This is an Update to the July 17 post that revealed the costs to the city for the past Income Tax Increase vote.
New documents reveal that in the months leading up to the vote on the Income Tax Increase, Gahanna City Hall hired and worked with The Bruggeman Group, LLC, to help formulate messaging and increase their abilities to micro-target voting residents.
It would be expected for a supportive campaign committee, such as Citizens for a Strong Gahanna, who sent out literature of their own, to fund the use of campaign strategists. Recent studies show the Obama presidential campaign was extremely effective in the use of micro-targeting in securing his victory this past November. It’s a current marketing skill that is popular with many entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations today.
Additionally, there is a strong argument that it is the city’s responsibility to provide a reason for the need of a tax increase. When the Bruggeman proposal states “The community outreach plan should educate the public on the structure of City revenues, the differences in taxes, the services provided with the current budget, and what cuts may be made if changes are not made”, that would make sense. Many would interpret the instructions as the city being schooled on better ways to state their case to their constituents.
To some residents, however, it may appear that city officials have stepped over the line in their use of administrative funds for this guidance.
Ohio Revised Code 9.03(c)(e) states “Except as otherwise provided in division (A)(7) of section 340.03 or division (A)(12) of section 340.033 of the Revised Code, no governing body of a political subdivision shall use public funds to do any of the following: Supports or opposes the nomination or election of a candidate for public office, the investigation, prosecution, or recall of a public official, or the passage of a levy or bond issue.” (emphasis added)
Even this part of the Ohio Revised Code can be seen a being broad, leaving much to interpretation and debate.
For those who will not be interested in reading the attached 7-page proposal, here are a few more examples of instructions provided by the Bruggeman Group.
“Micro-targeting is an effective way to communicate with different audiences within the public, yet it comes with a potential higher cost. The more segments that the message is sub-divided into, the greater the potential is to increase the budget.”
“Our job is simple, reach the target audience effectively within the target budget!”
“This effort needs to be completed using as little financial resources as possible. Opposition groups will criticize any use of public funds to educate the resident, much less if excessive funds are used. The Bruggeman Group will develop an agreeable budget to achieve the goals in the Communication Plan.”
“Basic Services: Identify target audiences and appropriate messaging to those audiences. These may include families, seniors, businesses, and neighborhood associations.”
It reads very much like a marketing or political strategy. Many candidates this fall will be heeding these words and targeting voters who are most likely to support their candidacy. That makes sense when considering time and resources.
However, this guidance may appear to counter the disclaimer statement used on the “educational” literature this past spring: “This mailing is a citizen communication paid for by the City of Gahanna and is in no way intended to be political or to influence the outcome of an election.”
Whether the use of taxpayers’ funds for this purpose crossed an ethical line will be decided in November by the Gahanna voter, targeted or not.
~ The Blue Blog Editorial Staff
Attached: The Bruggeman Proposal