Friday, April 27, 2012

Do You Like the Library? Check the Box.

Speaker after speaker has stressed the importance of relationship building in any effort to achieve dedicated funding for the Jacksonville Public Library, whether in the form of dedicated millage or an independent tax district.  According to the library directors, campaign consultants, and political science scholars, if the inquiry committee determines that the Jacksonville Public Library should pursue dedicated funding in some form, the strategy for doing so should include the courting of voters, City Council members, the Mayor, and—in the case of an independent tax district—City and State Legislators, and possibly, the Governor.

Remember in junior high when you sent that “Do You Like Me?” note to that boy/girl with the check-the-box options?  You just wanted an answer, yes or no, and nothing was more torturous than the object of your desire drawing in a third box and checking “Maybe.”  “Maybe” is where many voters will be:  Will there be a new tax?  How will my dollars be spent?  Didn’t the Better Jacksonville Plan “take care” of libraries? 

How do you get them to check “Yes” in a Straw Ballot or for a voter referendum?  Why should they like you (the cause)?  Do you ask for favors but never reciprocate?  Do you talk at them?  Are you the complainer who is never satisfied in a relationship?  Craig Buthod told us of voter referendum campaigns, “You can’t win by whining.”  Are you always talking about you on a date? Bruce Barcelo taught us that communication is an opportunity for connecting to a potential supporter’s existing belief system if only we’d listen and hear how the cause fits into it.  It isn’t the materials and facilities in a library that people will support, he says, but the idea of the Library that people will support in a dedicated funding initiative.  A recent Florida Times-Union editorial says more about this, reinforcing that people love their libraries.

Political science scholar Matt Corrigan urged the committee to consider the toxic impact of dissenters within a campaign.  You know the cliché:  You have to love yourself before others can.  In our inquiry, we build consensus so that the group can say with confidence that a decision has been reached.  Just as within our meeting space we need to listen to concerns and hesitations and be sure the group accepts the results, a campaign must respect and appreciate its potential supporters’ positions, or it will see the devastating X in the “No” box.  Bruce said, in a nutshell, “It’s not about you.”  Relationships require more than a statement of need or an ultimatum.  A campaign has to be sweet to voters and leadership, wooing them.  Statistics, data, and facts, talk of fiscal responsibility and accountability are helpful, like getting your sweetheart’s tires rotated, but it’s the meaningful connections that lead to love and faithful support.

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