Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Analysis: How the Boise CIty Council Members Voted on the $90,000 streetcar marketing campaign

In previous posts it was noted that a $90,000 marketing campaign for the Boise streetcar was put on hold while city council members could consider it further.  After that consideration, it was decided to put it to a council vote.  It passed yesterday, and here is an analysis of part of that contract and how they voted.

There were a couple of parts of the contract that caught my attention.  My remarks are in red. Part of the contract states:

“Question: Define winning for this project.
Answer: The City will consider the project successful if the citizens actively participate in this process and if they have been provided with facts and data that can support an informed decision.”

If that is the case, and it is decided by the council to move forward with this contract, in my opinion it will be necessary under this contract for Cronin and Associates to provide the citizens with the necessary facts and data that show how streetcars can both positively AND negatively affect a community; not just one side.

If this contract is to be approved solely for the purposes of promoting, marketing, and informing the public of only the positive aspects of streetcars, then the public will not have been properly briefed on streetcars, and therefore the contract will not serve its intended purpose of public outreach.

The Cronin and Associates attachment to the contract states:
“Similarly, we see the streetcar outreach effort not only as an opportunity to educate residents about why the time is right for a downtown streetcar but also to make the broader case that our region’s quality of life hinges on our ability to plan for the future by investing in public transit. Traffic, air quality, and the vibrancy of downtown not only impact our quality of life, but also directly correlate to our economic strength. A downtown streetcar can serve as the first phase of a longer-term expansion of our transit system that will eventually tie into other routes and corridors and provide residents with more options for moving about the valley.”

This statement specifically speaks only to the positive aspects of a streetcar and therefore it appears fairly obvious that the outreach program will only present that side.
In addition, active participation by the citizens will be overwhelmed by the fact that the city will be spending $90,000 (or some other amount as yet to be determined) on their campaign while the citizens do not have any tax money to spend to present their side, whether pro or con.

On to the voting.
Reported in the Idaho Statesman:



Here is how each member voted and my analysis is in red:

Alan Shealy voted yes, claiming that the public has been misinformed about the streetcar and that it had been hijacked for political purposes. He said, “There is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there, disinformation that I think rivals the war department, regarding such issues as why don't you spend the money on commuter rail, why don't you buy buses.”  I do not know what the public has been misinformed about other than the fact that the city and CCDC are only presenting one side of the streetcar debate. Based on his comment and vote it would be fairly safe to assume he is pro-streetcar.
Dave Eberle also voted yes and  expressed concerns over the media calling it a trolley instead of a streetcar.  Apparently he along with Shealy also must feel that the public isn't getting the correct information.   
Maryanne Jordan voted yes.  This should have come as no surprise as she has already pretty much confirmed that she is pro-streetcar when she told the media that we didn't want to miss the chance of getting the $40 million of federal grant money - despite her claim on her website that she is for the efficient use of tax dollars
Jim Tibbs voted no.  Again this was no surprise - he has been an outspoken critic of the streetcar from the beginning.
Vern Bisterfeldt voted no.  This was a bit of a surprise vote, but his reasoning hinged on the fact that the grant money was not yet approved.
Elaine Clegg voted yes.  She is pro-streetcar so no surprise there.


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