Farewell to the House

After four years of service as the Press Secretary for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, my time in the Legislature has come to an end. Due to term limits, my boss could not run for re-election. The new Speaker decided to “go in a different direction” with the next press secretary and so I’m saying farewell to the House.

The last full session day was Thursday, Dec. 18, which went past midnight and so we technically had a bonus session day that went from midnight on Friday, Dec. 19, until about 6:45 a.m.

My wife, Jessi, was around the chamber for most of the night and helped me document my last real session day. (I will be returning to the House floor on Dec. 30 to take part in Sine Die — when the Legislature adjourns “without day” — but that doesn’t really count as a real session day.)

It’s a bittersweet time in my career, when all the crazy hours, incredible social media frustrations and triumphant media relations moments cascade down around me and swirl about among my memories. But that aside, here is a collection of photos and videos shot by Jessi and I during those last hours, with some commentary to help provide context. (You can click on each picture to enlarge it if you so desire.)

Speaker Bolger office

This is the hallway outside the Speaker’s Office. When I got to work on Thursday, Dec. 18, I decided to document a few things that had become routine — something that we all risk no matter where we work. I used to always tell new employees to stop and look around from time to time – that no matter how busy they were, they should take a minute to revel in the amazing building where they were privileged to work.

Speaker Bolger office sign

The main hallway inside the Speaker's Office suite.

The main hallway inside the Speaker’s Office suite.

The actual Speaker's office - the place Jase Bolger always thanked visitors for allowing him to borrow. That sentiment is part of what made him a great public servant. I spent a lot of hours at that big table during strategy meetings.

The actual Speaker’s office – the place Jase Bolger always thanked visitors for allowing him to borrow. That sentiment is part of what made him a great public servant. I spent a lot of hours at that big table during strategy meetings.

The Speaker's desk is at the end by the window; this is an angle shot while standing at the table in the previous photo.

The Speaker’s desk is at the end by the window; this is an angle shot while standing at the table in the previous photo.

This is an old Speaker's chair - at one time it actually sat at the rostrum on the House floor but has since been replaced. Many of us have memories of sitting in this chair waiting to see Speaker Bolger; it seemed a fitting place to pass the time.

This is an old Speaker’s chair – at one time it actually sat at the rostrum on the House floor but has since been replaced. Many of us have memories of sitting in this chair waiting to see Speaker Bolger; it seemed a fitting place to pass the time.

This was the last press conference I helped Speaker Bolger with. He was speaking about the roads deal reached between the legislative leaders and Gov. Snyder. The press conference was held in the Governor's Capitol Office Parlor. If you take the Capitol tour, there are times when this room is open for viewing.

This was the last press conference I helped Speaker Bolger with. He was speaking about the roads deal reached on Thursday between the legislative leaders and Gov. Snyder. The press conference was held in the Governor’s Capitol Office Parlor. If you take the Capitol tour, there are times when this room is open for viewing.

I lost track a long time ago how many times I've gone running up and down these steps before, during and after session. This is the back stairwell that leads up to the House chamber. It's behind a "No Visitors Beyond This  Point" sign in the main Capitol hallway. I guess that will be me now.  :/

I lost track a long time ago how many times I’ve gone running up and down these steps before, during and after session. This is the back stairwell that leads up to the House chamber. It’s behind a “No Visitors Beyond This Point” sign in the main Capitol hallway. I guess that will be me now.

Here is a video of the last time I said the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor for a regular session, which was shortly after midnight on Dec. 19 when we started a “new” session day. I will always remember saying this for opening every session, but especially when we had a school group in the gallery watching us. Few groups can say the Pledge as loud and proud as a group of elementary schoolkids!

This is a very private place behind the scenes, as it is the House Republican Caucus Room. The House Democrats have one, too. It is a well-heeded rule in our caucus that what is said in this room stays in this room. It's a place where I saw Republicans spend many hours debating policies and issues with fervor but always ending with their friendship and camaraderie intact.

This is a very private place behind the scenes, as it is the House Republican Caucus Room. The House Democrats have one, too. It is a well-heeded rule in our caucus that what is said in this room stays in this room. It’s a place where I saw Republicans spend many hours debating policies and issues with fervor but always ending with their friendship and camaraderie intact.

The House Press Desk, where the Capitol Press Corps sits during session. I spent a lot of hours standing at this desk providing information and cajoling reporters, not to mention taking a few good-natured hits in return.

The House Press Desk, where the Capitol Press Corps sits during session. I spent a lot of hours standing at this desk providing information and cajoling reporters, not to mention taking a few good-natured hits in return.

Jessi took this shot, so I'm not sure what was happening. It appears I was watching a vote go up on the board. She has several shots of me standing like this throughout the night. I never realized how much I cross my arms while observing things!

Jessi took this shot, so I’m not sure what was happening. It appears I was watching a vote go up on the board. She has several shots of me standing like this throughout the night. I never realized how much I cross my arms while observing things!

Jessi took this picture, too, of Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey. I don't know what he was watching or what he was thinking; since he lost his primary election and won't be returning, I can't even imagine it. In his farewell speech, Foster told the House that we need "more politicians who are bad at politics." He is absolutely correct, and will be sorely missed in the GOP Caucus next year.

Jessi took this picture, too, of Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey. I don’t know what he was watching or what he was thinking; since he lost his primary election and won’t be returning, I can’t even imagine it. In his farewell speech, Foster told the House that we need “more politicians who are bad at politics.” He is absolutely correct, and will be sorely missed in the GOP Caucus next year.

The Speaker's job is so intense and so stressful; people have no idea how much a legislative leader and his family must endure. I love this shot that Jessi took though, because it shows Jase Bolger sharing a laugh with a colleague on the floor. Often, no matter how stressful things had gotten, Jase would let others lighten the mood with a joke and then laugh right along with them. It helped us all relieve some stress.

The Speaker’s job is so intense and so stressful; people have no idea how much a legislative leader and his family must endure. I love this shot that Jessi took though, because it shows Jase Bolger sharing a laugh with a colleague on the floor. Often, no matter how stressful things had gotten, Jase would let others lighten the mood with a joke and then laugh right along with them. It helped us all relieve some stress.

This was a chance shot that I took with Google Glass as everyone was leaving the House floor after session adjourned on Friday. I happen to glance over and catch Speaker Bolger wishing Speaker-Elect Kevin Cotter well as he prepares to take over next year.

This was a chance shot that I took with Google Glass as everyone was leaving the House floor after session adjourned on Friday. I happen to glance over and catch Speaker Bolger wishing Speaker-Elect Kevin Cotter well as he prepares to take over next year.

I didn't know Jessi had taken this picture until days later. It was on my last trip down the back stairs after session ended on Friday morning. A classic shot that I'm so glad she took.

I didn’t know Jessi had taken this picture until days later. It was on my last trip down the back stairs after session ended on Friday morning. A classic shot that I’m so glad she took.

It was just after 8 a.m. on Friday and we'd all been at work well over 24 hours. But that didn't stop Speaker Bolger from agreeing to do an interview with Frank Beckman for his radio show. It's a testament to Jase and his willingness to be open with the media right up to the very end. It also documents that even while talking on a phone, he has to use his hands to explain concepts to people. :)

It was just after 8 a.m. on Friday and we’d all been at work well over 24 hours. But that didn’t stop Speaker Bolger from agreeing to do an interview with Frank Beckman for his radio show. It’s a testament to Jase and his willingness to work with the media right up to the end. It also documents that even while talking on a phone, he has to use his hands to explain concepts to people. 🙂

The previous picture was shot on my Google Glass, and unbeknownst to me, Jessi was taking a picture of me taking that picture! This angle also shows how the Speaker's office was already being torn down and boxed up, but he and I were still working, because there was still work to be done.

The previous picture was shot on my Google Glass, and unbeknownst to me, Jessi was taking a picture of me taking that picture! This angle also shows how the Speaker’s office was already being torn down and boxed up, but he and I were still working, because there was still work to be done.

The last shot of me in my empty Capitol office before I left. Maybe it was best that I ended my work day about 27 hours after it ended, because by then I was ready to leave.

The last shot of me in my empty Capitol office before I left. Maybe it was best that I ended my work day about 27 hours after it started, because by then I was ready to leave!

This is a video I shot on the House floor with my Google Glass. It was of Speaker Bolger’s final time at the rostrum for a regular session day. It includes his farewell to the chamber and the last time he says, “The House will stand at ease at the call of the chair.”

And that’s all folks!

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Foiled again by a fantastic traveling companion

snidely whiplash

 

I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the past few days for work and then a couple of days of vacation. I found Google Glass to be a fantastic traveling companion. But then, on the drive home, I suddenly discovered my new unit that is less than a month old has already developed the fatal design flaw known as foil bubbling.

This is the second time I’ve had this happen, although my first unit lasted 6 months without any problems with the foil. Last time, it made Glass unusable immediately. This time, just the corner has bubbled, although I believe it will continue advancing its way to unusable quickly so I’m working with Google to get another replacement unit.

The “optics pod,” as Google refers to it, is the video screen you see everything with on Glass. The apparently ridiculously fragile foil covering one end prevents light from entering the end of the prism. Without it, you wouldn’t see anything. When it bubbles, you end up with magnified bubbles all over the video screen, which makes it progressively worthless. I still haven’t heard if Google has figured out to how address this fatal design flaw. I don’t envy them, because it can’t be easy to engineer a solid end to a single piece of glass cube. But c’mon, you’re Google!

Google Glass foilAs I mentioned, the foil seems to be Glass’ Achilles heel, so I am very protective of it. No liquids have come into contact with it. I’ve heard humidity is a problem, but that’s pretty hard to avoid in Michigan during the summer. Google cannot keep producing a product that only works in the environments of certain parts of the U.S. without self-destructing. I’ve also heard extreme temperature shifts may be a problem, but Glass experienced none of those the past few days.

Until this problem developed, Glass was a fantastic travel companion. Along with my Droid Maxx, it helped me put together a great photo album of our trip. It served as a wonderful navigational aid and it helped me keep track of appointments and locations via my calendar. It also worked very well as a way to chat with my kids and coworkers while we were on the road for many hours at a time and to share messages and photos with them while we were working or being tourists.

Despite all the media hype suggesting Google Glass is evil, the more I use Glass the more I see it becoming a natural extension of our mobile phones that helps us stay connected without dropping our eyes to a phone screen and becoming physically disconnected.

But until Google can address this flaw, I see a future where more people are saying they were foiled by a fantastic traveling companion or simply choose to leave that companion behind. And that would be a damn shame.

 

 

 

Blowing through the Windy City with Glass

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The obligatory skyline shot as you approach a big city, this time shot #throughglass.

My wife, Jessi, and I spent the day in Chicago with our kids yesterday and I put Glass through a number of tests, which it passed with flying colors.

I used the device to navigate from our home in Michigan and it performed quite admirably. At one point, driver error caused us to miss an exit we needed. Glass simply rerouted and took us where we needed to go without a fuss, and without nagging me about missing the exit, as some navigation companions have. That last line is for you married guys. 🙂

During one particularly long stretch where I knew I’d be on the same freeway for quite some time, I plugged Glass in to boost the battery via my truck’s USB port. While I wouldn’t have needed to just to get to Chicago, I knew I’d want to walk around there with Glass and didn’t want to worry about a drained battery — one of Glass’ true weaknesses for now. I tested wearing Glass while it was plugged in and was pleased to find that the cord does not pull down on the device at all and you could actually wear Glass while plugged in to a nearby power source, if you don’t mind the even stranger-than-usual look caused by having a cord coming out of your face.

Once we hit the city, the turn-by-turn directions with verbal notifications and overview map on the display were a blessing as we weaved our way through traffic. I found this to be the most non-distracting form of GPS navigation I’ve ever driven with because I never took my eyes off the road or surrounding vehicles. Upon arriving at our hotel, the valet attendant was the first, and so far the only person, to ask me about Glass. He had not heard of them but when I explained what the “screen camera thing” on my face was, he said it sounded quite amazing. He’s right!

2013-12-26 16.39.51

Approaching Navy Pier, aided by Glass navigation.

After settling in, we headed out to explore a bit, opting to head first to Navy Pier on foot. My wife is really good at navigating places just by getting a feel for her position and what direction she needs to go. But at one point, she wasn’t 100-percent sure, so I tapped Glass and asked for directions to Navy Pier. After switching over to “Walking” directions, we discovered Jessi was right and we proceeded.

I will note another annoying tick that occurs — Glass tends to easily lose its connection with the MyGlass app on the iPhone. So, even though you have the app open and think you’re ready to navigate, asking for directions sometimes lands you the “lost connection; open MyGlass app” screen. Simply waking up the phone and making sure MyGlass is the last app you used does the trick; the connection and subsequent directions are established quickly so it’s only a minor annoyance. Nevertheless, I’m hoping stability with the app is in the next update.

2013-12-26 17.06.38

Winter Wonderfest – a kind of indoor county fair with a Christmas theme currently operating at Navy Pier.

Once we were at Navy Pier, I used Glass to shoot some pictures and tapped into the Glassware that would give me notifications on historical or “interesting” information about things nearby.

I took Glass off and shut down its phone tether when we stopped for dinner, partly to conserve the battery and partly because I still find the device can be distracting when talking to folks around me — although I think my family is getting more used to it.

On a side note, I’ve learned the habit of carrying Glass’ case around with me. I didn’t have it at lunch while on the road and wished I had, to protect it from possible spills while it was sitting on the table. At dinner, it was nestled snuggly in its protective shield.

Walking back to the hotel, we used Glass’ directions and found a short diagonal through a park that we hadn’t used when Jessi was navigating by the stars or magnetic fields or whatever she uses to do that so well. I commented to Jessi later that turn-by-turn walking directions from Google Maps is so seamless and unobtrusive when used via Glass. I never missed any sites nor lost track of my surroundings from a safety perspective, the way I would if I had been staring at my phone screen. One of my daughters asked me if walking around Chicago wearing Glass would make us a bigger target for a mugging, but I told her it would be a lot less likely than for the people with phones in their hands.

2013-12-26 20.01.52

My girls checking out Michigan Avenue – a quick, unobtrusive, hands-free candid, shot #throughglass. (It’s a bit blurry when blown up, but we were all walking at a different pace and I’m not sure my iPhone would have done any better.)

We then headed off to Michigan Avenue to check out Chicago’s amazing shopping strip. A few pictures along the way helped document our time in the city. A couple of Google searches nabbed us some useful trivia information in the American Girl store and helped find reviews for some gloves Jessi was checking out at the Northface store.

The most amusing part of our shopping trip was when we headed into the Apple Store. I find it interesting how your group will automatically separate in that place, each being drawn to the shiny new object of their desire. Independent of each other, Jessi and one of my daughters ended up asking me if it was cool for me to be wearing Google Glass in an Apple Store or if the employees would object. Apparently, they’ve been listening when I’ve talked about the love-hate relationship Apple and Google have for each other given their symbiotic needs. I’m happy to report that other than the few standard second looks from strangers, no Apple employee accosted this Glass Explorer.

Back to the hotel for the night, I plugged Glass in again as my battery had dropped about 50 percent on our walking excursion of Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue. Not horrible given the workout I gave it in 30-degree weather, but not outstanding either.

I was reminded of another problem Glass has with wifi when we were back at the hotel, however. You connect Glass to wireless networks by adding it via the MyGlass app or the Glass website, using either to create a QR code that Glass reads and uses to connect. When it works, it’s fast and flawless. Unfortunately, there’s a major limitation in that there’s no way for Glass to join a network that requires you to click “Accept” for access. The hotel offered free wifi, but I couldn’t use it with Glass because of this limitation. Google is supposedly working on a workaround for this problem and they need to address it as a priority, especially since your pictures on Glass are backed up to Google+ only when the device is plugged in for power and on an active network. (You could share the pictures manually to your Google+ account, but that means chewing up precious data plan allowances if you have a lot to send.) One nice thing about Glass, however, is that you can plug it into your computer via its USB power cord and transfer the files that way. I use a MacBook and Dropbox, which worked together to immediately recognized my Glass and send all the files to my Camera Upload folder. That’s how I was able to take the pictures off of Glass and drop them into this blog post.

2013-12-26 16.41.01

Jessi being Jessi and playing along with me and some kid statues to get a fun picture #throughglass.

So that’s my first experience in a big city with Glass and so far I’m impressed. Oh, and if you’re so inclined to move to the Windy City, Glass alerted me that there’s an unfinished, 6,000 square foot penthouse condo available at the Ritz Carlton for $10 million. Zip me a note and I’ll send you the address…

A lowered flag, a morning salute

I went into work early this morning, thinking about all the things I needed to get done today. I stopped on my way out the door to raise the U.S. flag at my house, waited for a moment of silence, and then lowered it in honor of Heath M. Robinson. I was feeling rushed, trying to get the kids to school and was already tired when I got to work. So I decided to grab a cup of coffee at the closest Biggby. While there, I became frustrated that the cellular networks weren’t working properly and I couldn’t check in on Foursquare.

Then, on my way back to the office, I saw this majestic site:

It’s the Michigan State Capitol, with its flags lowered in honor of Heath M. Robinson and the sunrise glinting off its iconic dome. I paused, thinking what a beautiful view it was for me to witness, all alone on a chilly November morning, so I snapped a picture. Then, because I can’t stand cold weather, I hustled inside to get more of my To Do list marked off.

But then it hit me. I should be happy to be overwhelmed by a To Do list. I should be grateful that I can have such a simple life that something as silly as a failed Foursquare check-in can frustrate me. I should embrace the feeling of cold air entering my lungs. And I should value even more the hugs and kisses I got from my kids this morning as I dropped them off at school.

If you’re reading this post, you should value such things in your life, too. Because Heath M. Robinson and too many of his colleagues can no longer do any of those things. I don’t know Heath M. Robinson, and I never will. He was a Navy SEAL from Petoskey and he was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 6. He was 34 years old. Today, he’s a symbol of bravery, strength, and fortitude. His memory should serve to remind all of us of those who have served and are still serving.

So I’m pushing all of my troubles aside this morning and tipping my coffee cup to that lowered flag atop the Capitol. Won’t you join me?

Thank you, Senior Chief Petty Officer Robinson. Rest in peace.

Betting on social media

Here’s a story I wrote for Ragan.com about the use of social media by a casino in Battle Creek, Michigan —

How a Michigan casino bet big on social media—and won

Firekeepers wooed its early detractors in greater Battle Creek, and it has built an online following, especially on Facebook.
By Ari B. Adler | Posted: September 14, 2011

Before the first patron could ever try to hit a jackpot on a slot machine at the Firekeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Mich., Jeff LaFrance and his team were betting on social media for the win.

“We saw a growing trend in social media, and in January 2009 we started a Facebook page. Before the doors were opened, we had 75,000 Red Hot Rewards club members registered,” says LaFrance, marketing manager for Firekeepers.

LaFrance says the casino built up its club membership before it opened in August 2009 through online registration, driven through its website and social media.

“That built integrity for us and a solid online presence,” LaFrance says. “They know what to expect from us, they know they can trust us online—which can be difficult.”

LaFrance, one of the first 10 people hired at Firekeepers, holds a computer science degree from the University of Michigan and started as a graphic designer at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. He says getting pulled into the online interaction provided through corporate websites and social media is an ideal situation for him.

LaFrance says that although the website is the casino’s main online presence, it also uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“They’re all linked off our home page, and every other page on our website,” LaFrance says. “Overall, social media is a fantastic success story for us. It’s given us another opportunity to reach our guests and have a pulse on what is going on with our customers.”

When Firekeepers was proposed, there was a bit of an uproar in the city of 52,000 in southwest Michigan, with people worried about what its presence would mean for the community. In the two years since it opened, however, the mood seems to have changed, and the casino has become more widely accepted. Could online outreach have played a role?

Social media “can almost be used as an online focus group in some ways,” LaFrance says. “We can post questions to see what people like and what they don’t like.”

Firekeepers sometimes asks the community at large for input about an upcoming promotion or sale; other times people offer unsolicited feedback.

“People love expressing their opinions. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your audience allows you to react more quickly than ever before.”

With more than 57,500 fans on Facebook—and the total has grown every week—Firekeepers has plenty of feedback available.

“We had a big burst in the beginning once we opened, and then it trailed off for a bit. But then we invested more time, energy and content into the Facebook page, and our fan base has been steadily growing over the past six months at almost 4,000 to 5,000 per month,” LaFrance says.

Despite having a much smaller footprint in real life, Firekeepers has more Facebook fans than much larger casinos, including Hard Rock, Circus Circus and Excalibur in Las Vegas.

“For a casino in Battle Creek, Mich., to be ahead of casinos in Vegas is pretty amazing,” LaFrance says. “The key is to not use social media as a platform for you to sell everything about you. It’s meant to be social; it’s not meant to be just about you and your products.

“People will start to tune out, and you lose value in your posts. Find something interesting about your business, and engage with people.”

LaFrance says he often gets a lot more comments on the casino’s Facebook page when it posts questions completely unrelated to the casino or gaming. For example, last season it asked about the big football game between intrastate archrivals Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

“We had a few hundred comments on it. You have to give visitors a fresh way to look at you,” he says. “That gives you an identity and gives your business a stronger social presence.”

Having an open page where everyone can participate means Firekeepers hears from folks who didn’t walk away big winners. That’s to be expected, but it’s the customer service concerns that really get the team’s attention.

“Part of social media is that everybody has a voice,” LaFrance says. “We’re in the casino industry, and, unfortunately, people do lose money. With complaints about service, we reach out and address the situation and get those customers back.”

LaFrance says that positive or negative, most comments remain on the wall for all to see and for the casino to address. Vulgar language and any mentions of violence are deleted.

The communications and marketing team of six at Firekeepers also maintains Twitter and YouTube accounts, but neither has seen the success of the Facebook page. LaFrance says that’s more likely because the general casino customer demographic skews older, and older folks favor Facebook over the other social networks.

The biggest reason to be involved in social media, after all, is to connect to your customers. So, you need to be where they are.

“If you’re not spending time there, you’re missing opportunities to touch your audience,” LaFrance says. “Social media is one of biggest growth areas online and should be a tool in your toolbox. In terms of dollars spent, the monetary value isn’t there, but the importance is. We treat everything equally.”

So it’s not about spending money, but what about the time involved? LaFrance takes care of most of the social media interaction for the casino himself, and it doesn’t have to be a huge time drain, he says.

“There’s not an army of people here, but you don’t need that if you can plan things out efficiently,” LaFrance says. “Invest in creating content, and then reuse what you’re creating.”

For example, video ads for promotions and events that run on in-casino TVs will then get new life on the casino’s YouTube account and are linked on its Facebook page.

“It exposes more people to the work you’ve already done,” LaFrance says. “The reality is that social media doesn’t take that much time. You don’t have to spend 24 hours working. For me, I monitor social media all the time—after meetings at work or when I’m at home. Often, I can just check in on my phone. One of the great things is how mobile social media is. That helps you get an opportunity to address any situation and to react quickly.”

So far, Firekeepers has found a way to win with social media, and the casino doesn’t plan to stop betting on the technology anytime soon.

“We’re always researching things, keeping an eye on what’s developing in the market,” LaFrance says. “Facebook is consistently coming out with new features. The joy of social media is it never really ends. There’s always an opportunity for growth and to continue engaging.”

How many Michiganders does it take to change a lightbulb?

Detroit Free Press Editor Ron Dzwonkowski wrote a good column for today’s paper about how elected officials are often the last people to “get it.” He wrote:

“Maybe that’s why they continue to bicker and shout and pander to noisy special interest groups while most of the people they are supposed to represent would prefer cooperation, meaningful change and progress.”

I was pleased to see Dzwonkowski quote my friend Becky Johns as a representative of her generation. Becky recently wrote an excellent blog post about Future Midwest — I especially liked the part where she asks, “Now what?”

I commented on her blog, saying it really is important to make sure events like Future Midwest don’t end up just becoming a bunch of people talking to themselves about what should be done. People have to take ideas and act upon them; that’s how you create positive change in a community.

Our elected leaders — at the state and local level — are such a disappointment lately with their petty battles. I was a speaker at a conference in Oklahoma City recently and they are making some amazing, positive improvements to that city. When I asked a colleague there about the changes and whether the mayor who has been championing a lot of them is a Republican or Democrat, he seemed surprised. He said the mayor is a Republican, but noted that in Oklahoma City, that doesn’t really matter. He said the city has a good track record of not worrying about the politics and focusing more on the problem at hand.

It was tough to admit to him that one of the issues we’re facing in Michigan is that politics often is the problem at hand. Hopefully, we’ll see some sensible people elected in November who can bring to Lansing some civility and a desire to do something because it’s a good idea regardless of which party proposed it.  Here are some things I’d like to pursue over the next year:

  • We need to keep hounding people who were at Future Midwest about what they’ve accomplished so far and prod them to keep achieving even more.
  • We need to put term limits back where they belong: in the voting booth.
  • And we need to ban elected officials from running for another office until they’ve completed the term of their current office. That would avoid the scenario of a Senate majority leader running for attorney general and the speaker of the House running for governor while the state they are charged with protecting crumbles around their election campaigns. (Addendum: In all fairness to Mike Bishop and Andy Dillon, they aren’t the only two leaders distracted by their own job searches. We have state representatives running for the state Senate and local office. We have senators running for countywide offices, the Secretary of State’s office and Congress. We have a congressman and an attorney general running for governor. And we have countywide officials running for governor and secretary of state while our secretary of state runs for lieutenant governor. No wonder no one can focus on the job at hand — they’re all too busy trying to land their next one.)

I hope Becky and her peers never lose their desire to do more than just talk about what’s wrong. In the end, they are not only the future of this state, but the catalyst to sweep away the flotsam and jetsam that is bobbing around the state Capitol and the city halls of Southeast Michigan. And those of us in other generations can help them do this. Get involved in the election process. Find out what a person really stands for and don’t vote based on what you see on TV ads or the campaign literature that is filled with half-truths, or worse.

In addition, let’s start working together across generations. People often wring their hands and wonder why young college graduates are leaving Michigan. Maybe that’s because, too often, we’re not giving them a reason to stay. It’s not just about jobs. Sometimes it’s about knowing that there is a bright future in Michigan. The light bulb has dimmed in the Great Lakes State, so it’s time for a new one.

How many Michiganders does it take to change a light bulb? All of us. So let’s get to it.

(Photo courtesy of Armistead Booker’s Flickr stream.)

Who reports on outsourcing when the news is outsourced?

The Chief Suit in Charge of Stupid Ideas at MediaNews Group, also known as CEO Dean Singleton, recently called for the outsourcing of newsroom activities at newspapers across the United States.

Who is going to report on the loss of jobs, the loss of journalistic integrity and the ridiculous concept of having people in other states and maybe even other countries handling your local news if the journalists are the ones being outsourced?

This isn’t some small-town local paper publisher saying this. It’s the CEO of MediaNews Group – the corporation that publishes The Denver Post, The Detroit News and 52 other daily newspapers.

This issue should not be shrugged off by the industry or its customers.

Singleton did say no decision has been made to outsource newsroom functions, so maybe you think I’m jumping the gun by sounding the alarm?

I don’t think so. Pre-production work for newspapers owned by MediaNews Group is now almost entirely done in India and Singleton said they’re talking about outsourcing delivery and circulation call centers. Singleton is quoted saying he thinks all-electronic editions of newspapers make sense, as do beefing up advertising sales forces and publishing more niche publications like wedding planners to sell more ads.

Any time these corporate suits think they can make or save a buck, consequences be damned.

As of this afternoon, there is confirmation that Booth Newspapers is consolidating newsrooms in Michigan. Jim Carty does a good job of outlining what’s going on at his blog, Paper Tiger No More.

The newspaper industry is already wondering if it should be drafting its obituary. If people like Singleton and the suits at Booth are allowed to continue destroying local newspapers, then it’s already past deadline.

Will Michigan turn completely blue in 2010?

I attended a pundit summit in Lansing, Michigan this afternoon where folks involved in elections and politics from the public and private sectors came together to talk about what happened on Nov. 4.

One of the panels discussed the presidential campaign in Michigan. The panelists included two people involved in the Obama and McCain campaigns. Holly Hughes is a National Committeewoman for the Republican Party and a losing candidate for a state House seat. She was joined by Amy Chapman, Michigan Director of the Obama for America Campaign.

Chapman noted that, in Michigan at least, the Dems were able to use the Obama win to make sweeping changes in the balance of power at state and local levels throughout the state.

Chapman said she felt great about what they were able to do organizationally, which is an important point. Several reporters and pundits throughout the country have commented how the Obama campaign was more organized than the McCain campaign was. I can’t speak about either campaign personally, but I can tell you from talking to friends and colleagues that many Republican campaigns in Michigan were a mess.

Hughes said 2010 would be a whole other story. While Chapman said the Dems’ work this year will help with more Democrat ticket sweeps in two years, Hughes disagreed. Never giving up on her Republican Kool-Aid spin, Hughes said Obama’s honeymoon will end quickly and, particularly in Michigan, we’ll see more tough times ahead. According to Hughes, that means Michiganders will be ready to hand control back to the GOP at the state level in 2010.

The political situation in Michigan is critical in 2010 because the stage has been set for the Democrats to take over completely. They could hold on to the governor’s office and the state House. They could take over the state Senate for the first time in nearly three decades and they could land a majority on the state Supreme Court. Impressive on its own merit, that kind of sweep would put the Democrats in a position where they can take on the task of redistricting for state and congressional districts in Michigan without a challenge. That means they get to draw the voting maps used through 2020.

What do you think? Is Michigan going to turn entirely blue in two years? Or will we take the usual road the Great Lakes State follows and keep a mixed bag of leadership fighting for attention in Lansing?