Likely, if you live in Pima County and you're registered to vote, you got a tabloid format mailing from the Yess!! For Regional Transportation Committee today. In it, we learn that everyone who opposes the RTA initiative is a C.A.V.E person. A Citizen Against Virtually Everything.
I don't think I've ever seen so offensive an attack piece for or against something as prosaic as a transportation plan. Prop 200 got pretty ad hominem - but a transportation plan? I suspect that the brilliant political minds behind this slam are in for a backlash against this tactic. It also tells me their internal polling is showing the measure tanking: they have to be deperate to go negative on the freaky strawman, er... caveman they've set up in an attempt to turn this turkey around.
Of course, you have to consider the source. The funding for the hit mailer is from Click, the Tucson Association of Realtors, the New Car Dealers Association, and the Realtors Issues Mobilization Committee. I'm sure they really do have the public interest, and not their own narrow economic interests at heart. Oh, that's right. This is Tucson. The narrow self-interest of car dealers and dirt traders IS the public interest here. Almost forgot.
The mailer is not only offensive, it is also full of deceptive inaccuracies (known among real people as 'lies') about the Plan, and about its detractors.
Did you know that if you vote NO on the RAT, er... RTA, that you oppose new jobs, that you are "indifferent to needs of our aging population", that you are opposed to a cleaner environment and ignore the health impacts of pollution, that you despise the needs of the working poor, distain public safety (especially that of our children) and that you "opposed every previous transportation plan," and prefer to devote your energy to "spreading malicious gossip or outright lies?" No. It's true, you do. So do I. I hate those kids and old people and nature and working people. That's why I'm a Democrat.
Speaking of outright lies, let's look at a few. The Yes!! mailer has a really great slogan in it:
"Opponents of the Plan are entitled to the own opinions. They are not entitled to the own facts."
They should have added to that fine rhetoric, "But we certainly are."
One of the "Real Facts" cited by Yes!! is "hundreds of millions of impact fees paid by developers are a part of the plan's funding." There are no impact fees in the ballot measure. Voters are not approving any such thing. The statement clearly implies that part of what you will be voting on is to institute impact fees to pay for the RTA, and that's just not so. Maybe they mean that they expect to collect some impact fees generally, or that some budget projections assume them, or something. Whatever; it's just not true. Chalk up one fat lie for Yes!!
Yes!! claims that RTA opponents say, "Let's defeat this and have them come back with a new plan in the fall." Then they claim the Real Facts are that "There will be no new plan in the fall." Technically that may be true; there likely wouldn't be a new plan prepared and ready for voters by this fall. But there will be a new plan; that's mandated by state law. The RTA is required to try again... and again... and again... until the voters approve, or the RTA enabling statute is repealed. The "in the fall" prevents it from being an outright lie, but the intent to deceive and bully the voter is clear. Better take this plan, because you won't be getting another. Pish posh.
In response to the supposed caveperson arguement that there is no accountability, Yes!! reponds with the Reat Facts that "The law requires that if the Plan passes, every project will be built." Unless it isn't, as has been our experience with so many transportation bonds. Or unless the GOP dominated legislature decides to change the enabling statute to accomodate any 'problems'. Moveover, Yes!! says that "A Citizens advisory committee will examine every project's cost and progress, and any significant changes must be approved by the voters."
That claim requires some unpacking. A last-minute plan for a group of unelected, unaccountable people, chosen by the RAT, er... RTA will oversee the RTA, a group of unelected, unaccountable people. That makes sense. It also now makes sense why they actually capitalized 'Citizen' in the mailer's copy; because the word is the key marketing ingredient here. "Oh, it's overseen by Citizens. Well, that's OK then, isn't it?"
What are the powers of this oversight committee? How often do they meet? What staff do they have? What access to internal RTA documents do they get? How do they resolve conflicts of interest and disputes with the RTA? These issues are likely dealt with in the RTA resolution establishing the Citizens committee. I haven't seen it. Have you? Is it on the RAT, er... RTA's website? I couldn't find it. It's not in the ballot information sent out to voters. It's not on the ballot. Draw your own conclusions.
Yes!! claims that any "significant" changes must be approved by voters. Well, the statute defines that as 10% of any project. That adds up to 200 million over the lifetime of the plan. I'd call 199.99 million more than insignificant, but the RTA statute doesn't. Recognizing that this might be a marketing problem the RTA board passed a resolution that they would pledge to spend the minimum amount approved by voters of every project. When it comes down to litigation at some time in the future, do you think the judge is going to enforce the legislation, or the puffy PR resolution of an RTA board from 10 years ago?
So, the claim that the plan is accountable is specious at best. Worse, it uses a strawman, er... caveman to avoid the real accountability issue: the uneven demographic representation on the RTA board, in which 80% of the population has 20% of the voting power. It's tranportation Jim Crow. Why avoid the issue? Because there is not an easy glib answer to the problem. No amount of sketchy, last minute PR can stick a finger in that dike.
For a final Real Fact, Yes!! responds to critiques about the failure to deliver on bond promises by claiming that 65% of the 1997 bond projects have been completed in half the time with only half the funds expended. Wow. Astounding. Really? No, not really. You can make that math work if you count all the cancelled projects as 'completed'.
In defense of Yes!!, they did say these were Real Facts, not facts. Perhaps they trademarked Real Facts and it means something other than 'the truth'.
My favorite part of the mailer, however, and that which most reveals these people's utter contempt for the voters, is their explanation of "Who Are The C.A.V.E. People?"
"There are a few people in our community who consistently oppose everything, yet never offer a constructive proposal of their own. Often, they choose not to participate in the public process, preferring instead to devote their energy to spreading mailicious gossip or outright lies. These are the Citizens Against Virtually Everything, and they are the folks who opposed every previous transportation plan and tried to prevent Tucson from receiving its fair allocation of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water."
Does this charge remind you of a wider strategy being employed in national politics? Perhaps the GOP's critique of the Democrats? That we are just oppositional? Never have ideas of our own, so we had better vote for their stupid ones? Obviously, it's just a smear against anyone who thinks the current RTA plan is wrong for Tucson. All I hear is a bunch of wealthy Republicans shitheels calling me a damn Democrat. Just tell me how to sign up. Oh yeah, I already am.