Thursday, October 18, 2007

"No small group of activists alone could force such a vote. More than 48,000 Dallas voters signing a petition this year to prompt the referendum."

Ad Watch: Trinity road vote

October 18, 2007

Dave Levinthal
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

Checking out the pro-Trinity River toll road organization's latest campaign mailer to Dallas residents:

DETAILS: It's a four-panel color brochure that the Vote No! Save the Trinity organization says it's mailing to 100,000 households.

CONTENT: The cover pictures a path made of $100 and $20 bills. It's surrounded by trees and a green field. Superimposed over the image are the words, "The Angela Hunt Plan: Leading Dallas down the road to new Trinity taxes." Two of the three remaining panels quote several sources – Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris and two Dallas Morning News pieces – discussing why a Trinity River Corridor toll road should be built inside the corridor's levee walls, as planned. The final panel urges voters to "say 'no' to new Trinity road taxes by voting 'no' on Nov. 6." It also displays a North Texas Tollway Authority conceptual drawing of the planned tollway's location relative to planned lakes and parkland just northwest of downtown.

ANALYSIS: This second mass Vote No! mailing in three weeks indicates that the well-heeled organization will outclass its counterpart, the anti-toll road TrinityVote group, where advertising is concerned. Save for a few billboards, cash-strapped TrinityVote hasn't produced any mass advertising, with leaders saying they're focused on "grass-roots campaigning." But TrinityVote enjoys a simple, almost singular message: Don't build a big, ugly, polluting toll road, carrying tens of thousands of cars and trucks each day, right next to our beautiful park. Vote No!, in contrast, must convince voters that they should continue to support building a toll road within the Trinity floodway. Unable to offer one overriding motivator to vote no on Nov. 6, they've resorted in this mailer and others to a patchwork quilt of reasons, such as the potential loss of transportation funding, the specter of higher taxes, increased traffic congestion and decreased economic development. Vote No! backers acknowledge theirs is a tougher sell. They're not making it any easier on themselves, either, by erroneously stating in this latest mailer that "a small group of activists, led by Angela Hunt, have forced a referendum to redesign the Trinity Parkway." In truth, no small group of activists alone could force such a vote. It took more than 48,000 Dallas voters signing a petition this year to prompt the referendum. The mailer also states that if Ms. Hunt's forces win, "they could throw this beautiful, well-planned project into limbo, and Dallas could lose more than $1 billion in road funding." Vote No! supporters have been unable to itemize that dollar figure, and there's no concrete number for how much money Dallas could lose – or how much the city would need to increase taxes, if at all – if Dallasites pass TrinityVote's Proposition 1 next month.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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