Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cross’ Pushing Suburban Strategy: Right Move in Illinois

cross.jpgThe Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune laid the defeat of the bloated, ineffective transit bill at the feet of Tom Cross and the House Republicans. They argue that Cross and his Caucus are holding out for more funding for their constituents in exchange for their votes to eliminate any cuts to the CTA. The Tribune folks further argue that Cross is hurting the exact folks that he's trying to help: suburban voters. Their logic is flawed. Sure...there are plenty of folks who are using mass transit who potentially may be hurt by the cuts proposed by the Chicago Democrats and the bloated CTA, but there's more to the story.

Let's talk about strategy and why I believe the Tom Cross and the House Republicans made a great move. As a side note, I think Ron Huberman, who inherited this mess at the CTA is a good man, but he needs to bring the focus of his scapel internally before he starts crying externally. Cut some middle management out of the budget before you start cutting routes. I won't delve into that subject (as it's just a side note!) in this post, but just stick to the political implications of this standoff.

Let's fast forward a few years to 2010. There will be a Governor's race between Lisa Madigan and the GOP nominee. Now...let's just say that the nominee was Tom Cross - the House Republican Leader. Let's say that he's taking a page from Congressman Mark Kirk and his "Suburban Agenda". Where's Cross going to get his votes? Mostly from outside the City of Chicago, right? Is Lisa going to use this against him in the City with commuters? Sure she will. But, he'll be able to counter much of that with the discussion about transit not being a one-and-done issue. It requires a regional approach and the region needs road money as much as it needs mass transit money.

Cross will further be able to buttress his work for Chicago by pointing to his successes with both O'Hare and Midway Airports. Of course, Tom Cross recognizes that Chicago is THE economic engine for the State of Illinois and it needs to be supported. The O'Hare Airport expansion couldn't have happened without HGOP votes, and Cross ensured that the future of air transportation stays strong with a healthy and expanded O'Hare Airport. Transit isn't the only issue that's facing folks in Chicago. What about jobs? I know Tom Cross and his policy staff are thinking about job related issues like keeping the technology scene moving along in Chicago. That's a subject near and dear to my heart. They are working on ways to keep folks from who are interested in technology from fleeing to the West Coast. The Illinois Math and Science Academy is in Cross' district. He knows what a gem of an institution it is. He also knows that the University of Illinois in Urbana produces some of the smartest engineering minds in the land (including my very own brother-in-law Equation Boy/Man). He's going to develop policies to keep these kids in Chicago and working in the field that they love: technology. Do that, and we'll all come out ahead.

Getting back to the CTA, I know Tom Cross a bit and I know that he actually rides the CTA. Not in the Mayor Bloomberg way for show, but actually to get somewhere. When he takes his son, an avid Cubs fan to Wrigley, he rides up there from the loop on the Red Line. He attends countless dinners, meetings, and events in the great city. He isn't an ideologue who hates the city and thinks Chicago doesn't deserve the funding for mass transit, he just understands that fixing just one part of the problem is the proper solution. Doing what's right for the region is what's right for Chicago and he's going to try to ensure that the solution is comprehensive.

In the end, blocking the CTA's money grab while protecting the suburbs was a wise political move for the future for House Republican Leader Tom Cross or for any GOP leader. When he needs to, he'll have every Mayor and suburban leader championing his cause - saying he stuck up for the area's roads in the face of the Chicago Democratic Corruption Machine. His work isn't done, because he'll still loose if he gets whitewashed in the City. But...turning some of those young commuters his way is doable. By pointing to the GOP's success in Chicago with an expanded O'Hare and the votes to lead to a Midway Lease by Mayor Daley, coming up with some solid policies to keep the tech industry humming along in the city, along with a smart press, political and web strategy, he'll have it licked.

New DuPage GOP Website: Couldn’t Be Worse

The DuPage County Republicans released their "new" website this morning and its magnificently underwhelming. The only way this thing could be worse was if it was hosted at a .geocities.com domain. I hate to pile on fellow Republicans, but if DuPage is really the "most Republican County in the USA", this is embarrassing. The real sad part is, that I'm sure they paid someone a bunch of money to develop this and they're probably so happy with it. They built a wonder website for 1994.

We need to do better. The suburbs and DuPage County is battleground territory right now. The Turn DuPage Blue guys or whomever seizes control of the DuPage Democrats will certainly be more proactive and engaged online. So should the Chairman Cronin and the DuPage GOP.

Where to begin? I don't know. That silly splash page? Where's the data collection? If you're going to have one, which in this day and age is common, at least include an email box or contribution form. What do they have? Some silly flash movie. Some of the basic blocking and tackling is screwed up. Who can't build a "volunteer form". Apparently the folks the DuPage Republicans hired. If you want to get involved, you have to send an email. The contribution form is the same. Want to contribute to the Party? Send it in via mail. It's not hard to use a 3rd party system to collect funds online. Come on, guys. Instead of listing the events on the page, they've posted a pdf. I wonder how long until that goes bad, eh? That is vey silly. Aside from the whole downloading aspect, what about search engine juice?

There's so much wrong that I could go on and on. There's a few easy ways to fix these things. First step: get your money back from whomever you paid to do this. Then expand the offerings to include online forms. You can even embed ones from wufoo. The one part they kinda got right? They made sure all the "bigs" got their pictures on the site. I'm sure that was their way of getting the committee to vote for this thing. And what's with the "We are" thing? The State Party is doing it too. Let's worry less about cute domain names and more on content and execution, huh guys?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

East Coast Help: Pretzel Vendors

trad_pretz.gifI need some help from the East Coaster's who read RhodesSchool. I've had nothing but bad luck from pretzel vendors. First it was in NYC, today the problem occurred in Boston. I enjoy the speed of acquisition and feel for food cart vendors on the street. I've done plenty of shopping from street vendors for "goods" and I will, on occassion buy a meal from a street cart vendor. I like that it's all cash. I like that it's a one-man operation. And...I like the whole thought about cart "turf" that I have in my head. (how do you get the prime corners? Seniority? Does the Outfit control the turf?, etc...)

In the midwest, where I grew up, we had "big" or "jumbo" pretzels that were served hot. They were always, without exception soft. They were chewey and usually had salt applied to them and if you were feeling friskey, you'd even dip them in some yellow mustard - they're fantastic. In both NYC and now in Boston, I've encountered not the usual soft, chewy soft pretzel, but rather a rigid, rock hard pretzel that has an almost burnt smell to them. I can hardly get them down. They're certainly not a joy to eat.

So...East Coasters. Have I just had a bad stretch of luck? Lousy food carts? Or...is this a custom out there? Are the big pretzels supposed to be hard? Just really large versions of regular sized pretzels? If that's the case, I'll give up. If not, tell me to get back on the horse and find the perfect soft pretzel on the East Coast.

One Year And Counting Until Our Wedding Day

dsc01205.jpgSeptember 6, 2008. 365 days away. If you head over to our wedding blog, you'll see the countdown widget is finally under the one year mark. Natalie and I were engaged last December, so we're 9 months into it with 20 to go. Seems like a long time, eh? It is. But for Nat, the planning never stops. I'm excited about gearing up for this year and all that it entails. We've secured the venue, the caterer, and the church. That leaves pretty much everything else. Nat's on top of it, so I don't have to be. We're having a discussion over the band as we speak. I want one group, she wants another. We all know who's going to win that battle.

There's so much to do and see that Nat has even started to write a secondary blog about all the wedding things she sees and reads about called i heart peonies. She's a great writer who puts a smile on my face. You should go subscribe to her feed on the site now. I'm excited that she's enjoying the web as it relates to our wedding. As we get closer, I'm sure we'll be doing more and more things with our wedding website to ensure that everyone that's invited will get all the details they need. At some point, unless you're a really traditional bride, I could see folks just sending out invitations with web urls. In fact, why not just twitter it to your friends and family. That seems like it's all the rage, doesn't it?!?!

Regardless of how we do the invites, I couldn't be more thrilled that Natalie said "yes" last December. It was the best decision of my life. Thanks, Nat! I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New JoinRudy2008.com, Old Widgets Broken

I'm supporting Rudy Giuliani for President in 2008. I like who he's picked to head his campaign in Illinois: Tom Cross and I like what he brings to the discussion. I also think he can actually win in November and not make this election a referendum on Iraq. Over the long holiday weekend, the campaign launched a new website. Go check it out here. It looks nice, doesn't it? All shiny and patriotic, right? There's a few things wrong. First of all, there are zero feeds on the site. I can't subscribe to his news, blog, press releases, video. Nothing. Shame. I know I'm not the only one who would subscribe to the blog. (if it were actually a blog...)

They've made, what I consider a larger error, however. The campaign had offered some nice badges on the site as a way to embed some javascript and demonstrate your support for Rudy. I had one of them on this very blog over on the right. See where it just says: JoinRudy2008.com? That used to be a nice image that said "I'm with Rudy". Because of the campaign making changes, they've left me, and presumably thousands of others holding the bag. Why cripple your old badges? Why not just let them continue to function. What's worse? There's folks like Henry who embedded a news widget that's now blank. You can't do that to folks. I trusted the campaign enough to embed something on my site. They need to deliver.

Hopefully, the campaign is listening. I'm not going to change the script on my site. Hopefully...they'll get their act together and get the old badges, widgets, and images working again.
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