CLITT parodies Sun Link
Aguirre pokes at Tucson streetcar with Facebook prank
Local officials rubbed wrong way
A social media stunt is mocking the Sun Link streetcar project, and many Tucsonans are getting taken in. A page dubbed Community Link Integrated Transit of Tucson invites locals to "Ride the CLITT."
While some commenters on the page are getting the joke, others fell hard for the prank — which has some local officials a bit steamed up. The page's creator said it's "about becoming more comfortable with the changes associated with Sun Link."
The Facebook page was created July 11, as was a related website, ridetheclitt.com. As it was nothing more than a parked, privately registered GoDaddy page on that afternoon, the identity and location of whomever is behind the CLITT proved elusive.
But tips from sources (and an invitation to me from the page's creator to "like" it about seven hours after this report was originally published) led to the man behind the satire: longtime Downtown arts activist and sculptor David Aguirre.
Aguirre is the director of the Dinnerware Artspace gallery, and a promoter of Tucson's popular food truck roundups. He has a long history of fighting for arts spaces Downtown, including managing the historic Steinfeld Warehouse for several years, until the state Department of Transportation evicted all of the artists there.
Sunday, two days after Sun Link opened to tens of thousands of riders, humorist George Takei beamed up to to Facebook a transparently Photoshopped front page from the morning daily, with a pun-laden "story" on the CLITT. The post garnered over 16,000 shares and hundreds of comments, some pointing out that the satire is all wet, and many from people asserting they are Tucsonans and that the moniker is not a hoax. So much for media literacy.
So why did Aguirre tackle this hot-button issue with a Facebook lampoon?
"Tucson's Sun Link modern streetcar is changing our community. With that change comes some public anxiety," Aguirre said in a written statement July 12. "'Ride the CLITT' reminds us that we needn't take ourselves too seriously."
"I'm using humor to reveal truths. I want to people to be able to see something from an unexpected angle," he said.
"There is plenty of information on Sun Link in pamphlets and online, but it's like having to take your vitamins: No taste, and not much fun swallowing it all. Why not a cultural, humorous, home grown approach to becoming more comfortable with the changes that Sun Link will bring?," Aguirre wrote.
"In Tucson, we have Tucson Eat Yourself, which has another, more formal name, too," Aguirre said. "It's creating a local lingo, and makes things more fun, and is not a slap on the event itself. In fact, just the opposite. Soon, locals will refer to Sun Link as 'The Clitt,' and they'll be more proud that it's here, and that, as a local person, they can say that as a back story for those in the know."
Sources close to the Sun Link project, who wouldn't allow their names to be used, said that email exchanges between folks at City Hall floated the idea of having City Attorney Mike Rankin contact Facebook. To do what isn't quite clear; perhaps discuss the extensive freedoms to mock the government under the First Amendment?
One described the page as "unwelcome, obviously." Staff at the Regional Transportation Authority "aren't too happy about it either," a source said, adding that Aguirre may have made enemies by rubbing some the wrong way. While all were reluctant to deliver a public tongue-lashing, some at City Hall privately expressed their personal enjoyment of the CLITT.
Aguirre downplayed the question of his having aroused city officials.
"The RTA and the city have done an amazing and wonderful thing with bringing Sun Link to Tucson. Kudos to their persistence and hard work," he said. "I'm helping the public appreciate, and embrace Sun Link in an authentic way, and it can plainly be seen, right now, on the Facebook page."
The streetcar began to let the public go Downtown on July 25, after months of testing with mostly solo operators. The $197 million project's pump was partly primed with a grant from the federal stimulus package.
As for the future of Ride the CLITT, Aguirre said he has a movie in the works, "the story of the streetcar that didn't make the cut."
"And of course, Clitt Food Truck will be joining the Tucson Food Truck Roundup serving some very interesting tacos."