As my colleague at the Post, Patricia Sullivan, wrote recently, the Arlington County government has launched a public relations campaign aimed at building support for a proposed $358 million streetcar system on Columbia Pike.
The streetcar proposal has become probably the largest political issue in the county. Patrick A. Hope, a Virginia state delegate, proposed putting the decision about whether to build it in the hands of residents by way of voter referendum.
Nevertheless, the county has unleashed a barrage of flashy promotional “Why Streetcar?” videos to build support for the project. The Arlington government now has 10 30-second spots listed on its YouTube page. Among them:
“Why Streetcar? Because Metro was a success and streetcars will be, too.”
There’s also, “Why Streetcar? Because buses alone can’t carry enough people.”
Then there’s the more amorphous title: “Why Streetcar? Because this is what we do.”
The bits appear to be a government-operated advertising campaign for streetcar but County Manager Barbara Donnellan told Sullivan recently that she considers the series, which is accompanied by posters and other online promotions, simply informational in nature.
“This is not an advertising campaign,” Donnellan said. “There are sound bites out there, a lot of misinformation. I’m not trying to advertise or promote, I’m trying to get information out.”
Promotional or not, Donnellan isn’t the only one who can make a fancy Internet video to advance a position on the streetcar debate.
Consider the parody video made using a frequently sampled scene from the 2004 film “Downfall.” The actual scene portrays Adolf Hitler as he is being told by his military commanders that the Nazis have lost World War II.
The parody, titled “Arlington CountyVirginia Streetcar Discussion” depicts the actions by streetcar-supporting officials as a bit overbearing:
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz