Astroturf or Concerned Citizen?

Today, I got a letter in the mail hand addressed to Lisa Long, who has her mail sent to my house while she’s in London. The return address is just down the street, which is confusing, since I figured Lisa would have introduced me to any family she had in the neighborhood. Then I notice on the back that it says, “Yes on Measure Q”.

Aha! So it’s astroturf, right? The developer has his wife rent an apartment in the neighborhood, then outsources the hand-written address part to a sweatshop in Liberia, then they send them out, and voila: instant grassroots support.

So I decided to pay a visit to Judy Sullivan, the author of the letter. My main question, though I had to figure out a polite way to ask it, was: How much are they paying you to shill for them? Judy came to the door when I knocked, having just gotten off of work. She’s a very sweet lady about the age of my mom. I figured, hmm, either this is a very sweet shill for The Man, or maybe she’s actually a Concerned Citizen. (And not the loony kind of Concerned Citizen that accosted me in my driveway on behalf of the No on Q folks.) After talking to her a while, I became convinced that she was in fact not a shill for The Man. Just like the letter said, she’s a nurse at the local hospital, and the primary issue for her is affordable housing.

I pointed out the problems in the arguments that the developers are using (and that Judy copied and pasted into her letter). That 50% of the park space is under water, that the $10 million of “improvements” to the water supply is simply the hookup fee that any developer out there would have to pay, and that there’s no way to “increase the water supply” out there on the edge of the bay. She didn’t have much to say about those points, but even as I was laying them out for her, I realized that though they show bad faith by the developer, they don’t invalidate her argument either.

So, I’ve had my faith in local politics incrementally renewed. Judy Sullivan and I might disagree on Measure Q, but at least her conviction is not bought and paid for like the people that were hassling me on the phone.

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