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They're Not On Board Anymore  -  Reading the Tea Leaves
Deciphering the Latest Register Guard Editorial on the West Eugene EmX
By Scott Rohter, April 2012

On March 28th 2012 there was an editorial that appeared in the Register Guard entitled, “Not a Vote of Confidence.” It could just as easily have been entitled, “We Are Not On Board Anymore.” Here’s why.

The editorial which was written by the newspaper’s editorial board points to a “worrisome” level of opposition to the EmX expansion into West Eugene, and it acknowledges that those pushing ahead with their plans for the project have not been able to "make their case" for the project in spite of numerous public hearings, open houses, and positive media spin over the last several years.

In the overpriced poll that Lane Transit District (LTD) recently paid $30,000 for, the results were hardly encouraging according to the Register Guard. The most important statistic we learned was that there were actually more people strongly opposed to the West Eugene EmX than were strongly in favor of it! The result was 33% strongly against it, and 27% strongly in favor of it. This is an outright rejection of the specific project at hand!

Only if you add in the numbers of people who are ambivalent to the whole project did LTD obtain somewhat more favorable results. And those numbers weren’t extremely encouraging either! There were 12% somewhat against, and 23% somewhat in favor. Combining these figures is how LTD arrived at a total of 45% opposed or somewhat opposed, versus 50% in favor or somewhat in favor. That’s what I call a pretty good spin job!  But please stop already, my head is spinning from all of this data manipulating. So let’s all pause for a minute and get real, while I get my bearings...

The money to build the West Eugene Emx is coming from the Federal Government. Our Federal Government is already $16 Trillion dollars in debt! That’s 16,000,000,000,000 dollars in debt! Do we really need the EmX in West Eugene that bad that we are willing to pile even more debt onto our already sinking Federal Ship of State?

DHM Research of Portland did the poll for LTD. There were four hundred respondents and numerous questions, and the poll cost $30,000. It doesn’t require any spinning to know that this is more than mere “bus change” that LTD has just spent to learn the exact extent of community opposition to their little “pet project.” It comes down to about $750 per respondent. That’s a lot of lunch money. But not to worry, it’s not theirs!  It’s ours!!!  Maybe they would have thought a little harder about spending all of that money on a poll if it was their own money that they were spending.  By the same “bus token” maybe they would also think a little bit harder about spending ninety million dollars to build the controversial West Eugene EmX if it was their own money! But alas, it is all “free” government money!  You know,… grant money for “shovel ready projects.”

I guess pollsters don’t have to “recuse” themselves the way that Supreme Court Judges do when they have a conflict of interest that might prejudice their judgment, or if they have a pre-conceived opinion about a matter that may impair their decision. Oh but I almost forgot, even our Supreme Court Judges don’t have to recuse themselves anymore under the Obama Administration’s “new guidelines” for Supreme Court Justices. Apparently that is why the former Solicitor General of the United States, Elena Kagan, who helped to write the Obama Administration’s Health Care Bill, can now sit on the Supreme Court and rule on its constitutionality.

One concern that might have some validity and cast even more doubt as to the authenticity of LTD’s poll results is the fact that one of the principal partners of the polling firm is Adam Davis. He has always been a strong supporter of public transportation projects anywhere in the State! But no problemo, he said to LTD. He can still do the survey and remain impartial just the same way that Elena Kagan can!  Well excuse me if I remain a little bit skeptical.

Here are some other conclusions from the poll done for LTD by Davis, Hibbitts, & Midghall Inc. that just can’t be manipulated, no matter how hard they try.

  1. Improved transportation services are not a high priority in Eugene. (That is actually good news because it means that our current bus system is pretty darn good). Rapid transit doesn’t even make it on the list of priorities. Instead better road maintenance came in at number 4.

  2. When asked to rate their most important transportation issues, only 12% said that expanding bus routes was important. But that question did not specifically mention the EmX. The question was deliberately vague so as to illicit a general response which could be interpreted differently by different people. Still only 12% of the respondents selected “expanding bus routes” as most important.

  3. Not building the West Eugene EmX was ranked as the 4th most important priority. 6% of the respondents favored that answer.  Expanding the EmX was ranked as the 7th most important priority. Only 4% of the respondents favored that.

The overall conclusion regarding the EmX is one of widespread apathy. However, within that general apathy there is a very strong opposition to expanding the EmX into West Eugene. Transportation is not viewed as a very high priority by the majority of residents. And among transportation issues, the Eugene EmX  is not very high on the list for most people. Whenever it does come up though, the response is mostly negative!

There is still the troubling misperception that the West Eugene EmX would help to decrease the traffic congestion on 6th and 7th streets, and on west 11th Avenue. However the use of a single designated lane for buses only would force all of the remaining traffic to travel on three lanes instead of the current four lanes. This would obviously make the traffic congestion even worse than it is, not better. Apparently too many people do the math like this. Four minus one equals five! What? This must be the unfortunate result of over thirty years of Federal control of our Education System!

“Deep seated opposition to the project at hand” is how Alton Baker summarizes the current situation over the West Eugene EmX.  And he concludes his editorial with the admonition that the public relations battle to build the West Eugene EmX extension along 6th and 7th streets and on west 11th is already lost. He says, “Many people remain un-persuaded, and they are “not persuadable” [at this point]. At least someone up there is listening.

"The truth, the political truth, and nothing but the political truth.
A journalist has no better friend than the truth."
- Scott Rohter

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