Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fairway Turns On DCVB

In its latest attempt to roll back Durham’s long-standing ban on billboards, Billboard Opinion

I sense that Fairway is stooping to this tactic out of frustration and more than a little desperation. I know the Fairway official based in Raleigh as honorable but the pressure from headquarters must be unbearable. They know if Durham stands its ground, others will and if it doesn’t, others will give in.

Let me be clear. While it has listened to and analyzed both sides of the debate, DCVB has not taken a position on the Fairway request and from my experience, probably won’t unless requested by local City and County officials.

As an independent but public authority, DCVB isn’t in the business of arm twisting officials. Its role is to provide information to inform discussions. My recent blog explaining my position was my opinion and my opinion only. Maybe I hit a nerve and Fairway felt it had to discredit DCVB because I used to work there.

Last year, as customary with issues of wide public discussion, DCVB, during its annual benchmarking of resident and non-resident opinions, asked NANOPHRADES, a North Carolina based firm that specializes in scientific public opinion polling to sample the opinions of Durham residents about the billboard issue to help inform the discussion.

The question was carefully worded by Dr. Mitch Javidi and the sample was highly accurate and generalizable. Mitch has conducted work for Durham for nearly two decades and knows both how crucial it is to DCVB to be accurate and how reliant Durham is on DCVB’s quality information to base decisions.

When the results were made public last year, clearly showing how strongly Durham residents feel in support of the current ordinance, I immediately anticipated that Fairway might panic and retaliate by trying to demean DCVB but I thought it would be much sooner rather than “last ditch.”

The fact is DCVB’s research, conducted impartially by NANOPHRADES is accurate. As far as I can tell, Fairway's subsequent research (apparently using robo calls) also appears accurate but the differences in outcome are due to Fairway questions being way too long and more than a bit leading. I’m almost certain Fairway handled the wording as is common sometimes when corporations conduct surveys with an agenda.

Demeaning the messenger though is a very old trick and unfortunately, corporations learned decades ago that it sometimes works.

Part of my performance at DCVB was rated on resisting “special” interests and I was good at it. Believe me, I loved every minute of my nearly 40 year career in community marketing… but I don’t miss this crap.

I’m placing my confidence in Durham’s elected officials to see through this latest smokescreen, with a keen eye on Durham public will and what’s best for the community.

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