Diversionary tactics are nothing new in politics, so don't be too shocked that they are being employed in the Scottsdale city election campaign.
One need look no further than the contest for the White House for a workable example.
The issues of race relations and proper recollection of events have been promulgated by opponents of each Democratic presidential contender.
They are efforts to force Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to divert time and energy from concentrating on other issues that polls show have been given a higher priority by voters - such as the economy and the war in Iraq - and, it is hoped, keep the other from gaining more support.
In Scottsdale, locals are playing the light-rail card. It's a creation of a peculiar blend of growing resident distrust in their city government, which is city leaders' fault, and the lack of other issues so far in this campaign that have such a lightning-rod effect, which isn't their fault.
Make no mistake: Much as the card players ache to make it otherwise, light rail is not only dead in Scottsdale; it never was alive. Ralph Nader has a better chance of being elected president in November than light rail's chances of showing up in Scottsdale.
If the lack of political will for it among elected Scottsdale officials is not sufficient justification, the more reliable nonexistence of any federal, state or city funding for such a massive expenditure should be.
But it is such an attractive, mustache-twirling political enemy - conjured up by the vision of local businesses decimated by the claw-waving monster, as many have been along the actual light-rail route in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa - that its inanimate status is merely a small impediment to the creation of an alarmist machine.
As such, a local political activists' group's clever use of a Photoshop-style computer program to create an image of what a set of light-rail tracks might look like if they ran downtown along Scottsdale Road has been employed in one of two fliers from Scottsdale Citizens for Safe and Efficient Transportation, formed March 31 by downtown merchant Michael Fernandez.
But first, the other flier. It is quite clever and is a takeoff of an early silent film depicting a train wreck.
Using Old West affectations, it gives character names to Mayor Mary Manross ("Bland DuBois") and council members Betty Drake ("Calamity Gain"), Wayne Ecton ("Casey Jones") and Ron McCullagh ("The Brakeman").
The other Photoshop flier is of the same genre as the political-message commercials often seen on TV about members of Congress: "Call Sen. Kyl and tell him ..." or "Call Congressman Mitchell and tell him ..." with no election mentioned.
The local folks want residents to contact Manross and the three council members to "let them know your thoughts," saying that the accompanying illustration is the four council members' "vision for Scottsdale Road."
The flier passers apparently can see into these council members' minds, because none of them have said they want light rail along Scottsdale Road downtown.
So what's the impetus for these fliers? These four made up the majority who approved Scottsdale's joining the Valley Metro Rail board in March.
The flier folks see this as a prelude to building tracks, which will be built for free, I guess. But the majority is on record from that March meeting as saying for all voters to hear that it is only to have a seat at a regional table to discuss transit options into Scottsdale from the convergence of light-rail tracks in Tempe.
With no money for light rail, that means other options, including buses and trolleys.
The council publicly promised to call a public vote if any light-rail project in Scottsdale is proposed. The flier folks told Tribune writer Brian Powell they believe joining the Valley Metro Rail board was tantamount to that and thus the council reneged on that promise. Not logical, but who said logic was required to hoist the battle flag up the flagpole?
It's early enough in the campaign that this whole light-rail brouhaha is likely to explode brilliantly but die out within a short time, like fireworks.
Light rail isn't the issue on which to base a campaign against council incumbents based on lack of trust. There are other issues that, while not having that "oooh" and "aaah" factor, will burn longer and be more efficient with political fuel.
Unfortunately, the flier passers haven't realized that yet. But can you blame them? Monsters make such darned entertaining foes.
Read Mark Scarp's blog, "Scarpsdale," at http://blogs.evtrib.com.
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