Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign Mid South Conference Memphis TN August 22, 2012
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • First, I would like to give a quick history of the circumstances that led DeWitt Hospital and Nursing Home to attempt to pass a sales tax for support. • Second, I will try to give you the strategy that we followed and some of the cause and effect of the campaign, and • Third, I will summarize what I took away from the process.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • In April 2002, a group of DeWitt business leaders created a not for profit and approached the city to take over operations and ownership of DeWitt City Hospital and Nursing Home for the debt against it. After a SECOND vote the city, by a 4 to 2 margin, agreed.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • In August 2004 in became apparent that the debt that had been accumulated prior to the purchase was greater than could be managed from operations alone. After much discussion we decided to approach the citizens about passing a 1.5 cent sales tax. This would create bonds to buy the facility back, allow the not for profit to manage the facility, and create a reserve account to help with operating expenses. The “promise” was we would stay open until the tax paid off.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • A public meeting was held requesting approval for a special election to be held and the vote carried 4 to 2. The mayor at the time also voiced concerns. • A committee was formed that met weekly to layout the strategy and perform the tasks at hand to educate the community. Ads were put in the paper, testimonials were written, signs were put out, and meetings were held with the school and other employers to attempt to secure votes in support.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • The election took place on December 4, 2004 and with a large voter turnout, about 70% of registered voters, it passed by a 79% approval rating. (Yea!..Woo Hoo!!) • The tax began to be collected in April 2005 and the bond reserve was created in September 2005 with the completion of the appraisal.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • Now we hit the fast forward button up to October 2011. • After we examine the financial position of DeWitt Hospital and Nursing Home and the current status of the sales tax in effect, the DHNH Inc. Board decides to approach the city about passing another sales tax once the payout of the original sales tax is completed and for the same rate.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • We met privately with the current Mayor, who is supportive, the City Attorney, and the Bond attorney for an explanation on how to proceed. We got our proposal in place and first approached the city council in January 2012 about permitting there to be another special election. At a special called meeting and by a 5 to 1 vote, the motion carried to allow for the election. 60 days is the minimum amount of time allowed for notice purposes in Arkansas, but due to conflicts it was scheduled for April 10th ,70 days out from passage.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • Just like the first time, we created a committee to oversee the process and recruit supporters. • Aside from some comments the night the City Council passed the ordinance, there was no organized opposition to the sales tax. • Unlike the first time, we were very low key about advertising, signage, and community meetings. We held no town hall meetings at all.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • Now thefun begins! • Three to four weeks before the election the local newspaper put a poll on their website that basically asked who would vote against the sales tax and if they couldn’t vote did they support it. • By 64% the website said the sales tax would NOT pass!
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • The committee started discussing the results at our weekly meetings. • Employees started talking about what was being said on and and that it was beginning to get lots of bad attention. • The editor came to me for a final interview the week before the election and said he thought it might pass but just barely and that we had not run nearly as smart a campaign as we did before.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • What did we do? • Nothing. We stayed the course and weathered the storm from this “flood” of criticism. • The vote was taken and we won. The turnout was not as great as the first one, about 50%, but the passage was by 92%! • When interviewed by the reporter from the state paper he said he had never heard of a margin that high. • When I spoke to the editor of the local paper all he would say is he was wrong, Karl Rove would be impressed.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • Things I walked away with and would like to share: • Grassroots is still the best way to win an election, even in a high tech world. • Stay on point and keep it simple. A tax is about money not service so discuss the financial impact more than care. • Enlist a group of “Champions” that will impact a wide variety of people. Champions with the larger employers in town is a huge plus. • If possible get a special election and not during a general one. Only those effected will turn out.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • Since no presentation is complete without true expert quotes I decided to go to the individuals who have been around a long time and probably have the broadest vision.
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • Quotes to validate this presentation: • “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” George Washington • “The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper.” Thomas Jefferson • “Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe.” Teddy Roosevelt • “A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.” Abe Lincoln
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign • And a quote or two from the next face that will grace Mount Rushmore: • “Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Just get elected, then get even.” • “When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a b!+@# an anvil!” James Carville
Social Media and a Sales Tax Campaign Thank You