So many people feverently supported the project they were willing to ignore the extremely biased wording of the the question that was clearly designed to mislead the voters. In my blog, I warned that the Wishard referendum would set a precedent - that other groups would try to emulate the biased wording used in the Wishard referendum. As someone who has studied and taught about political polling, I know the number one bias in polling is the wording of the question. Depending on how you word a question, you can get highly different results. It's easy to rig polling results by putting hot button phrases in the question. The Wishard folks knew that.
"Shall the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana, issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance safe, efficient and functional facilities for the Wishard Hospital project:
1.to allow Wishard to provide access to care for all residents of Marion County, including people who are seniors, poor uninsured or vulnerable regardless of their ability to pay; and
2.to allow Wishard to provide specialized care, including to victims suffering from traumatic injuries or severe burns; and
3.to allow Wishard to work with colleges and universities including Indiana University School of Medicine, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Purdue School of Pharmacy, to teach future doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in Indiana?"
The Pike school administration must have been watching last November. Here is the referendum question that has been certified for the May election:
"Shall the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, Marion County Indiana, issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance the Tax Neutral New Guion Creek Elementary School Project in order to create equity among our elementary students in the Century by providing our teachers with the tools needed to offer quality education to all of the children in our community, which is estimated to cost not more than $21,475,000 and is estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by $0.2375 per $100 of assessed value based on the assumption that the debt service fund tax rate would otherwise be $0.00?"Interestingly that was not the first question certified by the Auditor. The first question omitted the key phrase "per $100 of assessed value." That is critical information. As opposed to someone's taxes being raised 23.75 cents, the tax rate will increase by $237.50 per $100,000 of assessed value. This increase can also go above the 1% cap on residential.
In Pike Township, the equity argument is getting advanced to support tearing down schools that are only a few decades old to construct new ones. Basically the argument goes like this: if one elementary student is in a school that is 30 years old and another one is in one brand new, there is a lack of "equity." To create "equity," you tear down the 30 year old building and build a new one. Of course unless all the buildings are torn down and rebuilt at exactly the same time there is always going to be an "older" building that needs to be replaced using that philosophy. The "equity" construction philosophy has set off a cascade of new construction in Pike Township, knocking down perfectly functional buildings only a few decades old. School administrators and teachers I'm sure like the new facilities. But Pike taxpayers pay a hefty price for the extravagance.
Regardless of how one feels about the Pike referendum, we should all be in agreement that voters have a right to a fair presentation of the issue. Here though the Pike school administration is trying to cook the referendum results by Wishardizing the question. Pike voters deserve better.