Hey Wisconsin Democrats: There’s Lots to do In Illinois

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Protests continue to dominate the news these days. Whether it’s repressed citizens trying to end decades of repressive rule by sociopaths or state workers rallying to retain collective bargaining rights, people are taking to the streets in droves.

Unfortunately, some die or are severely wounded standing up for their respective cause.  That’s the case, of course, in many Arab states in North Africa and the Middle East.   And, as The PRDude reported last time, protests and revolutions underway these days are televised and analyzed.

State workers in our neighboring state of Wisconsin have protested in the capitol city of Madison since February 11.   As noted above, the big issue is preserving collective bargaining rights.  But the real issue, of course, centers on money.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is trying to push through legislation that would save the sate money. In the eyes of union workers, the new laws would strip union workers of the key reason labor unions were formed: To negotiate as a force regarding pay, benefits and other issues.  A vote is being held up because a dozen or so Democratic state senators are no where to be found.





Without a quorum, there’s a stalemate.

These rogue legislators allegedly have left the state to hide out in exile here in Illinois.  Where are these ex-patriot pols staying during their visit?  (For the record, we have plenty of Democrats here; in fact, one, Rahm Emanuel, was just elected mayor of Chicago. But that’s for another post.)  No one knows for sure, however some have shown up on TV.

Like Wisconsin and many other of the 50 states, Illinois is in dire financial straits. That’s why I’m thrilled to learn we have some visitors who may be here for the long haul.  (As of this evening, the protests around the beautiful capitol building in Madison continued; and the “vanishing” legislators remained underground.)  We could use the sales tax revenue.

In a laudable effort of good faith, I offer our neighbors from America’s Dairy Land these suggestions on what to do while visiting the Land of Lincoln.

1.  Visit Springfield. Our state capitol is located in just about the geographic center of the state, where it’s pretty flat.  Yes, there’s historic sites honoring Abraham Lincoln, but not a whole lot else to do.  Springfield also is known as a place where the top politician, the governor, has gotten into trouble.  In fact, four of the last seven Illinois governors have been convicted of crimes; three went to jail, and another may end up there.  On second thought: Stay away from Springfield.

2.  View Chicago’s Breathtaking Lakefront. Chicago, like the neighboring metropolis of Milwaukee, is largely defined by its location on the western shore of Lake Michigan.  We’re very proud of our 29 miles of lakefront, most of which is parkland. And, now it’s easy to tour our storied front yard because the cars stranded along Lake Shore Drive during the Groundhog Day blizzard have long been towed away.

3.  Take in a Fine Meal. Some of the finest restaurants in the nation — make that the world — are located in Illinois.  Well, more precisely in Chicago. And today, the culinary charge is led by a bold young chef named Grant Achatz of the Michelin three-star restaurant Alinea. It can take months. And months. And months to get a reservation at this temple to fine dining.  But take heart Wisconsin legislators: Mr. Achatz is about to his next restaurant — Next.  Forget the unsuccessful attempts at scoring that a table at Alinea.  Here’s the policy at Next: “Instead of reservations our bookings will be made more like a theater or a sporting event. Your tickets will be fully inclusive of all charges, including service.”   Not sure when Next will open, though.

And, of course, our Wisconsin friends could just hang out with some of our local elected officials.  Many have not yet been indicted.

Random Thoughts on Egypt: The Revolution That Was Televized

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Back in late 1960s and early 1970s,  much of popular culture was galvanized behind preparing for some kind of  “revolution” from the status quo, from the government, from time-honored American ideals.  This revolutionary zeal was fueled by opposition to the war in Vietnam, the civil right movement, woman’s liberation and other developments.  The message was delivered for the most part by popular music.

In 1970, a fellow Chicagoan named Gil Scott-Heron penned a prose poem song set to bongos called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which addressed the superficiality of television and a lot of other stuff going back in that tempestuous time.   Scott-Heron’s music career and life hit the skids a decade ago, but he’s back playing music.

Given the true revolution that continues to take place in Egypt today, I question whether this sustained, relatively peaceful movement to dispel 30-year president Mubarak would have happened had it not been for television and that more modern form of communication, social media.  The world saw the demonstrations live and in color, literally every night since January 25.

The revolution in Egypt, was, indeed televised, and it will continue to dominate world news for months.

Here are a few other questions:

  1. As noted, the mass rallies in Cairo and other Egyptian cities were organized in part through social media. Will this be the template for future revolutions in the Mid East or elsewhere?  Will despots in power shut down online communications to prevent movements from happening in their countries?
  2. It’s relatively easy to start a revolution, but there’s no real solid formula for putting a nation back together.  What political, cultural, social and economic factors will be in play when Egyptians launch a new democratic government?
  3. Egypt’s position in the world and the Middle East, is of course, in question because we really don’t know who will be in charge and how and when that person will be elected.  What public relations strategies and tactics will be employed to help define and shape the new Egypt?  Will public relations as defined by many of us — the practice to build relationships through effective communication, open disclosure of information and sharing ideas — be a part of the new Egypt?

These and other questions surely will surface in the days and months to come. And, the results surely will be televised.  And tweeted.  And posted on Facebook.

Random Thoughts on the Blizzard of 2011 — The Aftermath

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

It’s over, except for the haphazard mounds of snow and some sore muscles from shoveling what is on record as the third largest snowfall in Chicago.  Some interesting human behavior can be chronicled following a weather-driven event like the blizzard that hit Chicago and much of the country Tuesday and Wednesday.  Want some proof?  Note the images below.


I shoveled and plowed this myself!

Neighbors helping neighbors to secure a valued parking space.









Here are some random thoughts and observations.  Note to my friends in warm weather climates:  Don’t gloat over our misery, and I won’t gloat the next time you have to cope with a hurricane, heat wave or earthquake.

The Instant Snow Community. Within hours after the final snowflake, heck while snow was still falling, my neighbors and I were out in force. Shoveling sidewalks, around cars, stairs and gangways, which is what we call the walkway between houses.  People I’ve never met, never seen on the street — and we’ve lived here 10-plus years — talked to each other while shoveling or traversing the sidewalks and streets to get to one of the few retailers opened.

This community spirit will carry over to tomorrow’s commute on the rapid transit train we call  the “el,” short for elevated.  Those of us heading back to work by train or bus will commiserate about the amount of snow we moved, and all will be well. We’re kindred spirits.  Then, reality will set in.  The trains and buses will be late and crowded.  Tempers will flare and lead to pushing for a space or seat.  Harsh words will follow.  I know this will happen because I’ve lived through the two larger snowfalls.

Parking Dibs: A Chicago Tradition. Reportedly, this practice takes place in other cities, but here it’s a long-standing practice.  It goes like this: After a significant snow, like the one we just experienced, or an even relatively minor snow event, those with cars who park on the street can “claim” a spot if they shovel it out.  They mark the “claim” with all sorts of stuff: Lawn furniture.  Sawhorses.  Kids toys.  Planks of wood hoisted on buckets.  And other creative stuff.  One of our newspaper columnists even claims to offer dibs guidelines.  The practice is illegal, since the City owns the streets. But it’s tolerated.  Violators face penalties, including vandalism to their vehicle.  I even heard of one violator having his car covered with water on a frigid night; the result, as you can imagine, was not pretty.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Snow Throwers. When I learned of the pending blizzard, I did not fear the aftermath.  Even living on a corner lot, which includes a 125-foot stretch of sidewalk on the east side, I had a secret weapon. Actually, it’s a 5 hp Airens snow thrower.  Self propelled, this vintage machine was recently tuned up and ready for any amount of snow.  So I thought.  The tires on my trusty machine spun like a car on a snow-covered street, making my efforts to clear the walk much more challenging than anticipated.  I had to shovel a path by hand, then follow up with the Airens.  My neighbors with their light-weight kiddie-type snow throwers must have been laughing at me.

The Blizzard of 2011 dominated news coverage, as it should.  Chicago officially got 20.2 inches this week; and, for the record, I lived through the first and second snowiest storms on record.  Viewers of TV newscasts got reports from reporters standing adjacent to our expressways, reports on people stranded in their cars, reports of good will and even heroism.  And, unfortunately, this monster storm has claimed lives.

But those of us who made it through the storm must carry on with our lives, albeit with a little more caution.  Bob Dylan summed up what’s happening around here, inadvertently, in a song called “You Ain’t Going Nowhere. “

Random Thoughts During the Blizzard of 2011

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Just got an email from the boss.  “Snow day” tomorrow.  And for good reason. As I write this Chicago and our neighbors in around a dozen or so states are getting pommeled by a ferocious winter storm. A true blizzard.

These are some images taken outside our home a few hours ago.

Looking south on Whipple Street.

Looking north on Whipple Street.

As you can see from these photos, we’re getting some “weather” from all directions.  (It was pretty much the same from the east and west perspectives.

But enough weather.  Since I won’t be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, I can stay up late and deliver a few random thoughts.

  1. The Year In Review. I’m referring to 2010. Yes, I know we’re a month into 2011, but I’ve been busy with my terrific new job and other “stuff.”  The nice folks at WordPress sent me (and other bloggers I trust) an analysis of our posts from last year.   The PRDude blog was viewed around 1,700 times, or enough to fill four Boeing 747 passenger jets.  Let me offer 1,700 “thank yous” to everyone who took the time to read my posts.   My most popular post was an unabashed self-promotion blog designed to help me secure a job.   Another popular post was the one announcing that I reached my goal: I secured that next great new position.Granted, I don’t have massive numbers or get my posts included in the daily summaries from my friends at PRSA or the folks who run MyRagan.  When I launched the PRDude, I just wanted a forum to share my thoughts and commentary with anyone in the communications industry who wanted to read them.  I don’t expect to make money (but I’d take it) or shape opinion on public relations, marketing and communications.   But I’ll continue to have a voice, and enjoy throwing out ideas when I can.
  2. A Different Perspective on Business Meetings. A few days ago, some of my colleagues and I attended business meetings held by the international organization that the association I work for is affiliated with.  Along with the fact the meetings were held in sunny and warm Orlando, I thoroughly enjoyed learning and networking with other professionals from across the nation and Canada.  After nearly a dozen years being part of the team that organized business meetings, I got to participate in the meetings as an attendee rather than staff.  This experience reinforced to me that there’s really no substitute to face-to-face communications, and that well-run meetings — like the one I attended — are critical.
  3. To Work With People Who Are Passionate About PR. Roughly one-third of my career was spent in the agency side of public relations and advertising.  I thoroughly enjoyed the environment, the challenges and constant need to keep pitching new business.  One benefit of my current job is that I am the key point person between our organization and a firm we work with on a retainer basis.  The team assigned to our account are smart, responsive and just as passionate about public relations as I am.  I feel energized working with these outstanding professionals.

Okay.  Need to get some rest. The forecast calls for lots more snow over the next 12-plus hours.