The Short Story: The Garage Coalition and the BID have both started online petitions to garner support. One was driven by a well-funded marketing machine supported with tax assessment money and pushed by City officials, the other was a grass roots, word of mouth viral event.
What were the results and what do they indicate? Oh, and be sure to see the “rest of the story” at the end!
The Longer Story: The Coalition started a low budget email and word of mouth campaign for a petition that required a Naples address. Contact was made via Coalition member email lists and encouraged by the Coalition website.
The BID responded with the full weight of their marketing budget. This included radio ads, full page newspaper ads, Facebook exhortations and posters on Fifth Avenue. A City official sent notice of the BID petition to thousands of people using City email. The drive targeted employees, relatives and customers and passers-by. The organizers suggested on August 9: “We’re in – are you? Let’s see how many signatures we can get if we all just ask one more person – your spouse, a co-worker, your boss, your kids, etc.”
Not surprisingly, money and marketing muscle talks. As of Saturday morning August 12th at 9AM, the Garage Coalition had 1,438 signatures, and BID’s petition had 1,911 signatures.
But what does these numbers mean?
Review of the Coalition data shows that those opposing the garage:
- Almost all (>99%) registered with their full names and Naples address
- Were almost entirely City of Naples residents
- Half could be confirmed as registered voters as of January 2017
- Over half left took the time to explain the basis of their opposition
We don’t have direct access to the BID petition data to make a full comparison. However we compared subsets of the two petitions on a consistent basis. On August 9th, we took the immediately preceding 200 petitioners from each site who left comments. We did that because petitioners’ names are available along with their comments. We then ascertained the petitioners’ local address through publicly available data, and this is what we found:
In this “apples to apples” comparison one third of BID petitioners were outside of Naples, and only 1 in 8 were City voters. We have no data on how many were employees of BID businesses or “a co-worker, your boss, your kids, etc.”
In contrast, 100% of the sample of Coalition petitioners were City residents and almost half were confirmed City voters.
There are significant differences in the petitioners for and against the proposed garage. Those opposing the garage are almost entirely City residents and half were voters. Many pro garage petitioners were nonvoters (88%) who seem to have responded to a slick marketing campaign without a lot of thought other than wishing to have their Fifth Avenue parking facilitated. Café Luna all over again?
Later today we will be sending the first 1,283 Coalition petitioners list to City Council so they can see for themselves and read the comments. That will give them a good sense as to how City residents and City voters feel!
The Rest of the Story:
Is the BID engaging in lobbying?
The BID is a 501(c)3 charitable corporation (2016 IRS filing here
). It was established by City Resolutions 10-12801 and 10-12820. It is run by a Board of Directors appointed by its members. According to the proposed 2017-2018 City budget
(beginning on page 129), it has budgeted $465,000 from City and County tax assessments from its members, with which it pays employees ($110K) and engages in marketing ($170K).
What is an organization established by the City with 501(c)3 charitable organization that receives half a million dollars a year of special revenue funds from the City, doing lobbying for the passage of a resolution benefiting their members over City residents? The IRS would no doubt have something to say about that; see their regulations for lobbying by 501(c)3 organizations here
Is the BID engaging in lobbying? You decide.