Monday, May 15, 2006

Losing campaign ahead of its time

Well, we lost. It was ahead of it's time, I suppose (or perhaps just the victim of scurrilous lies by the opposition) but the open government online amendment failed big at the ballot box. Personally I'm stunned at the margin. I mean, how often in a campaign does a judge say negative attacks are "misleading"? In the end it didn't matter - repetition trumped verity. Surprisingly, with strict message discipline, outright fabrications work well as a campaign tactic in the short run, expecially if, as in this case, the folks who buy ink by the barrel are on their side.

Which was the other odd part about this campaign: It forced the local Austin print media, the Austin American Statesman and the Austin Chronicle, to choose sides: Are they insiders and power brokers, in which case they benefit from secrecy? Or are they journalists who benefit from public information? News flash: They're insiders. They'd rather be gatekeepers for the news than let everybody see information themselves online. After all, then why would we read them?

As a result, there was a bizarre, near 100% media blackout on any positive news about the campaign, while the smallest bureaucratic errors by the Save Our Springs Alliance meritied front page headlines questioning their integrity. No one could buy enough media to counter that barrage. (Thanks to Ken Martin and The Good Life for bucking the trend.) For myself, I've never really seen the news pages at the Statesman used so blatantly to promote a political agenda before, even back in the days of Roger Kintzel. It seems a new day has dawned at the local daily. After this, they should make it official and formally merge the news and opinion sections. Why bother any longer with pretense?

Thanks to everybody who helped on the campaign and supported the cause of open government. Now help hold the feet to the fire of those who claimed they're REALLY for open government just not for this amendment - they'll get a chance down the road to show us whether such declarations real, or just opportunistic lip service aimed at thwarting openness.


At 1:03 PM, Blogger Redheaded Dude said...

I'm reading over these posts too late! The election was last Saturday, and we all know that both Props 1 and 2 were soundly defeated. I will note, however, at this late date, that it's fascinating to me that almost all the comments on this blog from anyone other than the "Contributors" are against both 1 & 2. Did this not alert The Contributors that something might be wrong with the path they were on? Reminds me of the famous Pauline Kael quote after the Nixon landslide, 'I don't know how Richard Nixon could have won, I don't know anybody who voted for him.' Except you guys were able to see what people were saying right here on your own blog! *head-scratching time*

Clearly, liberalism is not dead in Austin, Texas--just check the election previous to this one where even the progressive Republicans (ie, Patrick Keel) were tossed out. However, perhaps this election is a watershed (pardon the SOS, Barton Springs pun). We love to "Keep Austin Weird". But let's admit that there has been an "Established Liberal Leadership in Austin" (the ELLAs) who may be in for a surprise when even the left-leaners who love Austin don't always toe the Liberal Leadership Line.

This is not meant to be a rant; sorry if that's what it's turning into. It's meant to be a message to the "Contributors": Move over, old man! (and woman!) There's a new wind blowing in Austin! Listen to the progressives who have the voice and the (numbers for the) vote. They may not be as "nutty crunchy" as you and your "Established Liberal Leadership", but when you put something you like on the ballot, it may just be too far left for the "New Liberals".

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

By the Established Liberal Leadership I assume you mean Daryl Slusher, Will Wynn, Lee Leffingwell and the opponents of Prop One. That's whose power was being protected here. The groups pushing the amendment didn't have a single council ally - how can THEY be the liberal establishment?!

What I noticed about the commenters was that none of those repeaters, similar to your own comment, ever identified anything specific they didn't like. (Mostly it was one person, Mike Blizzard, a paid consultant for theother side, posting anonymously), Instead, opponents just issued general, non-substantiated drive-by smears and moved on. That a judge and independent verifiers (in the case of the financial estimate) said the criticisms were untrue didn't matter. Many people like yourself were obviously fooled by false arguments, but there are several people who I am certain beyond a shadow of the doubt knowingly misled the public, and your comments here merely parrot their's.

Your new wind blowing reminds me of when they put a huge hog farm outside my grandparent's hometown of Dalhart, and on certain days the smell of hog shit filled the whole town. My relatives wold quip asking if newcomers knew what that smell was - "Money" was the answer. That's the new wind blowing in Austin: Government for sale to the highest bidder. I'm hope you're proud of your role in furthering that ignominious ideal.

At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Funny, but why do I think that if the props had won you'd be calling it a mandate, but they lose, and it's negative ads. It was a mandate, just not to your liking.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

Maybe it is sour grapes. I've worked as a professional consultant in 68 candidate campaigns and several issue elections like this one since 1992 - this is the fourth out of all of those in which I honestly believed at the end of the campaign that key people on the other side knowingly, cynically lied. That's absolutely what happened here. Coupled with the bizarre media blackout described in the post. It's hard under those circumstances NOT to have a bitter taste in your mouth.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Redheaded Dude said...

Funny. I was just reading something online earlier, and I think it fits in well here. (The following is a cut & paste from wikipedia @ "Neo-con"):

"According to Irving Kristol, former managing editor of Commentary and now a Senior Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington and the publisher of the hawkish magazine The National Interest, a neoconservative is a "liberal mugged by reality," meaning someone who has become more conservative after seeing the practical impact of liberal foreign and domestic policies."

So does this mean Daryl, Will, Lee, et al are now neo-cons? My point--and I guess I wasn't clear enough--is that there are still a lot of progressive (ie liberals) in Austin. Period. But when some (now, I'm referring to you) go ridiculously far to the left--some would say "loony left"--even some of those who are traditionally on "the left" may shake their heads and say, "this is out of hand." I think that's what happened on Saturday.

Obviously, you are not open to seeing the other side of this. According to you, the voters were either duped or, like me, just "parrot" what we're told by the media. The same media, which, apparently, is now part of this vast left (right?) wing conspiracy in Austin that just doesn't understand how passionately Scott Henson believed in the "yes" vote.

Remember folks, the American-Statesman and the Chronicle are insiders and power brokers now.

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Suzie said...

I thought I'd check out this site my daughter told me about and I'm not Mike Blizzard or any other person posting anonymously.
I voted against the props and it made me very sad to do so, since the aquifer is very important to me. But it seemed that most of the lying was coming from the SOS side, not the other side. Why didn't Bunch get legitimate tech people to study how long it would take to get his real-time system up and running? Why wouldn't Bunch reveal where the SOS money was coming from? Why was he using Bush White House tactics? The fear-mongering just didn't pass with Austin voters, who are too smart for that.
Bunch needs to go. He has alienated most of Austin and SOS is obviously in a shambles. Shouldn't he be retired, just like Council Members after a due amount of time?
We need to save our springs, indeed, but SOS isn't doing it any more and everyone knows it.
The SOS board has a number of impressive names on its list - how come none of them were vocal during this campaign? Could it be they no longer believe in Bill Bunch? He is over the top and as long as he's involved with SOS, it will be a useless organization.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I posted here, and I said I didn't like you allying yourself with the anti-toll-road brigade; but I voted for both propositions anyways. Does that make your head spin or what?

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grits - you say "the other side knowingly, cynically lied" - I'd be curious how you would support this.

Considering I saw vote yes signs to stop the secret toll road deals.

The toll roads were between CAMPO, TxDot, CTRMA, TTA, not the city of Austin. Sure, some members of the council are on the CAMPO board. But CAMPO meetings are public, nothing secret about them.

So which side was lying?

At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to Fisk a comment but if ever a comment deserved a good Fisking, it's this one...

suzie said...
"But it seemed that most of the lying was coming from the SOS side, not the other side.

I have directly in front of me, 2 direct mailers from the EDUCATE PAC and the Committee for Austin's Future PAC.

Lie #1:
On the CAFPAC mailer: "could consume tens of millions in Austin city taxpayer funds to put all public information online in "real time."" That is a blatant lie. Prop 1 never seeked to put all public information online in real time.

Lie #2:
On the EDUCATE PAC: "Requires the city to post all incoming and outgoing emails on the internet in real time, at an estimated cost of $36 million up front plus $12 million per year." Another blatent lie. The city's CIO testified under oath and said that there was no way to put a price tag on the plan as there had been no technical requirements set. The judge ruled that the $36 million figure had to be removed from the ballot language as misleading (also, the $36mil up front cost was also a lie. If you look at the official estimate from the city, you'll see that the up front cost was actually $24mil and that the opponents combined the up front w/the ongoing to arrive at $36mil. Another falsehood.)

Lie #3:
EDUCATE mailer: "Requires city officials and employees to immediately report all details of every telephone call and every meeting, including meals and happy hours." Prop 1 only required the notation when city business was discussed and only for City Council members, City managers and their staff and Division heads. The other 10,850 employees of the city were unaffected by the amendment.

Lie #4:
EDUCATE mailer: "Daryl Slusher: These amendments are sloppily and carelessly written. This will lead to numerous unintended consequences and is a lose-lose for the environmental community." I addressed some of this argument here. Check the comments on that post.

Lie #5:
EDUCATE mailer: "Lee Leffingwell: If approved, these amendments could cost taxpayers $33,000 every single day of the week, preventing us from investing in open space, parks, and affordable housing." See the CIO's testimony...

Brewster McCracken:
"McCracken itemized three reasons to oppose the amendments: 1) the excessive cost (a six-year estimate of $96 million) [...] the "severe restrictions" on citizen privacy rights in e-mails and discussions with city officials." False and False...

I could go on and on but I hope you're getting my point here. Also, go look at the PAC finance reports located here. Look under the Specific Purpose Committees' Reports and compare who gave money to the EDUCATE and CFAF PACs compared to the Clean Water Clean Government PAC. Quick summary: Developers and their sub-industries largely funded the EDUCATE and CFAF PACs and private citizens and SOS funded the Clean Water PAC. Should tell you about the priorities of the campaigns.

suzie said...
"Why didn't Bunch get legitimate tech people to study how long it would take to get his real-time system up and running?"

Bill Bunch and the others (and maybe Scott could address this better than I) had met numerous times with multiple city officials over a period of about 4 yrs. The charter amendment push was born out of the frustration of not getting anywhere with those officials over that time.

suzie said...
"Why wouldn't Bunch reveal where the SOS money was coming from?"

They did. "Last week, a belated campaign-finance report confirmed that at $1 per signature, plus expenses, it cost the Clean Water Clean Government PAC about $75,000 to fill the petitions." I've already provided the link to the PAC Campaign filings. Look it up yourself...

suzie said...
"Why was he using Bush White House tactics? The fear-mongering just didn't pass with Austin voters, who are too smart for that."

Ahem... Not to get off on a rant here but which side was using misleading financial figures? Which side was scaring people with "unintended consequences?" Which side lost in a court of law for approving misleading ballot language, the first time in Texas history a municipal council had to rewrite proposition language from court order?

suzie said...
"Bunch needs to go. He has alienated most of Austin and SOS is obviously in a shambles. Shouldn't he be retired, just like Council Members after a due amount of time?
Could it be they no longer believe in Bill Bunch? He is over the top and as long as he's involved with SOS, it will be a useless organization."

Sounds like you have something personal against Bill Bunch. Instead of throwing out "wild speculation," back it up with some facts. Point us to examples that back up your accusations.

Through my various blog posts (linked to from above), I tried to remain pretty much a neutral observer throughout the process. I never made an endorsement one way or the other; my focus before the election was always on a truthful and non-biased look at the facts. I have to agree with some of Scott's observations about the media (News8, the day after the election was still misrepresenting Prop 1) which tells me that the misleading advertising and bully pulpits of the current and former council members and mayors (the people whose opinion should really be taken with a grain of salt since they had the most to gain/lose from the propositions) along with lax television journalism, led to massive public misunderstandings.

Are there some sour grapes here? Sure, just like in any endeavour where passions run deep. What's important now is not to sit and accuse people of sour grapes, but, if you really do care about the aquifer, let's take Scott's advice to heart and start holding our elected reps accountable. After all, we have the same goals and so ultimately, we're on the same team...

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous post regarding the lies:

Perhaps you should do a little more research. Regarding your "Lies".

Lie #1 - You are wrong. Section 3 of the Amendment states "...make all public information available online in real time..."

Lie #2 - Let's see your cost estimate. We can only go by the City's estimate which is 24 million upfront plus 12 million per year. The first year is not free, so 36 million is correct.

Lie #3 - Wrong again. See Section 3 (B) - Meals, happy hours, etc are required.

Lie #4 - Slusher is correct.

Lie #5 - 12 million per year operating cost divided by 365 days in the year equals $32,876 - okay, you got this one since he rounded to $33,000. Now this money won't be pulled out of thin air, it will come from parks, investment, etc.

Do a little research next time. You can start here :

At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, my little grasshopper, you attempt to seek the truth but all you have been able to find is truthiness. As, obviously, I didn't read any of Prop 1 (my 10,000+ word dissections I guess don't count), I'll have to call in a real expert here, FactMan.

FactMan, oh FactMan, the scourge of truthiness has risen its evil head again!!!

Na na na na na na na.... FACTMAN!

Ah, I see we have another case of that popular public logical fact blinder. I can see its Budweiser-induced red eyes staring back at me and it appears to be gaining strength! I must go and challenge it now before it's too late!!!

Oh, thank you FactMan!

Lie #1 - You are wrong. Section 3 of the Amendment states "...make all public information available online in real time..."

We'll use the *only* link the wizard of truthiness has provided for any kind of reference as the little buggers just hate when you cite the truth from their own links...

It seems the wizard has left off the first part of that sentence which completely reads:

"The City must, as expeditiously as possible and to the greatest extent practical, make all public information available online in real time and accessible to the public."

And therein lies the qualifier for the City Council to be the gateway of practicalness. Conveniently, as covered by your post detailing what would have to happen for any public information situation not explicitly mentioned in the amendment, the following process would have to happen:

1. Some public information initiative (like putting email online) would have to be sponsored by some department, citizen's initiative, etc., and placed on the Council's agenda.
2. At that meeting, Council would have to deem that situation practical.
3. If found practical, Council would have to draw up ordinances and resolutions to meet and enforce the requirements of the situation.
4. Council would have to pass the ordinances and resolutions.

So outside of the few actual mandated goals in the amendment, everything else in the public information world would have had to follow that process. Arr, so take that, beast of truthiness!!!

Biff, Bam, BOOM!

FactMan, that looked like it hurt him. Keep going!

Lie #2 - Let's see your cost estimate. We can only go by the City's estimate which is 24 million upfront plus 12 million per year. The first year is not free, so 36 million is correct.

Ah, if you look at page 4 in the city's cost estimate, you'll find the words that were used are "One time" and "Recurring." Granted the first year is not free and is covered in it's own column, "One time" which would be everything needed to get the system running and then "Recurring" costs to keep the system running thereafter. "One time" costs are spread out over the implementation timeline of 3 to 5 years (mentioned on page 35 of the cost estimate) which brings the $24mil "upfront" pricetag to $4.8 - $8mil a year. Then, once the system is functional, the recurring cost of $11.6mil a year is now relevant.

Oh, FactMan, he didn't like that one... I think one of his eyes is swelling!

Bam! Boof! Zing!

Ah, the truth trumps truthiness everytime! But we must move on!

Lie #3 - Wrong again. See Section 3 (B) - Meals, happy hours, etc are required.

Quoting your from your own unlinked to but referenced section (and again, conveniently covered by the same post referenced above):


(1)For all matters involving City business, the following people must maintain calendars of all meetings and maintain logs of all telephone calls: (a) City Councilmembers and their staff; (b) City Manager and his or her staff; (c) Assistant City Managers and their staff; and (d) all department heads.

There is no mention of garbage men, information security analysts, lifeguards, pet walkers, or truthiness purveyors. Only the above mentioned staff. Oh, by the way, the very first phrase of that sentence, "For all matters involving City business..." is a pretty good qualifier that says if your phone call is to your doctor or family or mistress, that's not city business and doesn't have to be noted.

Oh, he's really starting to shake now, FactMan!

Zowie! Ka-pow! Zang! Schwup!

Lie #4 - Slusher is correct.

Hmm, hard to argue with this assertion. No links, no facts, just the crunchy truthiness. Again, as covered in one of your posts and comments, Slusher's main arguments were 1) these terms did not belong in the city charter and belong as ordinances; 2) he didn't want to put the words "happy hour" in the city charter because he didn't want the other cities to laugh and tease Austin on the playground; 3) there is a monster lurking in "unintended consequences;" 4) no matter which way voters decided, the perception of the environmental movement in Austin would be weakened. Now, figuring that fully half of his arguments are subjective as they are based on personal perception and not any sort of fact (2 and 4, which I won't address) and one that relies the randomness and chaos of life (3), we'll talk about his strongest point first.

Now, by far the strongest of his arguments, number 1, there is actually a good reason to move what the charter amendments sought to do to ordinances. And, in fact, that is exactly what the charter drafters tried to do for close to 4 years previously with the city. Because there was no progress being made with the city, the drafters decided to "go over their heads" and use the charter. The Council had its chances to enforce the provisions by ordinance and chose not to do so. Also, "unintended consequences" is a fact of life. Everything that has a choice in life has unintended consequences. This is because we are not perfect beings and the universe is awash in chaos. But because there are "unintended consequences" does not negate the need for any action (by the way, great wizard of truthiness, can you point me to one example of unintended consequences that passing Prop 1 would have provided?) I see that the logic has done its damage and we won't even need to address the stupid premise of putting the phrase "happy hour" into the charter.

Yah, I've never liked the word "Shall" but, you know, it shows up all over the place in the charter... FactMan, I think the truthiness beast is reeling!

Bam! Boom! Ka-Pow!!

Lie #5 - 12 million per year operating cost divided by 365 days in the year equals $32,876 - okay, you got this one since he rounded to $33,000. Now this money won't be pulled out of thin air, it will come from parks, investment, etc.

Based on the City CIO's sworn testimony in a court of law, the State Judge threw out the official cost estimate as "misleading" and therefore, can be surmised that the official cost estimate shouldn't be used as a basis when talking about cost. The Livable City independent group showed that Prop 1 could be implemented/maintained for a tenth of the city's projected cost. The truth is somewhere in between the estimates but to continue to quote something that has been legally tagged as "misleading" is disingenous at best.

That did it! The truth triumphed over truthiness! Oh, Thank You FactMan!!

Just doing my sworn duty to protect the public from idiotic statements not based in fact. And trust me, when the ugly head of truthiness once again rises, I'll only be a quick call away! Onward to Little Green Footballs!!!

Man, that FactMan. What a guy! So, Anonymous, next time I'll expect some links to facts within your posts. FactMan and I await your response...

At 12:42 PM, Blogger glenda said...

I agree. They are part of the FOx type nes vending machine. "Keep Austin Weird" wasn't supposed to mean this kind of weird.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger ... said...


At 10:06 PM, Blogger 方便 said...

faith will move mountains. ..................................................


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