Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Political Strategy Behind the Wishard Off Year Referendum Election

This morning Indianapolis Star columnist John Ketzenberger opines about the voter referendums contained in the recent budget bill and suggests they reflect a change in the legislature's attitude regarding what we who teach political science refer to as "direct democracy," i.e. voters voting directly on issues. He suggests Sen. Luke Kenley, head of the Senate Finance Committee, is pushing the referendums as a way of slowing down such projects.

In the column, Ketzenberger talks about the proposal for a new Wishard facility and suggests it is unclear whether the Marion County Clerk will have to pick up the cost or Health and Hospital Corporation which runs Wishard Hospital. But Health and Hospital is a municipal corporation. Aren't we really simply talking about which pocket the money is coming from? Ultimately the taxpayers are paying either way.

While it is a good column, Ketzenberger glosses over one critical fact - the timing of the Wishard referendum. In a special election only involving the Wishard referendum, voter turnout is going to be incredibly low. We will be lucky to have 10% turnout. That lowered turnout plays right into the hands of those favoring the referendum. The people who are going to be most motivated to go to the election out are those who directly benefit from the project, such as the people who would work at the new facility. Taxpayers who will feel the impact in higher property taxes down the road don't have the same motivation to go to the polls to try to defeat the measure. (It should be noted that the referendum supporters are claiming it won't result in higher taxes - apparently the facility will be paid with money plucked from a money tree.) In a regular election, there would be a lot of people showing up to vote for candidates who would have gone further down the ballot to vote against the referendum.

The legislature could have easily put off the Wishard referendum until the 2010 election and saved taxpayers the estimated $1.2 million to put on a special election. There is no emergency that would have required that the referendum election be held in the Fall of 2009, the only year in the four year election cycle when there is no election scheduled. In fact, it might actually be easier to get this project approved in a very low turnout referendum election in an off-year than it would be to have to go through the Indianapolis City-County Council. In a regular election year, I would not say that.

One thing you can bank on is that the off year referendum election is a deliberate political strategy by Health and Hospital Corporation and its lobbyist Barnes & Thornburg (which includes Councilor and State Senate candidate Ryan Vaughn) to sneak a fast one by the taxpayers.


Downtown Indy said...


I want to puke. Mike McDaniels is siting in the Garrison seat today and to start off, he glowed over the insightful mayors Indy has had, from Lugar to Ballard. Yep, he includes the current disaster of a mayor in his list. Gag!

Bill Polian got his turn to spread his 'sunshine' but I was not able to listen to that portion.

Then McDaniels had a protracted lovefest with the Pacer's Jim Morris, who went on and on about Indy having the 'finest hotel under construction in the country' and also made the claim of 'over 500' events being hosted at Conseco this year.

Yes, the two went on and on about the NCAA voluntarily offering to host their tournament games in Indy, how Conseco is known far and wide as the 'best stadium for basketball.'

The pandering was punctuated with a discussion about how sports has 'made' the downtown come to life.

And now McDaniels is adding the piece d'resistance, a caffe clache with Mark Miles, who is explaining the wonderfulness of upcoming the super bowl.

If ever there was an infomercial for PSEG and LOS, this is it.

They made no mention of the financial disasters looming for us taxpayers, naturally. And I don't believe any of them has once uttered the acronym 'CIB.'

Excuse me, I'm going to be sick.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Wow, DI, I would have thought you wuld have to be hospitalized after listening to that.

I have lost all respect I have ever had for Greg Garrison. He is clearly not a straight shooter.

Unigov said...

Couple months ago I was listening to Garrison (Bob and Tom had gone into one of their 6-minute commercial stretches) and heard Greg G discussing downtown with someone. The 'someone' kept spouting the same malarkey about the Convention Business generating jobs etc, blah blah blah.

The 'someone' turned out to be Greg Ballard.

I puked a little, listened for a while til I realized precisely what I was hearing, and vowed to vote for whoever runs against Ballard in 2011. Don't care who it is. Baby-seal-clubber, Pacemate reject, Don of Don's Guns or the Beeper Depot King guy - they got my vote.