This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

Search This Blog

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Celebrate Bloomfield Hills. The Event of the Year 2013, currently consigned to a uncertain future. Stories of 2013 Part II

On  February 12th of 2013  City resident,  Mary Juras  came before City Commission with idea. That was an expansion of the Public Safety Department's Open House into a  Celebrate Bloomfield Hills Day.  Many of the City's cultural, religious,social, and educational  attractions could join in by also hosting  Open Houses on the same day.
Before she presented  her idea to City Commissions she had many of the rudimentary details and a list of possible exhibitors with promising first contacts already completed. Mayor McClure  and City Manager Jay Cravens seemed  supportive, and said so. The rest of the commissioners 0ffered no opinion. The minutes from the February 12th meeting are below.

 Exactly 222 days later on Sunday September 22nd  Celebration Bloomfield Hills Day was flawlessly executed and quickly became known as one of the most splendid days  in City history. The comparison was made to City's 75th anniversary celebration at Cranbrook in 2007 was inevitable but not apt. The Anniversary gathering was picnic made spectacular by the hard work of maybe hundred of residents who contributed time and ideas. 

Celebration Bloomfield Hills  was more of a mini world's fair which benefited residents who never had a chance to go behind the scenes of what they drive by every day. It was a day in which the best of our City would be  showcased. Like the Public Safety open house of the year previous, and unlike the 75th city residents could attend the event  but would have no hand in it's making.  That exclusion with have consequences, when 16 days later on October 8th  Celebrate Bloomfield Hills went from talk of the town to an event with an uncertain future. 

No immediate explanation was given by by City Government. Tuesday October the 8th also the date of the monthly  City Commission meeting. No verbal mention of the Celebration was made at that meeting. or  at the November meeting or the even December meeting of 2013.

The only explanation of  Celebration Bloomfield's post mortem is a written entry in the Goals and Objectives section of Agenda package prepared for the November meeting and distributed to the City Commissioners. A copy is also made available for residents on the City Website.  The explanations is printed below.
Or in bolder clearer type.....
  The celebration Subcommittee determined the event was successful and feels a similar event should be held again  in a few years to avoid  attendance fatigue. The public Safety department will continue to hold their open house annually.

If you don't quite follow what is said in yellow it is because you are not supposed to. It is double talk.  Double Talk  is the official language  of softening  rejection whether it be s sales pitch declined, or  a marriage proposal turn down. Radio commercials tell us the classic relationship  DT is "It's not you. It's me" In business, DT it is is what they say when they walk you the door which means you won't get their business, the job offer, or whatever you hoped for.

 Never try to use logic or  common sense to defeat double talk . It never works, It just indicates  that you are not getting the message which makes  everything worse. 

Often to soften the blow a time element for future action by 
the one rejected may be suggested. "call us in six months" is one business example. "In a few years" is however is grim enough to rate the kiss of death.

Bottom Line  in regards to The Celebration  is that those who decide told us to kiss off. 

Mr. Cravens' delayed time element and reference to attendance fatigue (which seems to be an ail of his own invention) are intended to mask the pain. Unfortunately neither explain why a promising event, perfectly executed. could turn into the proverbial lead balloon in a little over a fortnight.

To understand the dynamics of that one need understand what the City calls "Goals and Objectives."

In past two years Goals and Objective has become the Black Hole of City decision making. Residents who have no input or access to goals pay little attention. In theory, on an annual basis, the City Commissioners suggest goals and objectives and email them to the City Manager Cravens. He   then compiles a list which in an ideal world is discussed and and  voted on at a public meeting. In reality at an unintended consequence of Goals and Objectives  is that they become become ( least in part) a way to circumvent the traditional democratic process.

Celebration Bloomfield Hills is the perfect example.

In February shortly after Mary Juras made her presentation, Downtown Birmingham  Bloomfield Hills Magazine reported that City Commission had "approved" the Celebration.  It did not. 
A month earlier according to the minutes of the January  City Commision meeting, the Commissioners declined to make  a decision on a participating in a cycling event.
City Commission 3 January 8, 2013
Minutes Adopted: February 12, 2013 

 009-2013 Resolution – Woodward Avenue Gran Fondo Cycling Event 

The city commission discussed the proposed Gran Fondo Cycling Event on Woodward Avenue in conjunction with the Woodward Avenue Action Association and the Woodward Avenue communities. 

The commission agreed to hold off on making a decision on the cycling event until all the affected communities are involved in the discussion in addition to the various public safety departments. 

No such Yea or Nay was ever by the made by the City Commission, the elected representatives of the City's citizens for the Celebration. Nor were those representatives given tan  opportunity to vote. Nor did any commissioner ask for it. Instead Mayor McClure and City Manager Cravens just joined what came to be called the Celebration Subcommittee.  The Mayor and City Manager are the logical representatives for the event but again the representatives of the people did not  approved their elevation or grant authority in such matters.
Why is this important ? 
 Skipped steps and an elimination of the residents (who would be the Celebration's  biggest supporters) would in the end drastically alter how Celebration would be judged in terms of success, failure, or even a future .

For reasons unknown City Manager seemed  particularly  interested in evaluating  Celebrate at the earliest possible opportunity. 45 days before Celebration he included the following in a updated Goals and Objectives memo to City Commission.
Mr. Cravens does say not who assigned him to the task. 
While saying the event planning subcommittee would be part  the evaluation, He does not say who or what besides the committee  would be the other part of the evaluation.
The Celebration sub committee referred to  consisted of the Mayor, Our Public Safety Director,  Mary Juras, and a representative from each of the exhibitors, Christ Church Cranbrook,  St. Hugo,  the Village Club, and Cranbrook Art, and Science Museum  .  

SurelyMr. Cravens  not expect all the exhibitors to have the same evaluations. While all the Exhibitors were long time City landmarks, the results they could expect to achieve were different. Public Safety is for kids and kid in all us adults. It generates PR and good will. It is the greatest show in town. Cranbrook, the number one tourist destination in town, could monitor results by admissions counts.
The Village Club relies on membership and contributions from it's friends and supporters. The Club's numbers (notwithstanding a rather spectacular, absolutely free ice cream social) world by the nature of requiring money would be initially smaller, and take longer to register than  the other exhibitors. The Churches were not looking for converts, but  showcasing their place in the community via history, architecture, and public awareness and appreciation. Their's would be the hardest return on investment to pin point. Particularly  in terms of how such goals could be  achieved a  September Sunday  between the hours of 1pm and 5pm. As it so happened however both Sy Hugo and Christ Church  stayed open to 6pm to accommodate all the visitors wanting tours.

How Mr. Craven evaluates is another matter. Earlier in the year he citing 175 to 200 visitors, he approved the continuation of the Public Safety open house which was 
re-instated in 2012.  

The Baldwin Library which exhibited at the 2012 Public Safety event said many visitors  were not City of Bloomfield Hills residents but people attracted  by the fire engines and signage on Long Lake Rd. Such visitors were not eligible for Baldwin Library privileges.However representatives from Baldwin deemed the public relations for the Birmingham Library and Libraries in general  made their participation worthwhile, and they returned in to exhibit in 2013.

The initial evaluation of Celebrate Bloomfield Hill and written by Mr. Cravens and published Goals and Objectives for the October 8th City Commission meeting was rather positive as indicated below.

It  was based on preliminary  discussions with two the events largest exhibitors Cranbrook and Public Safety. 

The Public Safety Open House on which the Celebration event was built upon added it's own cherry to  the sundae with the now famous( and copied) Helicopter landing. 

Cravens says attendance was "manageable".  In reality  in more than a few cases cases attendance was border line overwhelming.   The Helicopter landing was one example. So was other extra hour  to  accommodate the  volume of visitors at Christ Church Cranbrook and  St. Hugo. Brunch at the Village Club started in  two hours before the posted  Celebration hours of 1pm to 5pm. The 11 am  seemed to attract. everybody in the see or be seen City Crowd.

In his September goals and objectives Celebration evaluation update  Cravens mention an event subcommittee meeting of October 8th. Apparently that was when the anvil was dropped.  I was not at the meeting.  I wasn't invited. I don't think any reporters were. 
However having spent a professional lifetime in sales,  I would venture that the smaller exhibitors could not promise after only 16 days of determining results, a renewed participation in 2014.

Early on the City made it clear through it's own meeting minutes, City staff  and the news media, that they would not be spending any money on the event. 

Some exhibitors who made extraordinary efforts at obvious expense, may have thought the  the  City did not have enough skin in the game.

Others  may justifiably decided that is not something that is worthwhile for meeting their goals in 2013, a few years or ever again.
 It is not their job to  feel otherwise or build Celebration Bloomfield Hills. It is the City's.The City's first  priority  is make sure the realistic  goals of exhibitor and visiting resident are achieved The hardest part of sales is matching the expectation of the participant  with will actually happen. Buyers remorse is a potential in every sales transaction. It seldom fatal  but hand holding and commiserating  is required.

If  Celebration Bloomfield is to die it will die not of poor execution but neglect. The complete silence aside from arcane notations in the equally clandestine Goals and Objectives could indicate that.  As could an attitude of waiting a "few years" and seeing if any one is interested in a revival.

If Celebration Bloomfield Hills is to continue. It should be as  an annual basis. In that case the City would be well advised to thank, and provide visible appreciation of participation, in the form of plaques or proclamation to it's inaugural participants. For the 2014 Celebration it can count on exhibitors like  Public Safety and always loyal Baldwin Library.  It has tried with little success to get city businesses involved in the Beautify Woodward program. Celebrate Bloomfield Hills 2014 might be a way of doing just that. As the event grows year after year some who dropped out may return. or rotate with others on a semi annual basis. That might even happen sooner rather than later. If continued good reports continue funnel in maybe even in 2014
All the ingredients for a successful Celebrate Bloomfield Hills 2014, like Mary Juras and the few City residents who volunteered via exhibitor organizations they participate in  are still in place. 

No comments: