June 2009

Local Fiasco – 80% Of California’s State Parks To Close

state parks closure

If you are doing business in almost any California town or city and any or all of your business is dependent upon tourists or healthy-minded locals, the proposed closure of 80% of California’s State Parks is major news to you.

In what I can only call an anti-human gesture on the part of California’s state government, this closure of these treasured lands is being suggested as a way to reduce the budget deficit. I have three comments to make about this proposal.

1) Without Our Parks, What Do We Have To Offer?
Hotels, restaurants, tourism associations, local shopping districts, annual festivals, automotive businesses, regional specialty shops, entertainment venues and more all depend upon the fact that that the lure of California’s fabulous park lands gets locals and visitors on the road and doing business year-round. Who will come to California’s towns without the draw of beaches, woods, mountains and rivers to explore?

A Californian vacation means playing hard in nature all day and dining and resting in style at local hospitality destinations. Without our parks, we may as well market ourselves as the endless suburb rather than the jewel of the great west.

2) Public Mental Health Is Vital To All Our Well-Being
Yet another Californian man loses the job he’s had for 10 or 20 years and he’s got to keep it together, regroup and find a new way to support his family. He needs to be able to walk, hike, breathe, think things out. But there are FORBIDDEN signs posted on all of his local parks. Is it better that he should roam the streets, desperate, unable to buy any of the things in the commercial districts to which his troubled footsteps are now restricted?

State Parks provide key touchstones for all people in all states of distress or well-being. We are natural beings and need to be able to walk in nature, smell, see and touch it in order to remain grounded. Prohibiting Californians access to walking trails and mentally-restorative places will make our society less healthy and less safe.

3) Who Can Own The Land?
Criminalizing access to open lands is morally backward. All of the State Parks slated to be closed were once deeply valued and sometimes sacred American Indian lands. Where I live, the earlier generations of Miwoks, Pomos, Ohlones and other great tribes walked the Earth without the burden of state politics ruling where a man could be or not be. My family values our native heritage, and while we have always felt a little rueful about paying fees to walk on Indian Country land, we have done it and have remembered to be thankful to the men and women who provide clean bathrooms and camping sites for so many grateful families.

If California’s government has become so befuddled that they can no longer take care of the lands, I would suggest these lands be given back to the stewardship of local Native peoples who can then search their hearts to decide who will walk on the land. I believe that the tribes would remember the wisdom of man’s natural rights and find a way to share and care for the land. In the face of the trail of broken treaties, I think this would be the best and sanest thing to do.

These Days…
These days, families and business are struggling to make it all over the United States. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with dark news. When the news gets darkest, my family hits the road and takes the trails along the coast and through the woods to find our balance. I can hardly imagine attempting to live the good life in the absence of this source of security and peace and I exhort the governor to look elsewhere when it comes to budget cutting.

Contributions To A SCORE Discussion on Local Promotion

I was pleased to be invited by Peg Corwin of the SCORE Chicago Blog to contribute to a piece she has written on the potential benefits of Chicago business owners publishing content on the Chicago Trib Local site. Mr. Blumenthal also participated in this article and I think you’ll enjoy giving it a read.

There’s a possibility of business contributions to Trib Local acting as Maps citations, but I also felt a little concern about the overall community-creating benefit of the content I saw on Trib Local if it can’t find a way to move beyond the depth of the press-release-format.

If you’re looking for a good read, definitely give Peg Corwin’s piece a try and check out how the Trib is doing things. Interesting Local stuff, for sure!

Review-Wise Words from InsiderPages’ Eric Peacock

Eric Peacock is the General Manager of InsiderPages and I was very grateful to Andrew Shotland for introducing us to one another while I was researching my recent piece on the Edit, Remove and Owner Review capabilities of the top 8 user review entities.

Eric was good enough to respond with what I think is wisdom worth reading about the world of reviews. InsiderPages was recently judged to be one of the top 10 review entities in David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey, so if anyone knows a thing or two about typical concerns revolving around user reviews, it’s Eric Peacock.

I asked Eric about InsiderPages’ review deletion policy. Users aren’t allowed to simply remove their own reviews, within their account. As Eric explains it:

It’s rare that a user wants to delete their review entirely. e.g. Sometimes a user will write a bad review of a merchant but the merchant will resolve the issue for them and actually turn the interaction into a positive experience. When that happens the user just edits the review.

However, we have had users contact us and say things like, “I don’t know what I was thinking writing that review. I just want it removed.” When a user does want to delete a review they just email us and we do it for them. Like I said, that’s rare.

Most of the review deletions on our site are the result of our community of users (merchants included) coming across an inappropriate review and reporting it to us. When we get these we immediately delete any reviews that don’t meet our terms and conditions and follow a process for dispute resolution on all other disputed reviews.

Negative reviews have become a controversial topic of late, with reviewers being threatened with lawsuits by business owners. It is not illegal in any way to leave a truthful negative review of a business, but a litigious environment might make citizens hesitate to be honest when they’ve had a bad experience with a business. Eric offers these good thoughts and guidelines on the subject:

Constructive, negative reviews are valuable and we want people to know how to write them effectively. My advice to your readers is this:

  • Focus your review on the facts from your first-hand experience working with the merchant – the undisputable events from your experience that shaped your opinion of them.
  • Avoid alleging illegal activity or using profanity in your review as both things make your review a sitting duck for deletion. Why? Both violate the terms and conditions of our site (and many other review sites like Insider Pages.) We may not catch those reviews right away but our community does. In particular, merchants are quick see negative reviews about themselves and report any inappropriate reviews to us. The first thing we do when such a review is flagged, is see if it meets our terms and conditions. If it doesn’t, we have no choice but to delete it, even if the rest of the review contains useful information.
  • There are things the merchant can do too. For many years we’ve allowed merchants to claim their profile and respond to any reviews right on their profile page. A classy, professional response from a merchant, directly underneath a rant from a ticked off customer quickly reveals there are two sides to the story. It helps bring some balance to the conversation. But the best thing the merchant can do is get a lot more happy customers to write reviews and drown out the negative one.

I think those are good thoughts to keep in mind! Thanks to Eric for sharing his experience in the arena with us.

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