number of driveways cutting across the LRT track, not literally blocking the biggest transit improvement in Hamilton's history.

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By Question (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 16:56:46 in reply to Comment 108432

I'm slightly confused on how much of the 13 km track is going to be shared between LRT and cars. I know LRTs are supposed to have their own separated track/lane, and I understand that will be the case for the majority of the B-line track, but are there parts that are shared? For example, King and Wellington area, or will that be a no car zone? Any info. would be appreciated.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 20:35:03 in reply to Comment 108435

Last I heard, that narrow area (the International Village) will include a pedestrian-only zone, in particular for the LRT platform that will be there. So downtown car traffic will be detoured to Cannon, Hunter, or Wilson. The international village business association supports this, and they're the ones who stand to lose the most, so that's encouraging.

I hope we'll see some two-way conversions of cross-streets to help them get back to King to patronize the stores. I sometimes wonder if the King West bus-lane woes wouldn't have been helped with a two-way conversion of Bay - if you're trying to get from Cannon to, say, Cottage 13, you had to do a weird loop-back at Queen onto York and then turn onto Caroline. Being able to just take Bay might have helped them.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 16:42:21

Details are the building blocks of plans. Bad building blocks means failed plans. Failed plans means no chance of vision or dreams being fulfilled. Not just the devil and god are in the details, everything is.

This article is not just correct it is bang on. I am very tired of hearing about lofty visions for Hamilton when so many crucial details are ignored. How can you pave city roads if someone is selling your asphalt? How can you build a city if the builders cannot understand the zoning laws? How can you sell your city in the 21st century if your video production value is less than that of kids on YouTube?

Note: Experience is the tool that trains you to filter out which details are important, and intelligence is what allows you create details to prevent the unexpected.

Comment edited by misterque on 2015-01-26 16:43:16

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By osborne (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 20:09:18

I thought Raise the Hammer had literate readers and posters? It seems the last five posters do not know how to stay on a topic of an article.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 20:36:21 in reply to Comment 108440

Exciting news just broke and there hasn't been an article on it. I imagine a lot of folks flooded to RTH to talk about the LRT announcement and just started talking on the newest popular article.

City Hall released a crummy video and then didn't take it down when told it was crummy. not much to say, is there?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2015 at 21:15:15 in reply to Comment 108443

There's an article up now:

I heard about the meeting and Mayor Eisenberger's remarks, but I didn't want to post an article until we had more information.

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By Would Like (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 20:56:26

I'd like EcDev to redo the City's website. There's is much better.

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By Grammar Police (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 22:13:41

Graham says: "Mr. Thorne told me he did not appreciate me saying in my Saturday email, "Come on Neil [Everson], you're track record is way better than this..."

It's _your_, not _you're_. For someone who is so critical of a video which nobody can see any more (and apparently nobody had the foresight to keep), you might want to use a grammar checker next time.

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By thatsright (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 22:46:41

So, we are over this now, right?

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 20:42:04

Thanks for going to bat for us, Graham and for persisting when others would have given up.

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