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Measure R

Will Metro’s Measure R “Informational” Campaign Backfire?

11:06 AM PDT on September 29, 2008

On Top of a Pile of Junk Mail, or Part of a Pile of Junk Mail?

Last Thursday during Metro's Board of Directors meeting, LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina protested that Metro was spending $4.1 million of public funds to  promote Measure R in violation of federal and state laws that prohibit governmental organizations from engaging in campaigns for or against ballot measures.  Recently, the Expo Construction Authority also found itself in the center of controversy for using public dollars to sway public opinion.

When I heard Molina's attack, which she claimed was timed to not embarass Mayor Villaraigosa by waiting for the cameras to leave the meeting, I thought it was thinly veiled posturing by a politician that didn't get her way when funding decisions were made on how the funds generated by a half cent sales tax would be spent.  Then, I got my mail on Friday, and so did everyone else I know.

Included with the normal junk mail was a 16 page, full color "brochure" as part of its informational campaign designed to educate voters on what projects we will see if the sales tax passes the November ballot.

Now here's the thing.  Between the nice brochure and the newspaper advertisements this looks like a political campaign, even if it does technically meat the definition of a "public information campaign."  The Daily News isn't fooled, and neither were the informal, small group of people whom I spoke with this weekend.  The strongest condemnation came from my Mom, who called it, "A waste of money, the kind of thing that makes me not want to give any more money to politicians."

So here's the question, Streetsbloggers: If we accept Metro's explanation that the expenditures on a campaign to inform the public on the benefits of Measure R are legal; are they a good idea?  Or will they turn off more people than they educate?

Photo:Damien Newton

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