This election we saw several public transportation referendums on the ballot. Calvert Street Group was proud to help the Moving Wake Forward Coalition with their successful Wake County referendum, which passed a half percent sales tax to fund public transportation improvements.
What are the lessons learned for future public transportation campaigns? Five key takeaways:
- Tax increases will be tough campaigns for years to come. Most analysts point to a heavy anti-tax sentiment arising in the final weeks of the campaign. This mood will likely continue through 2017 and beyond. Transportation referendums must be mindful of the challenges in passing any tax increase – and be ready to organize now.
- You can’t rely on a left leaning coalition to show up and vote down their ballot. All winning ballot initiatives underperformed the Democratic Presidential ticket by as much as 17%. Persuasion of moderate and Republican voters is crucial, even in the most left leaning areas.
- Focus on your plan – and accept that you can’t do everything. The Moving Wake Forward Coalition did an exceptional job of being disciplined, focusing on their targets, and executing their strategy. This meant making tough decision on when to be visible and who to communicate with. In the end, most transportation referendum campaigns will face limited options and must be thoughtful about their targets and resources.
- It all starts with a good plan. The Wake County spent years organizing support for a plan that earned bipartisan support and the endorsement of 70+ organizations and hundreds of Wake County leaders. Without this work, the campaign would have never succeeded. Supporters of public transportation referendums must put the work in to develop the right plan and one that has bipartisan community support.
- Effective messages go deeper than communicating what the plan does. Specific benefits of public transportation plans are important, but campaigns must dig deeper – and connect with voters’ values to win. Messages on the important of choice and making difficult decisions now for the future can prove effective for transportation campaigns.