In Arizona's growth fight, advertising defined
The television ad showed a truck unloading a
port-a-potty in the desert, while a family of four stood by with
forlorn faces. A voice-over warned that if Arizona's growth-control
initiative passed, a family wouldn't be able to get water or sewer
for a new home outside the boundaries. As a youth walked into the
port-a-potty, he yelled, "It's not fair!" A third-generation, Phoenix-area farmer warned that 202
wouldn't let him divide 80 acres among his three daughters. But the
initiative contained no language banning land divisions, only a
provision requiring rural subdividers to pave roads and install
utilities. A Tucson-area sheriff warned
viewers that growth boundaries would force inner-city neighborhoods
to accept higher population densities * and an associated increase
in crime. Several city and county planners disagreed, since the
initiative contained no language requiring higher densities. Tucson
Police Department statistics show no link between housing densities
and crime rates; the highest-density neighborhood ranked 15th in
crime-related police calls from Oct. 1999 to Sept. 2000.
A roomful of happy lawyers caught money falling through
the air, while a voice-over claimed that 202 would let out-of-state
residents block local growth plans in the courts. Constitutional
law specialists at Arizona State University and the University of
Arizona disagree with the claim. Spencer Kamps, a
spokesman for the anti-202 group that produced the ads, stands by
their accuracy. He argues that the restrictions would have
discouraged all but well-heeled developers from building outside
growth boundaries. But proposition supporters didn't have much of a
chance to question their opponents' claims, since they could afford
only four television ads with their $859,000 budget.
ad, seen night after night in Tucson and Phoenix, did not match the
wording of the initiative. Proposition 202 wouldn't have banned
landowners from drilling wells or building sewer plants - it would
have only prohibited delivery of public services outside growth
But the opponents' $4.3 million ad
campaign worked. The proposition failed nearly 70 to 30 percent
(see story page 3), three months after polls showed almost 70
The real estate industry
supplied most of the advertising dollars, but opponents included
the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, police and firefighters'
associations in Tucson and Phoenix, the AFL-CIO and the state's
farm bureau and cattlegrowers' association.
Independent Phoenix-area pollsters Bruce Merrill and Mike O'Neil
agree, in O'Neil's words, that 202's defeat "shows what you can do
if you have a huge pile of money." Merrill says the opponents' ads
were crisp and to the point, clearly resonating with large segments
of the public.
Mike Boyd, a Tucson-area county
supervisor and opponent of 202, says the ads tapped into many
Arizonans' dislike of statewide growth controls. "People in rural
areas especially don't want to limit growth and don't want to have
special interest groups tell them how to grow," he says.
Among the more controversial television ads:
In a society where the media defines reality,
says pollster Bruce Merrill, the only reality about 202 was what
partisans said and what the public perceived.
reports for the Arizona Daily Star in
Copyright 2000 HCN and Tony