Bus Fares & Propaganda
A political brochure sent to East Anchorage voters caught the attention and ire of some veterans just days before the Anchorage Assembly race.
The race in East Anchorage for Assembly has three very visible candidates: Mao Tosi, a former NFL player; Pete Petersen, a former state legislator; and Adam Trombley, the Assembly incumbent. Understandably, Petersen has the strongest name recognition. Clearly, it’s a hot race.
When it comes to campaigns for office, every tactic possible will likely be used – good or bad. Introduce Political Action Committees (PACs), and the plot thickens. For the voter, it’s not easy to determine the truth. The brochure in question states:
“On December 5th the Anchorage Press news reported that Assemblyman Adam Trombley announced he would vote to double bus fares for veterans with disabilities.”
It shows a picture of a legless veteran in a wheelchair.I received a copy of this brochure via e-mail as it circulated through the veteran community. I’m the mother of a wounded veteran who also lost his legs.
Trombley sent the brochure via e-mail to at least one veteran organization, stating, “Can you rally the vets in my area to vote for me. This has to piss them off.” The assumption was made that the Petersen campaign was running a negative ad and that it was an “outright lie,” and using veterans for political gain. Someone commented to me, “I think Petersen made a mistake.” I’m not an East Anchorage voter, but I just had to investigate.
I’ve run four statewide campaigns as a candidate. I know how campaigns can be. If you set up your opponent within days or hours of the election, your opponent has no chance to respond, and the voters don’t get the truth. It’s an ugly tactic but it often works. So what’s the truth in this case? I’ll break it down.
On December 5th, the Anchorage Press did write a story. The Anchorage Assembly did vote to increase fares that affected everyone. Trombley was on the Assembly when they voted to do so. He did vote in favor.
It is not true that Petersen’s campaign sent out the brochure. It is not true that veterans and people with disabilities were specifically targeted for increases. It is true that veterans, seniors and people with disabilities were affected greatly by the increase in bus fares.
I spoke with the Office of Public Transportation about the increase, and how it affected veterans and people with disabilities. They had initiated a submission for increases in fares overall. Public Transportation has always provided what they called “reduced fares.” The public transportation costs go up each year like everything else, and yet the price for regular bus fare was moving further and further ahead of the price for reduced fare. The decision was made to provide “half-fare” rather than “reduced-fare.” A “half-fare” system increased the fare significantly for seniors and for those with disabilities. Up to this point, veterans had not been eligible for “reduced fares” in their status as veterans.
The Mayor and the Assembly thus approved to include veterans on “half-fare.” This raised the price for bus fare for veterans who may have been otherwise previously eligible for “reduced fare.”
Another rub—you have to prove you are a veteran even for this fare. Carry a DD2-14? State I.D. with sticker? Apply for a special veteran bus pass at the office? The challenge for the city is to arrange the simplest method of payment for riders, and for the drivers. That’s the bus fare issue. But who sent the brochure, and why?
It says in the brochure “Unite Here.” Evidently, Trombley’s campaign didn’t recognize what that meant. The brochure does not state the required, “Paid for by __ __ campaign.” That should have been their first clue. Unite Here is the Political Action Committee for Unite Here Local 878, best known for their labor dispute with the Sheraton Hotel.
Curiously, outside PACs have taken a great interest in the Eastside Assembly election. The APOC reports show to date, a $300,000 interest by PACs in this race. It appears that less than $15,000 of that was spent by Unite Here.
I contacted the chair of the Unite Here PAC, Noah Sunflower, since they had sent the brochure with the veteran picture. As it turns out, this was the first mailer for this brand new PAC. The brochure layout was designed in D.C. Given the confusion and erroneous assumptions as a result of the brochure, they consider it a lesson learned and will change their approach.
Choosing a candidate these days is tough enough, but the onslaught of business, labor, and other PAC’s, and corporate personhood that allows corporate involvement in politics, means more inflammatory propaganda for the voter and less truth. As much as Trombley might like, Peterson is not the bad guy here. I will be watching this race closely on Tuesday. Exhausting isn’t it?
No wonder why we, as voters, get jaded.
Diane E Benson is a free-lance writer, and professor of Alaskan Literature and other Alaska studies. She is active with veteran and other service organizations.