Press Talk: Manipulating us through advisory votes

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

Have you heard about it? Sure you have. It's the proposed east county bridge and yet another advisory vote to see if we like it.

Why, that dang bridge will resolve all our traffic problems, cost next to nothing and — get this — will cure any bunions you might have.

Hey, when you're in the business of promising stuff — like most politicians are — bunion relief couldn't hurt.

This is the latest Madore manipulation. That's Madore as in County Commissioner David Madore. Have you seen the TV show "Mad Men?" That show is all about advertising executives manipulating people. And Madore would have been a king on Madison Avenue.

A king!

His calm demeanor and emotionless smile will try to convince you otherwise. He is simply a humble servant carrying out the wishes of the people.

Yeah, right.

The first bridge vote

This will actually be the second time we get to vote on this east county bridge. Madore maneuvered an earlier question on the ballot asking us if we would like a toll-free bridge in east county.

"Me, me, me! I want that!"

You see, when someone asks me a leading question like that … hey, I'll take it!

I'll also take free ice cream, a pony and no tax or fee increases for the next decade.

Commissioner, are you willing to ask voters that?

OK, throw out the ice cream and the pony. But seriously, if you want to do what the people want, ask about no tax or fee increases. If I were a betting man, I'd bet you'd get a majority of residents to vote for it.

But then what? I think you see my point.

Too often, advisory votes are misleading and manipulative. They rarely put issues in context.

So now we're going to have another advisory vote — concocted again by Madore and his sidekick Commissioner Tom Mielke — on this proposed east county bridge.

Yep. They'll be asking us again this November if we'd like a toll-free east county bridge.

"Me, me, me! I want that!"

But just like the first vote, it won't be put in context. What if, for example, the vote asked what was our community's most pressing transportation need? We'd include a new proposed east county bridge. But we'd put it up against a replacement I-5 bridge.

Makes sense, right? But don't count on Madore asking that. Why? Because he might not get the answer he's looking for. He wants that east county bridge!

But don't worry, Commissioner Madore. Since you won't ask, we did. The Columbian asked this very question in an unscientific poll on our website. And with more than 1,600 votes already recorded, most voters would rather see us working on an I-5 bridge replacement.

Well, imagine that!

More than 62 percent of the votes favor replacing the I-5 bridge. Less than 28 percent favor a new east county bridge.

Pesky stuff, that context, eh, commissioner?

Don't sell Madore short

Look, Madore is a smart guy. He realizes turning this east county bridge thing into reality is a long shot. Why? Well, he's spent most of his time — both before and after getting elected as commissioner — alienating just about everyone he needs to make it happen. How do you get things done? To build a bridge, you have to build relationships. Sadly, this is a skill set not in Madore's wheelhouse.

In being a major player in killing an earlier I-5 bridge proposal — which included light rail — he lost the support he needs. He burned his bridges with too many people.

So he wants to make nice now. But — again — this guy is smart enough to know that won't work. His only hope? Make this east county bridge the people's bridge. Not his bridge. Thus the advisory vote. Then he'll look with those sad eyes at all the decision makers that he now needs — the very ones he threw under the bus — and say, "Isn't it time we put all this bad blood behind us? Isn't it time that we all get along? Let's do it for the people!"

Ah, good luck with that.

Coming Sunday: A Press Talk look at a major player in bridge discussions.