Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed . . . . . . . . . Quit

I received two reports in recent days of a phone poll being conducted on city ballot measure 1A.

Yes, that's the same ballot measure that went down to resounding defeat, 62 to 38 percent, in the April 7 election. Polling before an election is standard operating procedure, if you have money to burn (which the backers of 1A did, thanks to all the developers, builders, realtors and banks who were hoping to get the taxpayers to bankroll local corporate welfare projects -- here's a reminder of who they were: Link). But conducting polls after an election, focused on an issue that was soundly defeated, is highly irregular, and raises questions about the motives of those behind it.

One possibility is that the backers of 1A had some extra cash to blow after being blown away at the ballot box, and that they want to understand what went wrong. If I had donated to a campaign that took such a beating, even after amassing a $170,000 war chest, I might also want an explanation for how opponents, with just $4,000 to spend, carried the day. (I might also ask for a refund, given how ineptly the pro-1A campaign was run -- but that's another blog post.) But that's an unlikely explanation for the after-election polling.

A second, more ominous possibility is that somebody out there didn't get the message, won't take "no" for an answer, and is planning a second run at the taxpayers' wallets, possibly as early as November. This poll is meant to help refine the message, or alter tactics, in a way that will fly next time.

One person who tipped me off to the poll said he thought it was conducted by a firm called Central Research. "It was a fairly lengthy poll," he said. "I would guess about 20 questions. The first question was how I voted on 1A. When I said I voted 'no,' I got a lot of questions about why. Did I vote no because I didn't like the ballot language? Was it too vague? Or did I vote no because I oppose all incentive deals? Did I vote no on all of the ballot issues, or did I mix some 'yes' votes and some 'no' votes? Did the AIG scandal make me vote no? Did the bank bailouts make me vote no? Did the news about the USOC deal with the city make me vote 'no'? Where did I see advertising that urged a no vote? Where did I see advertising that urged a “yes” vote. What do I remember those ads said?"

I'll be sniffing around in the next few days to find out who is paying for the poll, and exactly what purpose it serves. But if my hunch is correct, it may be the first sign that 1A will be back before too long, traveling under a slightly modified guise. I don't look at the possibility with dread, however. It was so much fun helping smash 1A that crushing "Son of 1A" will be icing on the cake.

Maybe I won’t throw out to those slightly-battered “Fight Corporate Welfare” signs I have stacked in the garage, just in case.

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