Rare is the voter who could assess that warning one way or the other; which raises a problem with the direct democracy process. People will not be informed in many cases, particularly on something as abstruse as a school budget. The official explanations always will be suspect. The media, except in high-profile cases such as Wishard, won't get that deep into the issues. Remonstrators will fill their blogs with bombast and bogeymen.By "media" Carpenter is, of course, referring to his own Indianapolis Star. The suggestion that the Star got "deep into the issues" regarding the Wishard referendum is a laughable contention. The Star did little other than act as a cheerleader for a "yes" vote, penning an incredible five editorials in favor of the referendum, While Star reporter Dan Lee started to ask probing questions regarding the project and the role of Health & Hospital, those questions suddenly stopped in favor of puff pieces written by Lee and other Star reporters. This was yet another example of the Star's role as watchdog being usurped by television reporters. Reporter Norman Cox of WRTV did a couple of brilliant lengthy pieces where he asked the difficult questions the Star steadfastly refused to address in its news coverage.
Contrary to Carpenter's slam about the blogs, it was the blogs, particularly Advance Indiana, which raised legitimate issues about the Wishard referendum that the Star insisted on overlooking. Although the Star criticized those blogs for raising those issues and Carpenter suggests they were filled with "bombast" and "bogeymen," the Star never once refuted any of the facts that Advance Indiana's publisher Gary Welsh and others raised. The Star's response was simply to ignore, ignore, ignore and, of course, to engage in yet more cheerleading.
Today on the editorial page is a notice of how the state's newspapers, including the Indianapolis Star, have joined together to fight for "major ethics reform in the General Assembly." Yet this is the same Indianapolis Star which flat-out refused to criticize public officials use of of public, i.e. taxpayer resources, to support a "yes" vote on the various referenda this past election. This is the same newspaper that looked the other way as the Wishard PAC produced a questionable campaign finance report which showed a receipt of only three indviduals contribitutions ($125 total) and over $1 million from two non-profit corporations. The Star also failed to give more than passing criticism to the Wishard folks writing a referendum question that failed to inform the voters they were building a new hospital or how much they would be borrowing in bonds backed by the taxpayers.
In the Wishard debate, the Star made it clear time and time again, that the "ends" (the passage of the referendum) were so important that they were going to overlook any dishonest means used by Wishard supporters to achieve those ends. The Star repeatedly had opportunities during the Wishard referendum to speak out for good government and fair elections. Instead the Star took a pass. Now it wants to be taken seriously as a fighter for ethics reforms. I am sorry but ethics are not "situational, " something that can be ignored when the cause is "good." We need to insist on honest government and fair elections, across the board, on every occasion, even when doing so hurts a cause we may want. That's a message that unfortunately the Star's editors and columnists like Dan Carpenter and Matthew Tully do not seem to understand.