An anti-transit flyer left by an Americans for Prosperity organizer in Nashville, Tennessee. The Koch-sponsored group made nearly 42,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 6,000 doors in Nashville. Photo: William DeShazer / The New York Times

By Hiroko Tabuchi
19 June 2018

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (The New York Times) – A team of political activists huddled at a Hardee’s one rainy Saturday, wolfing down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then they descended on Antioch, a quiet Nashville suburb, armed with iPads full of voter data and a fiery script.

The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.

“Do you agree that raising the sales tax to the highest rate in the nation must be stopped?” Samuel Nienow, one of the organizers, asked a startled man who answered the door at his ranch-style home in March. “Can we count on you to vote ‘no’ on the transit plan?”

In cities and counties across the country — including Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; southeast Michigan; central Utah; and here in Tennessee — the Koch brothers are fueling a fight against public transit, an offshoot of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government.

At the heart of their effort is a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview. It is a particularly powerful version of the technologies used by major political parties.

In places like Nashville, Koch-financed activists are finding tremendous success.

Early polling here had suggested that the $5.4 billion transit plan would easily pass. It was backed by the city’s popular mayor and a coalition of businesses. Its supporters had outspent the opposition, and Nashville was choking on cars.

But the outcome of the May 1 ballot stunned the city: a landslide victory for the anti-transit camp, which attacked the plan as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.

“This is why grass roots works,” said Tori Venable, Tennessee state director for Americans for Prosperity, which made almost 42,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 6,000 doors.

Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles. […]

Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.” […]

“Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry,” said Ashley Robbins, a researcher at Virginia Tech who follows transportation funding. “But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them.” [more]

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

0 comments :

 

Blog Template by Adam Every . Sponsored by Business Web Hosting Reviews