If you enjoy the power of the Internet to spread half-truths, outright falsehoods and innuendo, ditto.
Many voters ate what they were being fed. Of course some of them would have it no other way, because to do the homework was too much to expect. And believe me, candidates bank on the idea that getting the truth takes too much investment. At least some of them do.
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The dirt that flew by way of videos, photos and other unsubstantiated crap on Facebook was unheard of for a local election. It was ugly, really ugly.
We got our fair share of criticism for not airing all the dirty laundry in the days before the election, but I slept better knowing we didn’t bite, even though some candidates tried mightily to manipulate us. Maybe our silence was a different kind of manipulation; there will always be things we second guess.
One political ad we didn’t run struck me as a prime example of facts being massaged to fit a message. It was pushed by a candidate on “behalf” of a group of “Concerned Citizens of El Centro.” No one would stand behind it, so we killed it.
It read: “El Centro Fire Station No. 3 is under construction. Cost: $7 million. General contractor: Davis Reed Construction (San Diego); total number of subcontractors: 24; number of local contractors: 1 (All-Valley Fence); total amount of money spent locally: $35,000; total amount of money spent outside of Imperial Valley: $6.965 million. Who voted for this? The El Centro City Council — Jon Edney, Sedalia Sanders, Efrain Silva, Ben Solomon, Cheryl Walker. Start spending our money locally!”
There’s truth to that ad, if you don’t take into consideration the process that led up to it. Education was not the intention; this ad was to run as is, with no nuance or history. It was to shock and awe and damage the incumbents.
As a newspaper, we’ve covered this issue every step of the way, and that is why it struck me, because we know the city did what it could to promote local businesses being able to bid and secure this job.
The first request for bids asked for a company experienced in building fire stations. But with the assistance of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce, that was changed to include contractors who could build an “essential services” building with suggested project management positions.
In fact, this second bid request was recast with two local companies in mind that could have qualified as the prime contractors. Neither business bid. Was that because it was a prevailing wage project or because the companies couldn’t be bonded for a $6 million or $7 million project?
And the subs? The city held a subcontractor fair to introduce the five qualifying prime contractors to the 50-plus local trades that showed up. How many of the locals bid, I don’t know. But locals had just as many opportunities within the letter of the law.
“Start spending our money locally.” That’s all well and good, but is it realistic in this example? And isn’t a lot of it circulating back into our community anyway? Ask the hotel and motels putting up the contractors and subs working on the project? Ask the gas stations, the restaurants, the convenience stores, the grocery stores and big-boxes and bars.
I’d wager more than $35,000 is being spent locally from this project.
I just feel like the public has been lied to a lot in this year’s election, and if not lied to, manipulated. I feel like I was lied to, as a voter and resident of the city. I know who I voted for and what I voted for, and it wasn’t this.