This video of a “smart mob” designed to discourage smoking tobacco, put on by nonprofit Working Partnership USA, was funded with county taxpayer dollars.
Flash mobs are so 2011. But apparently, that’s how the county Board of Supervisors decided to spend leftover money at the end of last year, which, if memory serves, was 2012. But, wait, these weren’t just any flash mobs—they were “smart mobs.”
At its last meeting of 2012, the county Board unanimously approved a $40,000 increase in its partnership with nonprofit Working Partnerships USA. The additional funds were retroactively approved to continue an anti-smoking initiative through March 18, 2013.
As you may have already seen in the video at the top of this post, this meant county funds went toward these acoustic guitars weeping at Santana Row while two-dozen Elaine Benes dancers shouted out the instructive lyrics, “Don’t smoke so close to me.” That sizzle you hear is the Police putting out a cigarette in Sting’s eye.
In April 2012, the city of San Jose banned outdoor smoking in dining areas, service lines and common areas for apartments and condos. But as county staff told the Board, “In order to make the ordinance effective in reducing exposure to second-hand smoke in San Jose it is necessary to educate smokers about compliance with the law and non-smokers about their rights in these smoke free environments.”
With $40,000 just lying around, the county then proposed an “expansion of services under the new agreement with Working Partnerships USA,” which would “reach at least 30,000 smoking and non-smoking residents through performance art (skits and smart mobs).” The press release later notes that these traveling “smart mob”-sters and men would reach 300,000 people.
Regardless if its 30,000 people of ten times that count, the number of YouTube views (30 as of this posting) and people in the crowd (30 if they were lucky) makes the outreach claims less than convincing. If the county really wanted to spread the word, it could have done so for less than 5 percent of the cost by buying several ads in Metro/San Jose Inside.
Curiously, the date that this “smart mob” took place was March 17, 2013—just a day before the funds had to be used. So exactly how much money went into that last-minute St. Paddy’s Day singalong?