By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Why is the ballot language upside down? Why do we have to vote YES in order to say NO to the toll road? Shouldn't it have been set up so we could vote NO in order to get rid of the toll road?
Yeah. Look. Like everything else, this question is the subject of 28 conspiracy theories. At one point Mayor Tom Leppert (Vote No!) was confronting city council member Angela Hunt (Vote YES) after debates, demanding that she 'fess up to having made the ballot language tricky. Hunt had to point out to Leppert that the ballot language was written by the city attorney, not her, and that she had complained about it to no avail when it was first unveiled.
City Attorney Tom Perkins told Hunt he was required by state law to frame the question in an upside-down inside-out way (although that obviously isn't how Perkins put it). I must point out that the city attorney's office is where we got the original 1998 bond election ballot language which forgot to mention the high-speed multi-lane limited access $1.3 billion toll road that the Vote No! side now insists it had in mind from the beginning.
It was not on the ballot in '98.
The Office of Dallas City Attorney is also the same outfit that went to court some years ago and argued that the city should not be bound by the ballot language anyway. A judge, thank goodness, just said no. Meaning yes. The city is bound by the ballot language.
But as a consolation prize, the judge said the city did not have to live up to any promises it made voters in 1998 in brochures, briefings or speeches about the Trinity project. This ruling has been enshrined in my own private legal compendium under the principle, "Go ahead and lie out the wazoo."
So was the city attorney being tricky when he framed the ballot question sort of upside down this time? Oh, yeah, probably so. The entire city staff is lined up, enlisted and saluting in support of the Vote NO! campaign. I covered an appearance by the city's Trinity project director Rebecca Dugger last week in which she made a long straight-up campaign speech for the Vote No! side.
I sent City Attorney Perkins a detailed description of the speech and asked him how in the world it wasn't a violation of the city's ethics code, which prohibits city employees from taking part in campaigns. He didn't even answer me.
Kind of like, "Grow up, buddy. Ethics is for Birkenstockers."
The Vote No! side has been tricky from the get-go. They discovered that the original opponents of the toll road, a group called "Save the Trinity," had allowed their rights to the name to lapse, so the Vote NO! people cobbed it for their own and started calling themselves, "Save the Trinity: Vote NO!"
My suspicion is that they were too clever by half. That must be why Leppert started getting jacked out of shape about it. Vote No! has been doing a ton of polling. They must have been calling people who said, "Yeah, I'm really for that toll road. I'm gonna vote yes."
People have been telling the TrinityVote side (Vote YES against the toll road) that they have received unidentified "survey" calls in which the caller asks whether they are for or against the toll road. When they say they're against it, the caller says, "So you're going to vote NO, right?"
That would be wrong. If you're against the toll road, you would vote YES.
From the beginning, the Vote No-sters have claimed they have an unfair disadvantage because the other side's message is so simple. All TrinityVote has to do is tell people to vote against the toll road (by voting YES). The No'sters say they can't think of a slogan as simple as that.
Know why? Because they still don't want to say what they didn't want to say in 1998. How about, "Vote FOR the toll road?" What's so hard about that?
Know why they don't want to say "Vote FOR the tollroad?" Go back to 1998. Come forward to now. Who in the hell wants a toll road?
Their problem is not that they can't think up a simple slogan. It's that they can't think up an honest slogan. Thank you, Scott Bennett and Steve Blow. Parks suck.
From the mouths of babes!