Want to win? Here’s how: Communications board must sell its cause to key people
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
The task facing members of the Alabama Regional Communication System board of directors is akin to climbing a mountain without the proper equipment. It’s possible, but the challenge is great.

In their opinion, the infrastructure of the weather sirens and the 800-megahertz radio system used by first responders in Calhoun and Talladega counties requires immediate upgrades. More than $4 million is needed.

Their plan contains two arduous tasks: (1.) Getting the state Legislature — led by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston — to pass a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would raise property taxes by 3.5 mills in the two counties; and (2.) get voters to say yes.

Both are tall orders.

This page supports the board’s premises of protecting the 800-MHz system — which is invaluable in times of disaster — and ensuring the long-term operation of the weather sirens, as well as its plan to pay for putting resource officers in each public school in Calhoun and Talladega counties.

That said, the board should immediately adopt strong, proactive measures to increase its plan’s chances of success.

BE A SQUEAKY WHEEL: Marsh is wholeheartedly against raising taxes, yet he told Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge that he’ll take a closer look at the yet-to-be finalized bill. Needless to say, without Marsh’s thumbs-up, the board’s proposal is dead in the water.

Partridge’s phone call last week to Marsh seemed to break the impasse between the board and the Legislature’s leader. What the board must do is pester Marsh and anyone else who can help their cause in Montgomery — daily, in fact. With this session half over, now is not the time to take a passive approach. Constantly ask: What can we do today to convince Marsh to push this bill through?

STREAMLINE THE MESSAGE: Assuming the bill passes, board members must limit the techno-talk when explaining to voters why they should approve a property tax increase. Talking over voters’ heads would be a huge mistake.

Instead, get personal. Think personal. In other words, think like a voter: What is the aspect of this bill that will most affect me?

That part’s simple: keeping the weather sirens online and putting resource officers in all public schools. Regardless of occupation or education, residents in Calhoun and Talladega counties understand the weather sirens’ importance. Paying for their maintenance and eventual replacement due to their age is easy to grasp. The same can be said for the resource officers.

Banking on a majority of voters agreeing to pay for a Cadillac-style radio system is a riskier stance. The radios are invaluable; this editorial board supports their use. But some voters may think otherwise.

CAMPAIGN, CAMPAIGN, CAMPAIGN: By nature, Alabamians detest tax increases of any kind. Getting them to OK an increase at the ballot box will be a strenuous test of the board’s planning and execution, not to mention its message.

That’s why the board must campaign as if it were running for office. Make speeches. Give presentations. Buy advertisements. Get first-responders — police, fire, EMS — to take its cause to those they know.

In politics, you can’t let the opposition define your message. To win, the board must go on the offensive and continually tell voters why it’s in the best interest of public and school safety to approve a property tax increase.
© 2013