New yard-signs are dotting medians near you, featuring crepuscular lighting and funky text art: it’s a counter-surge for the pro-hotel side -- or a group within that group. You see, no one knows quite who is hiding in their mascot’s grim reaper suit.
The Web site, ripdallas.com, claims the collective ownership of “the young men and women who will, in the future, bear the responsibility of managing the outcomes of the decisions made for the city today.”
Aside from the questionable choice of aesthetics on the R.I.P. Web site, the choice of a dead spokesperson is odd and heavy-handed, implying that without a hotel the city will die a hasty death. Making a caricature of yourself is a quick way to lose an argument, and the site sends the message that maybe scaring people with disaster scenarios is the best they can do.
In short, the group is using the scare tactic to lobby for votes against altering the city charter through Proposition 1 and 2 on May 9. Voters who vote "No" on Proposition 1 approve of the city owning a convention center hotel and those who vote "No" on Proposition 2 do not wish to inhibit the city's ability to grant subsidies of $1 million or more.
Both propositions have become controversial issues around town lately, with the convention center hotel being at the forefront of most discussions involving Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert -- even taking him into the pulpit on Sundays and into TV ads the rest of the week. The other side is trying to get their say as well -- including the use of a parody Web site whose facade is cleverly designed to look like an offical pitch, but whose real purpose is revealed after only a little clicking.
Further probing the R.I.P. Dallas site leads to affirmation of one’s initial suspicions: a normal blog post, somewhat workaday and rambling, but making a definite point. The second post, however, can be presented in its entirety: “Dan- Probably one of the dumbest sets of comments yet. Take a lap.”
Credibility officially strained.
But does no good deed go unpunished? The site offers valuable information under “Get the facts” that outlines the whole debate and states some intelligent pro-hotel arguments, and could also push the debate more into the spotlight.
The site has attracted 9,280,828 viewers since the signs went up, although whether the content will have a positive or negative effect on its viewers remains in question.
Holly LaFon is a Dallas journalist who has written and worked for various area publications including D Magazine and Examiner.