VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Virginia Beach pulled a light rail video off the city website after two councilmen complained it was biased.
The video segment, created with taxpayer dollars, was part of a city campaign to inform voters about the light rail referendum on the November ballot. The segment originally aired on the city television station.
"When I saw the video, I thought it was advocating for light rail," said Councilmen Bill DeSteph. "State law says if it's going out to referendum, we cannot put money one way or another. You can't support it or be against it, it has to be a neutral position."
Councilman DeSteph says the video makes it seem like the light rail study will continue only if the vote is 'yes,' when the fact is the study will continue no matter what voters decide.
10 On Your Side asked Virginia Beach residents if the segment was informative or persuasive. Many had never seen or heard the video before, and made a judgment based on their first impression.
"That's more informative," said Steven Hogge, a Virginia Beach resident who plans to vote for the light rail. "Informative, I think."
"I think it was a bit persuasive, truthfully," said Andrea Seipel, who plans to vote 'no' in November.
Seipel says the part where the anchor was addressing the study confused her.
"I'm not sure, but I think if you vote for it, the study would go on," said Seipel. "And then it seemed to me that it would happen."
And because of interpretations like that, the city agreed to take the video down. A city spokeperson says the campaign's intention is to remain 'factual and neutral.'
"The position always has to be neutral and we should always take the conservative approach on that," said DeSteph, who is pleased with the change.
A city spokesperson says council had the opportunity to edit the script before it aired.
The HRT light rail study was put on hold in April 2011, to allow for data to be collected from the Norfolk operation. The study will resume this fall and be completed in the spring of 2014, according to Tom Holden with HRT.
The study, which costs $6.6 million, is funded with state and federal money.
Early estimates for extending light rail to Town Center and the Oceanfront are $254 million and $807 million, respectively. Those numbers are subject to change. State and federal money will help pay the sum of the costs.
The light rail question will appear on the ballot as follows: "Should the City Council adopt an ordinance approving the use of all reasonable efforts to support the financing and development of The Tide light rail into Virginia Beach?"
Virginia Beach voters have the option to vote yes or no.
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