Thursday, September 1, 2011

WAVE of Deception

How the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority (WAVE Transit) Conspired to Mislead the Elected Officials and the Public into Supporting Their Proposed Tax Increase

Over the last several months those associated with WAVE Transit have led a very aggressive campaign pushing a $7 increase to the vehicle registration tax to fund bus routes to local beaches. If successful, they will increase the taxes on New Hanover County families nearly $1.2 million dollars.

WAVE led their charge with the claim that 87% of the community supported bus routes to the beach. WAVE personnel have given presentations to all the local elected bodies, appeared in front of business organizations, and have been interviewed by local television and newspaper, all in an effort to drum up support for the tax increase.

A closer look at the facts finds that WAVE’s own data showed the repeated claims of 87% community support were simply not true. The polling data actually seems to show a lack of interest in expanding routes and even less interest in raising taxes to do so. It seems those associated with WAVE conspired to give the appearance of wide spread public support by misrepresenting polling data hoping to convince the public and elected officials to support WAVE’s proposed tax increase.

Below we’ll take a look at WAVE's well organized campaign of misinformation as well as important information that was strategically withheld.

The Campaign of Misinformation:
Say something enough and eventually it becomes an accepted fact, whether it’s true or not. Below are a few examples of the statements made by WAVE Director Albert Eby and Jonathan Barfield, New Hanover County Commissioner who also sits on the WAVE Transit Board.

Albert Eby interview with WWAY:
"We did a survey a couple years ago with UNCW. It was a scientific survey. Eighty-seven percent of folks wanted to see service to the beaches," Wave executive director Albert Eby said.

Albert Eby interview with Star News
"Our best guess is that all the towns and communities say, ‘We want service to the beaches,' " said Albert Eby, the executive director of Wave Transit. "We're just trying to show the county commissioners where that support's coming from."

Jonathan Barfield Star News Interview
Chairman Jonathan Barfield: "I don't know what method we will do," he said. "I think we need to get it done. I would choose to do it ourselves. That way it could be assured it would happen."

Jonathan Barfield email to constituents
“A survey of area residents by UNCW’s Survey Research Laboratory indicates that 87% of residents in the community are supportive of public transportation service to Wrightsville and the Southern Beaches.”

WAVE Transit Service Expansion and Long range Financial Plan report
“The most recent random scientific survey of over 1,300 residents, conducted in cooperation with the University of North Carolina Wilmington Survey Research Laboratory, indicated support for service to Pleasure Island and Wrightsville Beach is 87%.”

WAVE Presentation given by Albert Eby to Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman 8.17.11 :
“87% of community support bus service to NHC Beaches.”

The quotes referenced show a well planned campaign to gain public support, spearheaded by the claim 87% of the community supported bus service to the beaches. The problem is, the support was not there, and the claims of 87% community support were simply not accurate.

The claim of 87% community support is simply not true
A closer look at the survey Eby and Barfield reference shows the 87% touted is not all that it’s cracked up to be and is extremely misleading at best.

According to WAVE documents 1300 people took the survey. Only 150 of the 1300 even bothered to respond to the question about bus service to the beaches. Of those 150, 130 did indeed agree that buses to the beach would improve service, and technically that is 87%.

But an honest look at the numbers reveal it was only 130 out of 1300, a mere 10% of those surveyed, that supported bus service to the beaches. That’s 10%, not the 87% we were being told. How can anyone honestly claim that 130 people are an accurate representation of a community of nearly 200,000? What’s more significant is that 1150 people didn’t even care enough to answer the question about bus service to the beaches! Not quite the community support the public and elected officials had been led to believe.

The complete survey is available here:

What else WAVE is not telling us about their survey
WAVE’s survey had some results they’d probably rather the public and elected official not know. Survey results actually show the public is overwhelmingly against tax increases to pay for WAVE expansion plans. Polling question results also show that public transportation (WAVE transit) ranks as a low priority when compared to other public projects.
-76% opposed sales tax increases to support WAVE route expansion (See survey page 13 )
-90% opposed property tax increases to support WAVE route expansion (See survey page 13 )
-WAVE ranked nearly at the bottom in spending priorities, 5th out of 7 (See survey page 27)
-Marinas and public boating ramps were ranked as a higher priority than public transportation!

Do bus routes to the beaches cost $1.2 million dollars?
Not even close. According to WAVE’s Service Expansion and Long Range Financial Plan Report service the to the area beaches would cost about $650,000. So why do they need $1.2 million? The dirty little secret is the proposed tax would also be a back door way of funding other projects such as the controversial Multi Modal Center, which, if built, would be an additional ongoing tax burden on new Hanover County families.

WAVE’s own survey results tell a very different story than representatives associated with WAVE Transit have been telling the public. It’s also a very different story than what they have been feeding to beach, city, and county elected officials.

For WAVE to put forth this survey as public support for their agenda is disturbing. To say they have the support of 87% of the community is intellectually dishonest at best. Those associated with WAVE should have known better. They knew 130 of 1300 people did not represent “community support.” The truth is the survey shows public transportation ranks low on the priority list and the public has no will to pay additional taxes for its’ services. But this information was withheld from the public discussion.

Representative Carolyn Justice recently spoke about corruption in government. We have seen locally how a corrupt ABC Board will end up costing the taxpayers of New Hanover County millions of dollars. At some point there has to be some accountability. These government organizations have a duty to be honest and forthcoming with the public and elected officials. It is a serious violation of the public trust when government entities such as WAVE take on a campaign of misinformation with the willful intent to mislead. The question now is how can the public trust information coming from this organization?

The goal was to give the appearance of widespread public support by misrepresenting polling data, presenting information to elected officials and the public that was misleading and less than truthful. In the end, they wanted to manipulate all involved into supporting a tax increase.

WAVE’s campaign over the last few months represents everything that’s wrong with government. They have a duty to be truthful and transparent to the highest degree, and when they’re not, they should be held accountable.

Our post in the news: 
WWAY written coverage of this post.
**EXCELLENT COVERAGE**MUST SEE**WWAY video coverage of this post with Eby and Barfield interview.

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