Monday, June 23, 2008

State Senatorial Candidate Website Reviews!

Apparently, there was a debate tonight between Jennifer Flanagan and Brian Knuuttila, who are both running for state senate. Well, I'm not one for fancy debates or driving to Sterling to witness said fancy debates, but I am one to look over the candidates' websites and make fun of them. So let's do that now!

In case you're not aware, there's a contest in the works to replace the retiring Robert Antonioni as State Senator. Antonioni's a pretty good guy, so good luck to him in whatever he moves on to!

In the meantime, we have this weird little race to deal with. Two candidates are vying for his seat, and I don't really know all that much about either of them. What can I say, the site is called Progressive Fitchburg, and neither is from Fitchburg. There's only so much time in the day, people.

No problem though, they both have websites, and we can simply judge them that way!

Going in alphabetical order...

Jennifer Flanagan:

I'll tell you right off the bat, Flanagan's got an advantage here. Not only does she have this site, she also has a second site here for her State Rep. stuff and her official page is the top result if you Google for her name. So she's easy to find. But that could be a bad thing if what she has to say sucks!

To be fair, I'm only going to deal with her campaign site. At first glance it looks pretty professional. It uses the totally cliched "make your site look as much like the American flag as possible" style of website design, but doesn't totally pound you over the head with it. Just a dull throb.

The front page is pretty dull. Mostly it's a press release. The main content is primarily the News page replicated here. Plus there's a newsletter signup thingy and ways to give her money. Uninspiring, but I can live with that.

Now to the more interesting pages! Our first one is simply called Jennifer! Hello Jennifer! Clicking on that link almost makes me feel like we're on a first name basis!

Actually, the page sort of has three parts to it, we're just dumped to the main "Get to Know Jen" part, which has this totally subtle picture on it.

Oh hello, Sen. Antonioni! I almost didn't see you there!

Also hello lady to Jennifer's right (our left)! I don't actually know who you are. Maybe I should, maybe not. Regardless, Sen. Antonioni is looking pretty sharp. I sort of wonder what he's looking at. Some tasty hors d'oeuvres perhaps? Hot chick in a bikini? Someone he's planning to murder? Hard to say, but maybe we'll get lucky and another photo will tell us? Unlikely.

From this page we're linked to Accomplishments. Yay, important issues! Here we find important details about my new friend Jennifer's work as a State Rep.

This is where things go horribly, horribly wrong.

Look, I know the subheading is "legislation filed" and that if you read the whole blurb it's about legislation she's working on to punish those who harbor minors (to protect runaways and so forth, I suppose). That doesn't change the fact that if you quickly skim her accomplishments it appears that the one she's most proud of is HARBORING A MINOR. Not good!

She also has FAILURE TO STOP FOR POLICE OFFICER LEGISLATION further down, which at least has that "legislation" at the end, but still is not at all what you want to have as the bolded, all-caps part of your accomplishments!

There's a lot on that page though, and much of it is good. There's also this, which I find utterly baffling:
MORATORIUM ON INTERNET HUNTING: CHAPTER 83 OF THE ACTS OF 2007 Aligned Massachusetts with 22 other states to ban the hunting of live animals through the Internet and establish a fine of up t [sic] $2,500 or imprisonment for 2½ years if a person is found to have participated in Internet hunting.
Huh? You can hunt live animals through the internet? How the fuck does that work? A webcam mounted to a rifle? Is it even a real thing, or are we preparing for a post-Skynet dystopia in which killer robots are trying to hunt us using the internet somehow and we're hoping this law keeps them at bay?

If it's the former, I must chide my new friend Jennifer for legislating about stupid things. If the latter, I applaud her foresight!

On to the Endorsements page!

Actually, no. Let's not bother. Just go read it if you really care. About the only endorsement that matters is the one from Antonioni, which we'd already figured out from the picture up above.

So instead we'll go to the Our Community page. It appears the main purpose of this page is to provide a map showing the district, and therefore letting people know that if they live in one of those towns they can vote for her. I suppose that's useful. Also, I learned that Clinton is apparently very tiny. Who knew?

The News page is what you'd mostly expect. Press releases and so forth. We already saw the main one on the front page. It also links to Photos on a big bloaty Javascript-ridden page that slows down my browser and annoys me just a bit. Nice effect and all, but I could live without it.

Here's a picture where Jennifer is being arrested by the very minor she was harboring! Citizen's arrests do work!

Perhaps as part of her plea bargain with the arresting pre-adolescent, we next find the odd Kid's Corner page. Apparently kids can vote now?

This page hosts what I assume to be Orson Welles' long-lost masterpiece of zombie filmmaking, "Citizen Brain: Feeding on American Democracy."

Actually, it appears to be about a kid named Vince whose brain escapes his head and starts menacing him while he's trying to play video games. It's creepy. Or at least the first 45 seconds or so are creepy. That was about all I could stomach.

The last page is just a Contact page. Nothing notable there.

Conclusion: It's a nice looking website, with a good long list of accomplishments (even if some of them are baffling). Unfortunately, it doesn't really look forward much. Lots of talk about what she has done, but very little about what she will do in the future. Still, nothing about it was totally ridiculous. Except for the zombie brain (which I assume is also a cannibal).

Now on to her competition!

Brian Knuuttila:

Well, it's obvious who spent more on their website here. Mr. Knuuttila's site looks like it hails back from 1995 or so. I really recommend you go visit it, because the magic of the marquee scrolling doodad at the top can't be effectively conveyed in my screenshot.

On the plus side, when I first visited the site it had blinking text too, and that seems to be gone now, so things are improving! In fact, it says it was last updated today! (It also says it's only had 178 visitors, let's get that number up!)

Anyway, we actually have a pretty busy front page. First off, we have his slogan, which is honestly pretty cool: "No matter how you say Knuuttila, it means good government"

So he's got a sense of humor.

Also, he appears to be a very literal tree-hugger!

Wondering what his site is all about? Wonder no more, he tells you right on the front page!
The website is intended as a way for me to express my views and qualities and a way for you to contact me with thoughts and ideas on how you would like to see your City and Town improve in the future with my support.

As a former State Representative and still very familiar with the issues and needs of our district [sic]. We need new and fresh ideas to bring economic stimulus [sick] to our district and I plan to work hard for you to bring economic stability back to us. I am running for Senate and I am asking for your support. Please contact me with your thoughts and ideas as I promise to respond to you.

Brian Knuuttila
How nice. Might want to do some proofreading there though, as I actually went light on the [sic]s. (In fairness, Flanagan got some too.)

First page! It's called About Me, which is a little less intimate than "Jennifer." I recommend he change the link title to "Bri-Bri" or some other funny nickname in order to one-up her.

On this page we encounter exactly two images, and both are flags.
These flags are supposed to be waving, but it seems blogger may have killed their rockin' animation. Regardless, it seems clear that Brian is both an American and a Marine.

In fact, as we learn from the "About Me" page, he was not only a Marine, but also a five-term state rep, a Gardner City Councilor, a cop, a firefighter, an attorney, and several other things. Clearly he gets around. Also he has a wife and two kids, so he's apparently heterosexual and capable of impregnating a woman. I'm not sure why these things matter, but politicians seem to like to point them out.

Next we move on to his View Points [sic].

Okay, let's ignore the typo in the fucking link menu and just deal with the substance of the page. It's mainly encapsulated in the bullet points at the top, which is handy!

Nice bullet points! He likes me!

Oddly, the rest of the page seems to veer off from the bullet points, since the headings continuing down the page are (in order): Education, Health Care, Environment, Balanced Budget, Jobs, Affordable Housing, and then a big huge "Honest and Responsible Leadership" at the bottom. All good things, and while the synopses he gives are unfortunately rather vague, it sounds like he has some good priorities.

Next is the News & Events link. Right now it's just four links to various websites with articles about him. Still, we can pass this up just like we would any old "links" page.

On to Endorsements. Okay, I pretty much ignored Flanagan's endorsements because I don't care about endorsements. But I do note that while Flanagan has Mayor Wong on her side, Knuuttila seems to have the lion's share of the city council. What's up with that?

Still, endorsements, meh. Hopefully the next page will be more fun!

Crud, it's a Helpful Links page (though the page title says "Key View Points" for some reason)! Oh well, at least they're helpful. And he has this nice blurb at the top:
Below are some links that I hope will help you. Please let me know if I can add other links that you've found useful.
That's a very nice offer! And he does have a "blogs" section at the very bottom (because nobody respects blogs). Maybe I can make it there!

Aside from that, it's mostly links to city government websites in the district. And you know what I said about links pages just a few paragraphs ago. So we move on...

To Photos 2008! I love a good photos page, and it's nice to know these are all recent photos! Even though they're all laid out in a single horizontal row in order to make a crappy-ass slideshowy thing that will require ridiculous scrolling... bah.

Interestingly, the majority of the photos do not in fact feature Knuuttila himself! Still, here's an awesome one!

Now you might be thinking I'm going to say something rude about how this is the multicultural shot that all political websites must have, just because it has a black man, an Asian, and either two women or one woman and a guy with luxurious long hair.

You are very jaded, my friend.

In fact, I just like the look on that guy's face. It's like he has some sort of really cool secret that he's keeping from the people in his little group there, but that he's sharing with the photographer, and by extension us. Awesome.

Anyway, it's probably better when Knuuttila stays out of the shot, because apparently he has a tendency to point directly at women's breasts...

Note to Brian: Please work on subtlety. Just because Prince Charles can get away with it doesn't mean you can!
Okay, better move away from these photos before things get dirty. What's the next link?

Oh crap, it's Photos!

Look, I like photos as much as anyone. Especially when they're goofy like the ones above. But do we really need to separate out 2008 from all other photos (which are presumably earlier and not from the future)? And seriously, tell me it's not just an excuse to run this one:

Actually, it's a fascinating photo. What part you like most about it depends entirely on who you are.

If you're a big Red Sox fan, it's the World Series trophy. If you're a pedophile, it's the teenage girl in the short skirt. If you're already a big Brian Knuuttila fan, it's Brian Knuuttila. If you're me, it's that awesome surly guy on the right side who looks pissed off at the whole thing. It's a feast for everyone's eyes!

But enough photos already! Let's move on!

Dammit, the final page is just a Contact Me page! I hate those things! Plus it's very limiting!

What if I just want to tell him a joke or ask him where he gets his ties? What do I check then, huh?

Okay, that's it for his site.

Conclusion: Somehow, I find this site both really terrible and very charming. It's probably all the pictures and the warm feeling I get remembering what web design was like in 1995. Still, it doesn't really tell me all that much about what the hell Knuuttila would actually do if he got elected!

VERDICT: Seriously, they both sort of suck. They get the job done, but neither site really tells me anything about what to expect if I vote for these people. They spend all their time focusing on the past and not what they're going to do, which is far more important. Flanagan's site is clearly more professional, but Knuuttila has a better sense of humor. If I were to vote based on websites alone I'd probably go with Flanagan, but neither of them is terribly compelling.


1970s Abraham Lincoln said...

Huh? You can hunt live animals through the internet? How the fuck does that work? A webcam mounted to a rifle? Is it even a real thing?

That is EXACTLY right. It's a webcam/rifle setup with an interface that allows you to move the rifle in (more or less) real time. People pay for the opportunity to shoot at whatever gets pushed in front of the gun cam.

The Unicow said...

Well holy crap. That's just crazy.

May said...

The sentinel slipped in its own two cents today very underhandedly...

:-( I guess it's important that we hear our politician's opinions, but it seemed very pointed in the way they did it. Also, it would have been nice if they'd talk to us at the clinic or Mayor Wong about this. I'm sure both parties would have made a statement, just not one the sentinel wanted to hear.

Freaking sentinel.

The Unicow said...

Yeah, the Sentinel has a long history of pushing abstinence-only sex ed. This was pretty blatant though.

Knuuttila's statement seems a bit throwaway to me. Do we know where he actually stands on sex ed? Stressing "consequences" sounds like code for "abstinence only," but might just be as part of a comprehensive program. Perhaps a more competent reporter would have made that clear.

Also, it really would be nice if the Sentinel would stick to people who know what the fuck they're talking about and not focus so much on random strangers at swimming pools who know absolutely nothing. But I'm not holding my breath for that.

Hoops22 said...

"What can I say, the site is called Progressive Fitchburg, and neither is from Fitchburg."

Actually, Brian was born in Fitchburg and still has relatives within the city. I will tell you this...Fitchburg needs to be involved with this campaign. They can choose to elect the same Leominster Senator that will visit every other month, but never dedicate their time to the City. OR they can choose someone, like Brian, who dedicates himself to every citizen regardless of hometown.

Fitchburg needs to support Knuutilla for Senate so the city can be respected.