Getting Conventional: Cities Named Party Faves

The significance of political party conventions — in this writer’s opinion — is minimal. Sure, there are some subplots regarding up-and-comers and the speaking slots they receive, the length of the boost in the polls following the get-togethers, etc. In this age of instant news and act/react before all the facts are in, however, a drawn out orchestrated party for party faithful seems to have little long-term consequence.

Where the confabs take place, though, and the reactions of the locals is of some interest. And the 2012 sites have been narrowed down for the Dems after the GOP picked its rallying point earlier in the year.

The Democrats will choose between St. Louis, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Cleveland. The political factors at play: President Obama barely lost Missouri in 2008 and earned a narrow victory in North Carolina, while Ohio seems to always be a battleground and Minnesota has stayed "true blue" in most cases.

A Republican panel chose Tampa over Phoenix and Salt Lake City. That decision is expected to be ratified next month.

Let the mudslinging begin (as if it ever really stops)! 

Let’s Go Out to the Movies: Displeased Customer Gets R-Rated Response from VP

If you’re like me, you pretty much prefer watching Netflix films on your couch versus actually putting on pants and going to a movie theater. But when you go, there’s a certain expectation of customer service, especially considering the prices of tickets these days. So imagine the shock of one Minnesota woman who wrote a letter to theater ownership, and got a less-than-cordial response from a VP. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune reports:

The first problem, she said, was that the theater didn’t accept debit or credit cards. They had brought cash for popcorn and sodas, but not enough to buy tickets. The lobby’s ATM was out of cash, so their friends covered them by writing a check.

That was just the beginning.

"I would say within the first five or 10 minutes, a woman came into the theater and announced that eight people were in there who weren’t supposed to be in there," she said. For about 20 minutes, she said, staff members flashed their lights, checking ticket stubs and being a distraction. "Once I got back into the movie, it was great," Kohl-Leaf said, but the first part of the night out had been marred.

Once home, she decided to e-mail the theater management to complain. Her note went to Evergreen Entertainment LLC of New Brighton, owners of St. Croix Falls Cinema 8 and five movie complexes in Minnesota.

"I did not pay 18.00 to have a distracted experience," she wrote. " … I would rather drive to White Bear Lake, where they obviously know how to run a theater than have this experience again." The e-mailed response that greeted her the next morning left her stunned.

"Drive to White Bear Lake and also go [expletive] yourself," began the reply from Steve Payne, Evergreen’s vice president. "If you don’t have money for entertainment, get a better job, and don’t pay for everything on your credit or check card." It also included a couple more expletives before ending.

"I was surprised — I honestly didn’t think it was the vice president who sent it," said Kohl-Leaf. She showed it to her friend, "and we were just like, ‘What?’ … I’ve worked in retail, and I would never think to say something like that, or write it or anything."

Payne later sent a second, less-heated, message: "As vice president I should never have reacted that way, no matter how I felt about your e-mail."

Ya think? Trust me, when I worked as an editor of a community newspaper, I took several phone calls laden with vitriol, and in some cases that feeling was mutual. But dang. Let’s all let this serve as a reminder to take a breath before dealing with unhappy customers and clients. As with most things in life, firing back with emotion before thinking it through just creates more problems for yourself and your business.

Where We Rank … Literally

We’re No. 25 and No. 43. Those are the ratings for Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, respectively, in the annual America’s Most Literate Cities study published by Central Connecticut State University.

Libraries (branches, volume of materials, utilization and staff) are an apparent Hoosier strength with Fort Wayne seventh and Indy tied for 15th. Those were the best finishes for the Hoosier cities in any of the six categories: booksellers, education, Internet, newspapers and publications are the others.

Seattle topped the list followed by Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; Portand, Oregon; St. Paul; Boston; Cincinnati; and Denver.

Check it out here.

Two-Way Streets Profitable for City Merchants

So says Vancouver, Washington, at least.

Governing’s Alan Ehrenhalt has an interesting piece about how the city has used two-way streets to revitalize its downtown area. While many cities, including Indianapolis, have long taken the one-way street approach, he explains how two-ways may be more lucrative for downtown merchants:

Over the past couple of decades, Vancouver, Washington, has spent millions of dollars trying to revitalize its downtown, and especially the area around Main Street that used to be the primary commercial center. Just how much the city has spent isn’t easy to determine. But it’s been an ambitious program. Vancouver has totally refurbished a downtown park, subsidized condos and apartment buildings overlooking it and built a new downtown Hilton hotel.

Some of these investments have been successful, but they did next to nothing for Main Street itself. Through most of this decade, the street remained about as dreary as ever. Then, a year ago, the city council tried a new strategy. Rather than wait for the $14 million more in state and federal money it was planning to spend on projects on and around Main Street, it opted for something much simpler. It painted yellow lines in the middle of the road, took down some signs and put up others, and installed some new traffic lights. In other words, it took a one-way street and opened it up to two-way traffic.

The merchants on Main Street had high hopes for this change. But none of them were prepared for what actually happened following the changeover on November 16, 2008. In the midst of a severe recession, Main Street in Vancouver seemed to come back to life almost overnight.

Within a few weeks, the entire business community was celebrating. “We have twice as many people going by as they did before,” one of the employees at an antique store told a local reporter. The chairman of the Vancouver Downtown Association, Lee Coulthard, sounded more excited than almost anyone else. “It’s like, wow,” he exclaimed, “why did it take us so long to figure this out?”

A year later, the success of the project is even more apparent. Twice as many cars drive down Main Street every day, without traffic jams or serious congestion. The merchants are still happy. “One-way streets should not be allowed in prime downtown retail areas,” says Rebecca Ocken, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “We’ve proven that.”

The debate over one-way versus two-way streets has been going on for more than half a century now in American cities, and it is far from resolved even yet. But the evidence seems to suggest that the two-way side is winning. A growing number of cities, including big ones such as Minneapolis, Louisville and Oklahoma City, have converted the traffic flow of major streets to two-way or laid out plans to do so. There has been virtually no movement in the other direction.

GOP, Dems Working on Overhauling Primary Process

Are you so burned out on politics by this point that you’ve placed a V-chip block on MSNBC and Fox News, and are focused solely on your fantasy football draft or the home stretch of "Project Runway?"

I wouldn’t know about that last part, just that it’s a popular show right now … but isn’t Michael Kors always just so right on in his critiques? I definitely agree with him more than I do with Nina Garcia. What?

Anyway,  according to a Stateline report, both the GOP and Democrats are using convention time this year to revamp their primary processes by 2012 in an effort to prevent such a long, drawn out effort.

Democrats plan to create a commission this week to draw up a new calendar and process for the 2012 presidential nominating schedule, while Republicans will likewise begin meeting this Wednesday (Aug. 27) to discuss a possible overhaul of the primary calendar in advance of their own convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul Sept. 1-4.