Well, I don’t like to say I told you so, but this time I did: On Feb. 17 right here at Back Talk, I detailed my thoughts on the strategy the pro downtown convention center hotel people would employ. In short, it was simple: Indelibly and imperceptibly link the no-hotel referendum on the ballot May 9 with a separate referendum placed on the ballot by a New York union, and lead potential voters in the direction of thinking voting for either referendum was somehow going to tube Dallas forever.
You know, I should have gone directly to the pro-hotel people with the idea and asked them to pay me for it, because that’s exactly what they’re doing (and probably paying some expensive consultant for) about two months later. That was the message in their "sales pitch" flyer in mailboxes last week. In case you didn’t receive one, here’s a pdf of mine so you can see for yourself (it’s a download, and it will take about 15-20 seconds to load it).
In some places, the flyer’s message is subtle and effective; in others, it’s embarrassingly and insultingly misleading and heavy-handed.
Check out this statement: "Please don’t let the New York unions take Dallas from boomtown to ghost town. On May 9, protect our taxpayers and our economy — Vote No!" So now they’re telling us that New York unions are going to single-handedly take down the city? Come on.
The "Vote No" website also does a nice job of helpig viewers miss the point of this deal, too. Check the website here and, again, see for yourself. The website is written in a young-ish vernacular (extra style points for correct use of the word "sweet" on the home page!) and it does a good job of selling the whole "vote no" idea without getting into many of the messy facts about either referendum.
You know, we’ve heard all of this before, and not too long ago at that. Remember 2007’s big Trinity referendum vote? The DMN wrote a detailed and interesting story Sunday (for more details about the story, click here to read our Back Talk post) discussing how it appears now that Mayor Tom Leppert led us all on a bit of a wild goose chase on the Trinity project, claiming he had Army Corps of Engineers approval for building in the levees when we all know now that he didn’t.
Even worse, in my opinion: The Corps had put its concerns in writing about the need for expensive "diaphragm walls" around roadway pilings to prevent flooding and levee breaches months before the referendum vote, but somehow none of that information came out prior to the vote, despite lots and lots of questions asked directly about the issue by councilman Angela Hunt, Jim Schutze with the Dallas Observer and even the Morning News. According to the News story Sunday, Leppert misdirected just about everyone, saying the Corps had blessed the deal, even though it appears now that he knew better.
Even Craig Holcomb, one of the main point guys supporting the tollway, says he wasn’t given the whole picture by Leppert, and his quote in the DMN story says a lot, not only about the Trinity deal but about what is probably happening right now with the hotel vote, too:
"Part of the problem we had – on my side of the table – is that if I were to bring up diaphragm walls – and at that point I didn’t know about those specifically – well, typically in most forums you get two or three minutes to talk, and definitely only get two or three minutes to get the people energized about the project," Holcomb told the News.
What Holcomb says unwittingly speaks to the seamy underside of the "Vote No" peoples’ strategy: Use the two or three minutes of face-time with people in person or in the media to get them "energized" about their side of the issue, rather than give voters the facts and let us make a decision.
The people behind the "Pro Hotel" campaign don’t necessarily have clean hands with their TV ads and mailers, either, although from what I’ve seen so far, they’re being less misleading. But that’s a blog post for another day.
The botom line is that I guess both sides of this deal figure we’re all too dumb or too busy or too distracted to ask enough questions or figure this stuff out on our own.
We’ll see if they’re right May 9.
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