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."
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