Selling conservation by the pound
Whenever we get political direct mail -- or "election porn," as we sometimes call it -- we like to blog about it and post some fun excerpts. Often the stuff is coming from groups with which we disagree, but on occasion it's from folks whom we consider to be the good guys.
Yesterday -- the same day we received our ballot form in the all-mail election from the county -- we got the Mother of All Election Porn, and lo and behold, it's from the good guys at Yes on 49. The political campaign artists have really outdone themselves this time, with a full-color, 8-by-10¼-inch, glossy, 16-page magazine about why we need to vote yes on 49.
For a group that's so interested in saving the forests, they've got no qualms about killing trees for paper, that's for sure. The darn thing is reminiscent of one of those slick little booklets that the car manufacturers throw around touting this year's model. Never has a Civic been made to look so much like a Jaguar.
Anyway, this is an impressive document. After testimonials by those five Oregonians designed to somehow mirror you and me and that farmer we used to know down in Amity, and following breathtaking photos of Oregon scenic beauty straight out of a tour guide, it runs a series of maps showing all the property on which Measure 37 claims are threatening ugly and destructive development. With each map comes some frightening revelations -- "new subdivisions equivalent to the size of 5⅓ Beavertons"; "21 subdivisions on 7,647 acres" in Yamhill County, "larger than McMinnville"; "nearly 25% of all the land zoned for Exclusive Farm Use" in the Hood River Valley "under a Measure 37 claim"; etc. The maps and text sections cover Washington County (two-page spread), Clackamas County (two pages), Portland (one page, including "Wal-Mart in Sellwood"), Hood River Valley and Central Oregon (half-page each), and the Willamette Valley (two pages), in that order.
I'll bet those space allotments and the order of the presentation of the maps are carefully calculated. If Measure 49 is going to pass, it's going to have to win in Washington and Clackamas Counties. Everybody with an ax to grind on this measure cares about those other wonderful places in the state, too, but the key votes are in the Portland 'burbs.
As powerful as the book is, maybe it's just a tad too impressive. When this much money is being thrown at us, with this corporate a package, with such a long list of big shots in favor, people like me who were once enthusiastic supporters start to feel uneasy. Pacificorp and Portland General Electric are voting yes, as well as the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and AFSCME. That ain't me, babe.
More importantly, this book makes it look as though the Measure 49 train is unstoppable, which could lead to a dangerous complacency. Measure 37 (which 49 unwinds) won big, and although the proponents of land use laws have an excellent ballot title this time and the benefit of being a "yes" vote, they cannot afford to have anyone who sympathizes with them sit this one out.
The worst part, of course, are these guys, who prove conclusively that this is no grassroots document, but another unctuous marketing piece put together by a Mark Wiener type:
It's like some sort of bizarre cult signal.
That said, I fervently hope that the literally millions of Nature Conservancy and Eric Lemelson and Phil Knight dollars that have been spent on this campaign are successful. I believe that the proponents of Measure 49 have it exactly right, and I'm a proud endorser of a yes vote on that ballot measure.
And as heavy-handed as this latest come-on is, it's more effective than the campaign flyer that I would have produced. Let's hope it works.