Tarnished Brands: The Abuse of Trust

Maybe you saw this piece about the 120 most trusted brands in America.

Brand management is serious business, and it all begins with trust. Trust is the cornerstone of communication. Without trust, there’s no traction. Advertising doesn’t work. Public relations doesn’t work. If there’s one thing that George W. Bush and The Who agree on, it’s that we won’t get fooled again.

Once you lose trust, you need to start over. You need to admit your mistake, try to fix whatever you did wrong, and try to rebuild trust. And rebuilding trust is a lot harder than building it in the first place.

So, which brands have lost Trust as a result of the ballpark fiasco?

The El Paso Times – Trust isn’t just an element of a newspaper’s brand. For a newspaper, trust is everything. Their lack of objectivity was apparent even before they sold their building to the City. Their refusal to even acknowledge the ongoing litigation regarding the “secret” emails is just grinding their reputation into the ground. Sure, newspapers everywhere are feeling the heat of instantaneous, immediate news via the internet, but that’s no justification for denying your primary responsibility to your readers. In El Paso, the Fourth Estate acts like tenant farmers. Instead of holding the local government’s feet to the fire, the El Paso Times is content to give our local pols a pedicure.

The City of El Paso – Americans want three things from their government: honesty, transparency, and democracy. Somehow, the City managed to fumble the ball on all three counts with this project. Their litany of lies (that Triple A baseball demanded that the ballpark be built downtown, that other cities were interested in the team, that it was going to cost $50 million, and the HOT increase would pay for it, to name just four) was endless. The City’s ongoing efforts to hide emails that everyone agrees deal with City business make a mockery of the Texas Public Information Act. The City’s unilateral decision to implode City Hall, build a ballpark, and take on $150 million in gratuitous debt, all without the elections required by Texas Municipal Code Chapter 334, reveals the arrogance they feel towards the electorate.

Oscar Leeser – I imagine that when Mr. Leeser campaigned for Mayor, he had no idea he was wading into a shitstorm. Now he has the reins and he looks impotent. Mr. Leeser had the least to gain and the most to lose by continuing the previous administration’s policies. Mr. Leeser was apparently willing to take the hit instead of ruffling feathers.

Joyce Wilson – Ms. Wilson’s efforts to find other gainful employment as a City Manager indicates, to me, that she realizes that her legacy in El Paso is tarnished. That she called her ostensible employers’ employers “Crazies” didn’t do a lot to convince the citizens of her civic-mindedness. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and conclude that she’s no more than a dedicated civil servant who worked exceptionally well at finding loopholes in the legal system that one could drive a ballpark through, though she was a little too chummy with some private interests for my tastes.

Woody Hunt and Paul Foster – How do you take a sterling legacy of philanthropy and turn it into dunghill of distrust? If Mr. Hunt and Mr. Foster were to ring you doorbell and offer to wash your car this morning, the first thing you’d do would be to take your stash of spare change out of the console. I have no doubt that they’re both fine and honorable men, but they stepped in dog shit and it’s stinking up the boardroom. The hardest part for them to overcome will be the continued existence of a monument to backroom deals and duplicity that will stand for the next 40 years. They blithely ignore it at the peril of their personal brands.

El Paso, Texas – Have you told anyone unfamiliar with the ballpark saga the bare bones outline of the story? That we blew up City Hall to build a Triple A ballpark? People are incredulous. I can’t imagine that El Paso would be considered a serious option for corporate relocation if its signature move is so abundantly silly. You can’t paper over a breach of the public trust of that magnitude with a bumper sticker that says It’s All Good. They’ve set the city’s development process back about twenty years.

I’m convinced that no one involved in the whole sordid ballpark fiasco did anything but what they thought was in the best interests of El Paso. But no good deed goes unpunished, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The attitude of all concerned seems to be to just wait it out, thinking that, eventually, the storm will subside. They don’t even acknowledge that a controversy exists. They’re willing to chant the City’s mantra, It’s All Good, It’s All Good, It’s All Good. They seem to have overlooked the fact that they’re building a four-story physical monument to the fiasco in downtown, with the explicit goal of attracting attention.

The controversy isn’t going away. The internet lives forever. For the good of the city, all parties concerned need to make a concerted effort to win back the public’s trust.


  1. Some people might say that those who won’t stop whining about the ballpark are the ones who have lost and continue lose sympathy and trust. Don’t they have any other concerns in this life. The jury is still out on whether or not the ballpark is a fiasco.

    1. Some sycophants believe that El Pasoans should be happy with their lot, without questioning the wisdom of the ruling class.

      1. Richard Baron, a sycophant? I guess I’m going to have to look that word up. He’s not what I had in mind.

        1. You haven’t figured it out yet, Wyatt? Arguing with elrichiboy over here is like playing chess with a pigeon … no matter how good you are, the bird is just going to shit on the board and strut around like it won anyway.

  2. Hypothetical: If the ballpark were somehow to inspire a downtown boom and generate a worthwhile return on the city’s investment, would the ends justify the means?

    1. That’s a good question. I guess it depends on how much value you put on the rule of law, transparency in government, and the democratic process. To reduce it to absurdity, would it be worth it to disenfranchise one person if everyone else were better off?
      The ballpark has certainly exacerbated divisions in the community. The ballpark has reduced trust in local government. I reckon those were largely unanticipated costs. I would love to see the ballpark succeed, at least financially, for the city.

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