Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The City Bridge Campaign

The City has clearly increased the campaign for a new bridge.   I am hearing more and more voices in CFAX speaking for a new bridge but no voices speaking against the new bridge.

The City is also spending money on ads in the TC, I have seen several mid sized over the last few days in the paper.

Will this have any major impact on the public vote?   I wonder about this because the City side of the campaign does not feel like it has any strong grassroots involvement, I reminds me of the 1992 Federal referendum campaign.  It feels like the City is spending money to make up for an on the ground campaign. It also feels like the City is seeking people with titles and organizations to come out to support the new bridge.

The City still has a huge hill to climb to win.   It is only reasonable to assume that the people that signed the petition are likely to vote and are motivated to vote against the new bridge.   There is a built in large part of the public that will be a No vote.   Nothing I have seen from the City is likely to have changed the minds of the people, in fact the way the City is addressing the issues is likely to push the buttons of people that signed the petition to actively vote No and let their friends and family know they are voting No.

The City also has not taken on board that they have had a process that has left the public disengaged but never come out and admitted they had made an error.   I suspect the single biggest thing the Mayor could do to get a Yes vote would be come out and apologize for doing a bad job of working with the public and admit that the council handled this badly.   Admission from the City that they have made a mistake and then acted differently would have made a difference.

Instead the City is coming out and saying "you are wrong" to the people opposed on all the different issues.   The problem with this is that there are many very well educated people that have never had their concerns addressed and have never had an explanation of how the City can read the reports and come to some of the conclusions they do.  Finally, the City has never given a large portion of the public the impression that the all the options were seriously considered, the impression of the fix being in widespread and has never been adequately been dispelled.   This comes down to the mayor never coming out and admitting the process has been handled badly each and every step of the way.

The City is also making a huge mistake highlighting the poll they had done on the bridge.    First off the provenance of the data is very, very suspect and does not give us information that be relied on as a measure of public opinion.   The problem comes from the sort of questions asked and the type of answers allowed.   Beyond the issue of the methodological weakness, relying on the poll in a campaign to get a Yes vote is a huge strategic error.   The City is telegraphing to supporters that things are fine and the public will vote Yes and no need to be concerned and vote.   The message the No side gets from the poll is work hard or the bridge will be lost.  

I suspect the City would have been better off if it had simply left the Yes campaign to the public to run and did not actively take part as the City.   The top down approach pushes people to vote No.
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