Infrastructure Week in Illinois intended to sell needed repairs and funds

This week is one intended to help promote needed funding for infrastructure in Illinois:

With a new Illinois capital program delayed as the state goes 11 months without a budget, transit leaders have been sounding the alarm in both Washington, D.C., and Springfield about the dangers of waiting too long to invest in infrastructure. Business, labor and transit leaders will ramp up discussion nationwide Monday for the start of the thrillingly named Infrastructure Week.

It’s a tough sell — roads, buses and trains seem to work just fine until they don’t, and politicians don’t like to raise gas taxes or other user fees. Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Leanne Redden admits that funding for bridges, signals and tunnels is not a sexy topic, but it’s crucial to keep the system going the way it should…

The Metropolitan Planning Council, which consulted with RTA officials and other experts around Illinois, determined that meeting the state’s transportation deficit requires an additional $43 billion over 10 years — on top of what is already expected in terms of capital funding…

He noted that no system is going to be in perfect shape all the time — it’s like your house, you want to keep it in a state of at least 90 percent repair, with a few projects on a to-do list. But Illinois’ state of repair is currently below 80 percent and could drop below 60 percent in the next five years, Skosey said.

It is unclear from this article whether this week is aimed at the public – who often doesn’t pay much attention to infrastructure and generally doesn’t like paying increased taxes for public services – or state officials and legislators – who aren’t doing much of anything in Illinois these days. I assume the general goal is to raise awareness but what would they like the public to do? Call a political leader? Vote different in the 2016 election?

Thinking about the role of governments, the public tends to assume or hope that governments will do the prudent thing for the future. In terms of infrastructure, this usually means keeping up with maintenance and taking care of needed changes before the situation gets dire. But, given the short-term outlook of many politicians these days plus many competing interests, infrastructure needs are often kicked down the road. Yet, compared to other major issues that can continue to be kicked down the road, at some point roads, railroad systems, airports, electric grids, and other necessary pieces of infrastructure can and will literally crumble and will require immediate attention.

Indiana again takes aim at Illinois businesses

The Illinoyed campaign ended but Indiana has a new strategy to lure Illinois businesses. From the featured story on the A State That Works website:

The state of Illinois has been drowning in debt for years due to mismanagement, and their only solution is to keep raising taxes. Sound familiar? Illinois taxpayers have been picking up the tab for longer than anyone cares to remember, but it wasn’t always that way.

Ten years ago Indiana and Illinois had the same AA credit rating, but the unfunded pension debt crisis in Illinois has steadily deteriorated over the years, to the point that their current credit rating of A- is the worst in the nation.

Illinois is borrowing a staggering amount of money to pay for state services and they’re seen as a bad risk to keep making those payments, according to the rating agencies. In fact, the interest alone on Illinois’ unfunded liabilities is about $1.5 billion per year…

Indiana is deliberately making smart financial decisions and defining what a state can do to pass the savings of efficient government on to their taxpayers by eliminating debt, keeping taxes low and continually balancing their budget.  It’s a refreshing change from a state like Illinois that has taxpayers picking up the tab for a public debt-management crisis, and it’s what makes Indiana a state that works.

Such efforts have been going on for quite a while yet I haven’t seen evidence that shows a campaign like this works. I’ve long suspected this is more about scoring easy political points than anything else; “look at the good things happening in Indiana while Illinois languishes.” Yet, somehow the Chicago region with its 9+ million people hangs on and the city is continually ranked as one of the top 10 global cities in the world.

One side note: part of northwest Indiana is in the Chicago metropolitan region. According to this campaign, some might get the best of both worlds: the residents and businesses get the lower taxes, less political gridlock, and less debt yet get to take advantage of the jobs and other opportunities the Chicago area offers. In the long run, a significant decline in Illinois or Chicago’s fortunes probably would have some residual negative effects not just on northwest Indiana but also the entire state.

Chicago Epic marketing cut due to state budget

Chicago rolled out an “Epic” campaign this spring to attract tourists but it is now no more due to a lack of state funding:

Chicago’s latest tourism campaign, Epic, is about to end two months early thanks to epic budget cuts at the state level.

Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism program, is losing 40 percent of its operating budget in the latest set of state budget cuts, according to Crain’s. That means Epic, the (perhaps unimaginative) summer tourism campaign launched in April with a TV ad encouraging viewers to “be part of something epic,” would end July 1 rather than run through the summer. Unless they are talking about an epically rainy June, the campaign ending this early wouldn’t leave much sizzle in the summer tourism industry.

Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh said in statement that the program will lose most of its funding, from the state hotel tax, unless there is a last-minute approval of the state’s 2016 fiscal budget—increasingly unlikely as the week progresses…

The loss of Epic could deal a blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vow to boost tourism to 55 million visitors by 2020. Crain’s says Rauner, who was once the chairman of Choose Chicago, believes tourism is a boon to the local economy.

Two quick thoughts:

1. If you go with a catch term like “epic,” it is bound to be used sarcastically if something goes wrong (like the campaign ends early). Not exactly epic…

2. How do we – the public – know that such marketing campaigns work? Even though the Epic campaign is ending early, did it have any influence? Did the slogan catch on? What does this mean for future Chicago marketing campaigns? Just because a big campaign was out there doesn’t mean that it did much in this media and advertising saturated world.

Cities ineffectively selling water conservation with sex, emotions, and shame

Several American cities are making different marketing pitches for residents to save water:

The bus ads, billboards, and throatily narrated videos have been entertaining and educating S.F. residents since last year, but they recently picked up steam in the media. And last week, the S.F. Public Utilities Commission announced they’re throwing another $300,000 into extending the campaign, for more signs about full frontal washing machines and advice to nozzle your hose

If Exhibit A is San Francisco’s conservation porn, then Exhibit B is Los Angeles’ heart-string-tugging “Save the Drop” campaign. Launched by the Mayor’s office in April, it features an adorable, sad-eyed cartoon water-drop. “Water isn’t angry about your 20-minute shower. Just disappointed,” reads one poster. The drop, also featured in a series of videos narrated by Steve Carrell, takes the opposite approach from San Francisco’s cheeky sex-positive ads: It’s all about the emotional appeal. Enter the violins…

Denver, Colorado, has taken a decidedly different tack with their conservation campaigning. Perhaps taking a hint from the schadenfreude-fueled hashtaggery known as #droughtshaming, Denver officials simply want to make you feel bad. The 2014 “Use What You Need” campaign reminds citizens not to be “that guy”—you know, the Pomeranian-owning dude who waters his lawn outside the assigned hours, or that couple who lets their sprinklers run in the rain.

And the article then goes to an expert psychologist in this field who knows whether such strategies actually get people to change their behavior:

“Mass media campaigns, by and large, are ineffective at changing behavior,” he says. “The research is really consistent in showing that what you’ll get is raised awareness—and that’s about it.

Much more effective are more active strategies that encourage people to make changes to their living situations, like rebates for replacing grass lawns or old, wasteful fixtures. “That’s where you’re going to see long-term, lasting change,” says Schultz, “rather than a short-term, immediate response you get from a billboard.”

Perhaps the cities and states running such campaigns don’t know that their marketing ploys won’t really work. But, I assume they do know this – and maybe it doesn’t matter whether it works or not. At the least, the marketing allows them to say they tried to make people aware. If the public didn’t respond appropriately, then it isn’t necessarily the government’s faulty. Plus, this kind of marketing can be rolled out fairly quickly while more effective strategies for changing behaviors may take much longer. Many elected officials have a short-term view (elections are always coming up soon) though dealing with conservation isn’t just about the immediate drought but rather also avoiding droughts in the future.

Indiana moving away from “Illinoyed” campaign to attract businesses?

Indiana continues campaigns to catch the attention of Illinois firms but it may soon take a different tone:

For three years, in an economic development strategy aimed squarely at jobs and revenue in higher-tax states, Indiana has been trying to poach Illinois businesses. While they say the tactic has succeeded wildly, officials in Illinois say the impact of cross-border moves largely has been a wash, more political theater than anything substantive…

Kelly Harrington Nicholl, head of marketing at the development corporation since 2009, is the woman behind Indiana’s most memorably catty catchphrases: “Illinoyed” and “Stillinoyed.” But after years of poking fun at its fiscally challenged neighbor, Indiana is about to soften its tone. “We’re not going to beat up on Chicago anymore,” Smith says.

This means that a cluster of billboards along I-90 cautioning northbound drivers that higher taxes lie ahead will come down soon, Nicholl says. “It’s time to play nice,” she says. She declines to say whether Illinois’ newly elected Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, has anything to do with it. “There is a sunset to everything.”…

Despite Indiana’s bravado, the number of state-to-state moves are increasing in both directions, according to an analysis of preliminary data by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The data, supplied by New Jersey-based research firm Dun & Bradstreet, show 70 companies in Illinois relocated their entire business or branches of their business to Indiana in 2013, up from 40 in 2012. During the same period, 48 companies in Indiana moved all or portions of their businesses to Illinois, up from 39 in 2012.

The shift in political theater is noteworthy. Did everyone in Indiana get the political things they wanted? While the shift may be due to Rauner’s election, I wonder if it could also be due to (1) the Illinoyed campaign wearing out (marketing campaigns have a limited shelf life before people stop responding and (2) recognition that, according to the data, the campaign has been a wash (even popular lines can’t hold up forever if not supported by evidence). The competition between the states is likely not completely over but it is interesting to consider how Illinois and Indiana might cooperate to enhance the economies of both states…

National Association of Realtors wants an exemption for drones

The National Association of Realtors is asking the FAA to allow the use of drones for selling real estate:

The trade group last month asked the Federal Aviation Administration for a regulatory exemption to the agency’s rule on the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes, saying the go-ahead would be a “game changer for the real estate industry” and a “creative and dynamic way” to present a property…

By the end of November, the FAA is expected to propose rules for the commercial use of drones that weigh less than 55 pounds.

For the real estate industry, an exemption could lead to widespread use of drones to market homes, the surrounding neighborhood and even the walk to school or drive to the closest grocery store…

“It’s great to offer an aerial view of a piece of property,” Rodriquez said. “Where it can really be used is on the home inspection side of things, inspecting roofs, before you send a live human up there. Do I think it’s going to be a game changer in the real estate industry? Possibly, but it all depends on how it’s marketed.”…

“For normal properties, normally sized properties, they are absolutely not necessary,” said Mario Greco, a real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group. “It’s hard enough to take a good picture of a condo, or a kitchen, with a professional camera.

This has some interesting potential, particularly with larger properties and places with backyards that are not easily seen from street views. It is often difficult to judge a backyard with typical photos. Still, the drone photos could hide certain features, like what you see from the back patio or deck, depending on the angle.

Yet, what would stop these drones from getting shots from other properties or photographing other things while in the air? I don’t want a whole mass of regulation for this but it is hard to limit drones once they are in the air.

The different demographics of viewers of America’s major sports

Derek Thompson highlights the varied demographics of viewers of the major sports in the United States:

  • The NBA has the youngest audience, with 45 percent of its viewers under 35. It also has the highest share of black viewers, at 45 percent—three times higher than the NFL or NCAA basketball.
  • Major League Baseball shares the most male-heavy audience, at 70 percent, with the NBA.
  • The NHL audience is the richest of all professional sports. One-third of its viewers make more than $100k, compared to about 19 percent of the general population.
  • Nascar’s audience has the highest share of women (37 percent) and highest share of white people (94 percent).
  • The Professional Golfers Association has the oldest audience by multiple measures: smallest share of teenagers; smallest share of 20- and early 30-somethings; and highest share of 55+ (twice as high, in the oldest demo, as the NBA or Major League Soccer).
  • Major League Soccer has the highest share of Hispanics by far (34 percent; second is the NBA at 12 percent) and the lowest income of any major sports audience. Nearly 40 percent of its fans make less than $40k.
  • The NCAA demographics for football and basketball are practically identical but they are surprising old (about 40% over 55+) and surprisingly white (about 80%), which clearly has as much to do with who owns a TV rather than who follows the sports.

There are much smaller demographic differences – say across gender as all of these sports have primarily male viewers – and larger ones, particularly across race and ethnicity, income, and race.

I wonder if this could all be easily deduced by watching the commercials that play during the games. While the average fan may not be aware of these demographic splits, advertisers most certainly are and target the audience accordingly. Yet, I can’t say I quickly can name notable advertisement differences between the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL off the top of my head in the same way I quickly notice a difference in advertisements when turning on the network news at night (a very rare occurrence).