Controversy over billboards placed in San Francisco and Los Angeles urging people not to move to Texas continued this week, with the billboards adding to the growing clash between California and Texas.
Last week, billboards featuring the words “The Texas Miracle died in Uvalde” went up in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The ads, which reference the Uvalde school shooting, in which 21 people were shot and killed in May, and the Texas Miracle, the state’s economic resilience during the Great Recession and other recent economic downturns, also go after Texas slogans. Specifically, the slogan “Don’t mess with Texas” is crossed out and replaced with “Don’t move to Texas”.
The ads have also been seen as a continuation of the string of barbs that California Governor Gavin Newsom and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have been throwing at each other over the last few years, including recent ads in Texas newspapers by Newsom criticizing Texas’ abortion law and Abbott personally welcoming Californian companies moving their headquarters to Texas, including Tesla.
However, the billboards have been especially controversial due to the subject matter of a school shooting being used to fuel an interstate rivalry, with many in Texas and California simply ignoring the message the billboard is trying to convey and agreeing on the poor taste.
“The ads were supposed to show how dangerous Texas is when it comes to gun related incidents and tragedies, but it has kind of backfired,” explained Theresa Soto, a political advertisement media specialist, to the Globe on Wednesday. “Most people, as we’ve seen in social media and through opinions, are instead questioning why using a tragedy like that to not get people to move there. It would be like someone putting an ad up after 9/11 saying ‘Don’t move to New York. You could be caught in a terrorism explosion’ or after the Challenger and Columbia disasters saying ‘Don’t join NASA. You’ll burn to death’. It’s just incredibly bad.”
“And a lot of Californians are agreeing. Even if they agree or disagree with the message of not moving to Texas due to gun violence, it’s crazy for many people to use an incident like this to push an agenda. If anything, the ad has actually joined many Californians and Texas together on agreeing that that is messed up.”
Continued controversy over billboards
In Texas, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman Katie Narajo and Travis County Republican Party Chairman Matt Mackowiak recently sounded out about the billboards, showing two current lines of thought about the ads.
“I think it’s a sad truth,” noted Narajo. “The sign is questionable. Right. But the reality of what they’re representing and the quality of life in Texas is what’s offensive. And the Government’s response, particularly Abbott’s response to the mass shootings as well as the continued gun violence in Texas, is literally costing people their lives.”
Mackowiak countered that “People are voting with their feet across the country, and that’s why Texas and Florida are gaining population faster than any other state. California is losing population. That’s why they’ve lost congressional seats. This is an opportunistic use of a tragedy. It’s really quite shameful of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who’s apparently trying to use a tragedy and Uvalde as a basis for him running for president United States. In the end, people are moving from California to Texas because of what Texas offers. Texas offers no state income tax. It offers economic opportunity. It offers safety across our state, particularly in suburban and rural areas. And so if you look, it costs something like a quarter as much to move to California as it does to move to Texas. And the reason for that is it’s supply and demand. People are voting with their feet. They’re coming to Texas because of what Texas offers.”
A big part of the controversy has been who is behind it, as the advertising companies have stayed mum about it and no groups have come forward so far as to claiming responsibility. Theories have ranged from gun control advocates on the left showing the effects of looser gun laws in Texas, Californian groups wanting to stop the exodus of people leaving the state, Governor Newsom creating another series of media-catching ads, and those on the right in Texas wanting to stem the tide of left-leaning Californians coming into the state and upsetting current political balances.
“It can be a number of people and groups behind this,” continued Soto. “They make a point about gun violence in Texas, and also make a point of not moving there. And the truth is many Texans don’t like Californians moving in-state because many fear it can lead to California level taxes and a further bluing of the state outside of bigger cities and the greater Austin area. At the same time, many Californians don’t want a further population loss. Plus, gun violence happens everywhere. Many incidents in recent years have happened in Texas like Uvalde, El Paso, Killeen, and Sutherland Springs, but California has had their share too like San Bernardino and Thousand Oaks. Texas isn’t the only one guilty to have multiple incidents like that.”
“The fact is that, political rhetoric aside, these are two of the largest states in the country facing big changes in economics, population, environment, and many other factors. Texas might face an economic crunch soon, and that could really mess things up there. And California keeps trying to rebound. That’s why this billboard is getting a lot of attention. It is controversial, but it is really showing just how much these states are divided right now. Whoever comes forward as the people behind them, well, it will be surprising who it is at the same time as it would be expected. There’s a lot of potential people.”
As of Wednesday, no similar billboards have gone up in California.
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