Monday, July 30, 2012

Jane Adams on Tourism

Councilwoman Jane Adams has a lengthly post on Carbondale as a tourism destination.  She makes a couple of important points:

1) Unlike Mt. Vernon and Marion, Carbondale is a destination community.  People are drawn here primarily by the University and then by the hospitals. They spend nights here, rather than a night on the way to someplace else.

2) the annual $60,000 grant received as a result of being a certified tourist bureau should not be the "tail that wags the dog."  The council and by implication, the community, should decide first the best way to deal with Carbondale's tourism situation, then seek the grant if that proves applicable. If the city signs with Southernmost Illinois or Illinois South, it needs to be because of the services the organization brings to the table, not because we would retain the grant money.

3) use of the internet and social medial   I missed this when listening to their presentations at the last city council meeting but neither of the two aformentioned organizations discussed their internet or social media use, focusing instead on print media.  In today's culture, not focusing on the Internet, is like ignoring four-color printing when  it became available.

Friday, July 27, 2012

More from Wissmann on Tourism

Here's the remainder of Councilman Wissmann's email on why he supports turning the city's tourism efforts over to Southernmost Illinois:

Here are my revised reasons for preferring Southernmost to a reconstituted Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau:

(1) We'd need to pay off the CCTB's sizable debt, for which the city isn't responsible. That debt stands at about $40,000- and mounting. We'd also need to extricate the CCTB from some bad deals, like the lease, which is costing them an exorbitant amount. Our money should go into productive tourism promotion and not a bailout necessitated by poor management and board oversight.

(2) By the time we kick off the current CCTB board members and replace them, get the new board to meet, create new bylaws, figure out what it wants in a new director, advertise the position, conduct interviews, and hire someone, we could be in October or November. If we go with Southernmost, however, we would not need to rebuild- we could start moving by August at the latest, in partnership with a good organization with a proven track record.

(3) We really need to market the entire region, rather than just Carbondale. Southernmost has the wine trails in their territory, we have the hotels. Southernmost has the Shawnee, we have the restaurants and university and nightlife. We can successfully appeal to far more people with a regional approach than if we remain independent. On the other hand- especially if the Jackson County Board signs with Southernmost- staying with the CCTB could send the signal that we don't want to work together with the rest of the region, and reinforce the mage with which the CCTB saddled our city.

(4) Though the Illinois Office of Tourism encourages cooperation, bureaus can only expend state dollars on the regions in which they are certified. Thus, if we reconstitute the CCTB as a certified bureau to exclusively market the city, then hire Southernmost or another bureau to handle cooperative, regional marketing efforts, we will probably encounter some frustrating limitations that we could overcome by joining a single bureau.

(5) Due to past performance- and ongoing political theater- even with a completely new board and director, I see the CCTB as an incredibly hard sell to the public. The brand is damaged beyond repair. If we were to create an energy or financial startup, we would not go with Enron or Bear Stearns, even with a new director and board. Let's not go with the local tourism equivalent.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wissman on Tourism

Chris Wissmann sent out the email below to the council detailing his reasons for supporting the choice of  Southernmost Illinois over a reconstituted Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau:

Today I spoke with Jan Kemmerling at the Illinois Office of Tourism, and she corrected a few misconceptions I had regarding our situation. Accordingly, I have revised my reasons for endorsing Southernmost and included them below. Meanwhile, I hope I can share a few additional thoughts.

Certainly, I understand- and have vocally advocated on behalf of- greater city oversight of how tax dollars allocated for tourism are spent. And I understand the reticence of the council to turn over a sizable sum of money- ranging in recent years to as much as $317,000- to an organization that will not exclusively market Carbondale as a tourism destination. In other words, we should not want a great percentage of Carbondale's tourism budget spent to promote riverboat gambling in Metropolis.

There is a way around this, however- and it is part of Southernmost's proposal: The city would contract with Southernmost to serve as our certified bureau and  we would provide a modest sum to them- say, the city's $65,000 in state matching funds- to include Carbondale in their regional marketing efforts. (The city should place conditions on the use of those funds to ensure that we are not funding our competition, but cooperating to everyone's greater good.)
The great majority of the city's tourism budget could then go to a local office. And Southernmost is willing to open a semi-autonomous subsidiary with a Carbondale office, staff, and board that would be exclusively dedicated to marketing Carbondale events and attractions. (The council could appoint the board, or even, in a capacity similar to that of the Local Liquor Control Commission, serve as the Carbondale Tourism Commission. The latter option would require that the board comply with the Open Meetings Act, and help foster transparency.)

Should Southernmost do this, the city would benefit in numerous ways, including from economies of scale. Southernmost, for example, already has a capable director, so the Carbondale office would not need a director, but a manager, saving in personnel costs. As part of Southernmost, the office wouldn't need to incur numerous other expenses, like a separate audit- those items would get folded into Southernmost's existing budget.

Should the city council feel it wants more control than that option allows, we still could hire Southernmost as our certified bureau, again for a modest sum, and charge them with including us in their regional tourism mission. Meanwhile, we could set up an independent or in-house local office with its own staff and board. This would, however, require taking on all the expenses required by a fully independent or in-house office, including a director's salary- meaning that less money would get spent on promoting the city- but it doesn't preclude hiring Southernmost as our certified bureau.

Under any circumstance, a local office will require some time to set up. But at least Southernmost can immediately include Carbondale into their ongoing promotion of the region while a local office organizes.

In any event, in my meetings and conversations with them, Southernmost's director and board have expressed how open they are to serving Carbondale. They are polite, respectful, professional, and willing to be flexible.

The mayor and city manager have also met with them; I know that Southernmost's director and board are also willing to meet with you. I hope you'll take the time to do so, and think that you will come away as impressed as I was.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bus Routes

A blog reader pointed out this story Channel 12 ran on the end of the Saluki Express route to JALC.  It appears the situation is not as bad as the two students at Tuesday's city council made it out.  According to the story, JALC is working with Rides Mass Transit to add five routes to its current schedule to accommodate Carbondale residents who attend JALC.  The new routes and stops are expected in place by the time the Saluki Express stops August 2.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 17 City Council Meeting

Was busy with other stuff earlier in the evening so didn't tune into last night's city council meeting until the discussion on what to do about tourism.

Representatives of two organizations, ILLINOISouth and Southermost Illinois, were on hand making presentations (the Williamson County Tourism Bureau had said it was not interested in partnering with Carbondale and the proposal regarding working with the Carbondale Park District has gone by the wayside).  Should Carbondale partner with either one, the city would be an outlier in the organization, lying at the far Southern end of the region covered by ILLINOISouth and at the northern end of that covered by Southernmost Illinois.

Of the two organizations, Southernmost Illinois is the better fit, as its main office is located in Anna and the organization promotes tourism in the seven counties to the south of us, which is where Carbondale would focus if it wants to develop itself as a tourism hub.  Ed Benyas, representing the Jackson County Board, spoke to the council in favor of Southernmost Illinois, indicating that the county had opted to partner with the organization to promote Jackson County tourism. 

Southernmost Illinois also indicated, if I understood correctly, they would give Carbondale three members on the organization's board as well as open an office in Carbondale, while ILLINOISouth only indicated they would dedicate a staff member to the community, with no guarantee to open an office.  Southernmost Illinois appeared much more willing to accommodate the city, as the amount of money Carbondale would bring to the organization exceeds its total current budget.

Council's major concern, and the reason city staff proposes bringing the tourism function in-house, is the lack of control the city would have by outsourcing tourism functions and the fear that tourist activities within the city would not get appropriate attention.    Both City Manager Kevin Baity and Mayor Fritzler noted the city would lose $60,000 in state funding for this year by turning over tourism functions to another organization, however to retain the funding would require the city to re-establish the now defunct Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau as a city organization and assume responsibility for its debts, totaling about $34,000.  Councilwoman Corene McDaniels prefers this option as well, while Councilman Chris Wissmann appeared to lean towards joining with Southernmost Illinois.

In the end, after a short recess, the city took no action, instead deciding to study the situation and various proposals further, though it appears that either partnering with Southernmost Illinois or re-establishing a CCTB under city control are the preferred options.

In citizen comments, a pair of John A. Logan students asked the city for help in re-establishing mass transit from Carbondale to John A. Logan College.  Since SIUC moved its automotive technology facilities from Carterville to the new facilities at the Southern Illinois Airport, SIUC has discontinued the Saluki Express route from the SIUC campus that many JALC students residing in Carbondale used to get to the campus.  Councilman Monty suggested Jackson County Mass Transit while Wissmann recommended looking at Williamson County RIDES program.  Lance Jack said the city should investigate some way to provide transportation for JALC students in Carbondale to the campus and the mayor asked the students to give their names to city staff with a promise to look further into the matter to see what could be done.  The city does provide over $14,000 in funding annually to keep Saluki Express buses running when school is out of session so perhaps some additional funds could be directed to re-establishing a JALC route.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Food-Coop and Liquor License

Councilwoman Jane Adams posted a look at items on the City Council agenda on her blog recently.  One of the items she mentioned was the State Liquor Commission's refusal to renew the Neighborhood Co-op's liquor license application, since she and other council members are members/owners of the co-op.  From Adams' blog:

As I was writing this blog I got a call from the manager of the Neighborhood Coop. Very apologetically, he said that their 2012-13 liquor license application had “been flagged” by the State Liquor Control Commission. The Commission would not issue their liquor license this year as long as the Mayor remained a member.
Further, City Council members who are also Coop members would have to “provide a statement that [we] will not ‘participate in any meetings, hearings, or decisions on matters impacting the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcoholic liquor.’”
The Coop’s attorney argued that the law applies only to city officials holding 5% or more interest in a business that holds a liquor license. Since the Coop has approximately 2800 members, and no member may hold more than one share, each member holds approximately 0.036% (less than four hundredths) of the Coop’s ownership. This is a far cry from the 5% limit that creates a “direct interest” in a business holding a liquor license under Illinois code 235 ILCS 5/6-2(a)(9,10).
City Attorney Kimmel assured us that our single membership, amounting to less than 4/100ths interest, did not disqualify us.The state Liquor Control Commission has seen otherwise. They have ruled that, as long as we are members of the Coop, we cannot serve as liquor commissioners or vote on any issue involving liquor.
Of course I will resign my membership. Voters elected me to serve on the Liquor Control Commission and you expect me to vote on issues affecting liquor sales in town. No matter how wrong-headed I may think the State Liquor Control’s ruling to be, I am subject to it and will obey it.
This is the same problem the council ran into with Lance Jack's ownership of Fat Patties.  The council, which also serves as the Liquor Control Commission for the city, can work around Jack's inability to serve on the committee, since there are still enough members to vote on items coming before it.  Since, I gather, most of the council are also members of the Co-op, they, like Jack, would be unable to vote on any liquor related issue coming before the commission, effectively stymieing any action by it..  Give the commission's ruling, while fighting it is an option, the Co-op's request for license renewal would go on hold, impacting the organization's business.  The best thing for the co-op and business in Carbondale is for the rest of the council to follow Adams' lead and give up their memberships.

Monday, July 16, 2012

127 Expansion on Hold

As this article by the Southern points out, we probably won't see 4 lanes on Hwy 127 anytime soon.  As I have pointed out in the past, two different IDOT districts intersect at Pickneyville. District 9 encompasses Carbondale and much of the area south of Pickneyville, while District 8 includes Belleville and the East Metro St. Louis region.  Money for any expansion north of Pickneyville will have to come from District 8's budget,, which, given the amount of construction going on in the East St. Louis region, is likely low on their totem pole.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

City Council Meeting

The city council meets next Tuesday at 7 p.m.  Among other things under consideration,  a discussion of options regarding the promotion of tourism in Carbondale, raising parking fees and fines, and a request to the Governor for the authority to issue private activity bonds.  We may even get to see Mayor Fritzler and Councilwoman Adams at loggerheads again.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tunnel Hill Trail

Following upon the Wine Trail post, today's Southern has an article on a study of  the promotion for half a dozen trails  in Illinois, including the 45 mile Tunnel Hill Trail through southwestern Illinois.

A major problem with the Tunnel Hill trail, at least from the point of view of increased usage,  is the lack of services for the most used part of the trail, the 10 mile section running from the ghost town of Tunnel Hill to Vienna.. The easiest way to hike or bike the trail is from Tunnel Hill south to Vienna, as the trail runs downhill or along flat terrain for most of its length.  However, the Tunnel Hill trailhead, though it lies next to a state highway, has no services for bikers or hikers, aside from those provided by the state park service. There are bike racks, a toilet and water, no food or other supplies. Trail users have to get supplies at either the Harrisburg or Vienna trailheads, or make sure to bring them.

Of course, from a business standpoint, offering services or supplies at Tunnel Hill makes little sense. The area is isolated enough to not support any retail operation other than for trail users and I'm not certain the trail gets enough use to justify anyone opening a location there targeting trail users. I am rather surprised to not find more companies offering a bike shuttle service targeting trail users.  As popular as bikes are in Carbondale, it's interesting to find a cyclist has to go clear to Harrisburg to find a shuttle service.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shawnee Bike Wine Tour

One of the things the Sustainability Commission has discussed is the promotion of bike route linking the various wineries along the Shawnee Wine Trail.  Of course, the Trail already exists but the tour services associated with it only promote auto touring and, if you look at the map, the trail breaks conveniently into a western section, starting at Kite Hill and ending at Von Jakob, and an eastern section, starting at Rustle Hill and ending (with a little extra pedaling to Orlandini Vinyards) at Honker Hill.

Carbondale is already the southern Illinois center for bike tourism.  Some organization such as the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, Carbondale Main Street or even the city itself (I'd suggest the Convention and Tourism Bureau but well....) could make a map us detailing the routes and make them available throughout the city.  Several years ago the Bike Surgeon even offered a shuttle service, though I don't see that offered on their website currently.  Just think, your bike group gets shuttled out to Kite Hill, dropped off and leisurely visit all the wineries on the east side of the Trail, then load up at Von Jakob's and head back to Carbondale, having had a pleasant afternoon of biking and vino. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SIUC Faculty Salaries

Glass Door has a list of the average salaries of faculty members at SIUC, based on anonymous information gathered from people claiming they are employed by the university.  Salaries range from $11,600 for a graduate assistant to to $54,700 for an instructor to almost $79,000 for a new assistant professor.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Roger Herrin

Yesterday's Southern has a lengthy column on SIUC Board of Trustee's chairman Herrin, highlighting his conflicts with University President Glenn Poshard and other board members.  Given the 9% decline in attendance at the university this summer, I found this comment by Herrin interesting:

He (Poshard) knows the university isn’t doing any good, and he will ultimately have to perform,” Herrin said. “Whoever the board members may be, they are going to expect improvement. I want to take this university back to where it was. With some changes at the administrative level, we can turn it around very quickly.

Given the 20+ year of declines in attendance, I really doubt if changes at the administrative level are enough to turn the university around very quickly. You cannot easily turn around an organization with over 14,000 employees on a dime.  ITo do so would require massive shakeups in management, especially at the top level and the university shows no sign of doing that.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Family Dollar Hiring

Looks as if the planned Famy Dollar store at the corner of Oakland and Main is getting closer to completion.  The Hollywood Video building has been almost completely gutted and the company is looking for a manger for the location.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

WiffleBoy's Closed

Looks as if the WiffleBoy's Pizza on East Walnut in Carbondale has shut down. The street sign has been removed and the lights were off inside the building about 8 p.m. yesterday, quite unusual for a pizza place on a Saturday night.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ryan Livingston Murder

Ryan Livingston was found murdered in the 300 block of West Walnut Street July 13, 2006.  The case is still unsolved and still under investigation, with a $16,000 reward for information leading to identification  and conviction of those involved in his death.   Though less common today, flowers and chalk markings still show up at the location where his body was found, The police department just sent out this email on the status of the case:

Friday, July 13, 2012 marks the 6th anniversary of the death of Ryan Livingston’s death.  The City of Carbondale Police Department is still actively investigating Ryan’s death.  Ryan’s homicide occurred in the 300 block of West Walnut Street, where he was stabbed and later died as a result of the injuries.    
The family of Ryan and the families of other unsolved homicides still agonize over the loss of their loved ones.  The reward now stands at $11,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible for Ryan’s death.  If you have information on any of the following crimes, please call the City of Carbondale Police Department at (618) 457-3200. You can submit your information anonymously by calling the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (618) 549-COPS (2677) or by submitting your information atwww.carbondalepolice.comusing the Online Crime Stoppers form.
The City of Carbondale has a $5,000 minimum reward for each unsolved homicide case in the City. The reward money will be paid when information provided leads to an arrest and conviction in the homicide case. Hopefully, this reward money, when added to existing rewards, will encourage individuals who have key information toward solving these crimes to contact the Police Department and provide that information.
The Carbondale Police Department is committed to pursuing all investigations to their conclusion, especially murder investigations, regardless of how recent, or long ago the crime may have occurred.  The families cannot rest until someone is brought to justice in these cases and the City of Carbondale and its Police Department are determined to bring justice to each of these families.
Again, if you have any information on the death of Ryan Livingston or any of the following crimes, please call the City of Carbondale Police Department at (618) 457-3200.  You can submit your information anonymously by calling the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (618) 549-COPS (2677) or by submitting your information atwww.carbondalepolice.comusing the Online Crime Stoppers form.

Mary Lou's Closed for the Week

I was really tempted just to put "Mary Lou's Closed..." in the headline but doing that would annoy a significant number of the Carbondale population who loves to eat there. According to the sign in the window, they are closed through July 7th.

However, the sign also says that if you miss them badly enough, come visit them at their other restaurant, Crazy Joe's Fish House, after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  Unfortunately, the sign doesn't tell you where Crazy Joe's is.  Doing a little research, apparently it is  a walk- up window out in the country off the Ava Blacktop, with picnic tables under a shelter.  In case you want to try it, the directions are:

From Rte. 3 or 4 to Rte 123, 4 miles to blue tourist sign, go 2 miles on Kessel Road to Suchman Road, look for the sign.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cooling Center Update

A reader of the blog emailed to say that a lot of people are making use of the Carbondale Public Library as an unofficial cooling center.  This makes sense, since, as the email pointed out, the Library is located in the same approximate area as the Civic Center so it is not that much farther of a walk to get to it.

Plus, the amenities at the Library are head and shoulders above those provided at the Civic Center.  At the Library, you get computers, magazines, books, newspapers, Internet, in short, lots of things to occupy yourself with while there.  The Civic Center provides the city's WiFi, tables, chairs and a pitcher of water.  I know which one I would pick.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Local Fires

Ran in to Fire Chief John Michalesko yesterday so had to ask him about the fire situation locally (Like he hasn't been asked that a hundred times already).  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that people have actually listened to all the warnings about the grass and brush being dry as tinder and to not start fires.  According to Chief Michalesko, Carbondale has less than half a dozen small fires since the heat wave started, with only a couple caused by kids playing with fireworks.  The worst problem, surprisingly, wasn't people throwing cigarettes out of cars along the highway, though it does involve cigarettes.

Apparently, there have been several instances of small grass fires out by University Mall, caused by people throwing cigarettes out there.  Happily, according to the Chief,  the fires have all been small and the fire department handled them quickly.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cooling Center Open

Cooling center was opened in the civic center last week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though, since the building is usually open until about 9.p.m. anyone needing cooling in the evening could certainly duck in there.  I spoke to a couple of city staff yesterday and was told a grand total of zero people had made use of it, as far as they knew.  During last year's heat wave (and there was one), two people made use of it.  Generally, the civic center cooling area has seen little to no use when opened up during heat waves.

While it is certainly a nice offering, the civic center is also too far away from the east side of the city were most of the residents live that would best make use of it.  Churches on the near eastern side of the city opening their doors to those without air conditioning would help much more.

Monday, July 2, 2012

SIUC Demolishing the Triads

A reader of the blog pointed out SIUC has started demolition of the Triad complex, Allen, Boomer and Wright halls, with removal of Wright already completed and the other two scheduled to come down by the end of summer.  As the article points out, Allen was the last of the three buildings to still house students, as the others had sat empty for a few years. Built in the mid 1960s as part of Delyte Morris' push to make SIUC a top level university.  I hesitate to refer to them as SIUC's glory days, but it was certainly an active time at the university and the buildings were considered state of the art for the time and students liked living there (though maybe not in recent years as the buildings reportedly deteriorated) but the "pod" structure of the facilities and comparatively low supervision made for the development of small communities and lasting friendships.

The university has fenced off the area containing the three buildings but the road leading to the rear of the area remains open during business hours if you would like to take a final closer look before they come down.  Just be sure to stay out of  hazardous areas.