Tuesday, December 05, 2006

School Bond Off to a Bad Start

I have been hearing from people about the poll commissioned by the school district regarding the bond proposal. As luck would have it, I finally got the call myself. For full disclosure, I supported the last bond in '96, wrote a guest column in the Standard-Times and urged voters to approve. At this point, I have too little information on certain specifics to make a final declaration one way or another on this bond issue. I speak here only as regards the poll itself.

I am not a political neophyte. There is a campaign tool called a push poll. The term means a phone campaign called a poll, but designed more to influence voters than to measure sentiment. I usually find myself embarrassed when my Party's candidates resort to this rather shabby device, but candidates are generally allowed to spend money foolishly if they wish. It is flatly illegal for a governmental entity to do this.

Towards the end of this poll the lady asking me questions veers from opinion sampling to saying, “I am going to read a series of statements. Please indicate whether what you hear makes you more or less likely to vote to approve the bond issue.” This is followed by a list of declarative sentences having to do with the wonderful things that will happen if we approve the bond. A quick Google search got me the content of polls this Raymond Turco and Assoc. has done in Windsor, Lewisville, and Bryan, Texas. These were legitimate opinion measuring polls. The bit of work being conducted in San Angelo is so far over the line, I recommend the County Attorney get a copy of the caller's transcript and determine whether this is an illegal governmental expenditure in furtherance of a ballot measure, should the bond actually move to a ballot issue.

It is possible SAISD got good enough legal advice to skirt an actual violation, but if so, they have still flouted the intent of the statute, not to mention wasted $15,000. The caller speaking to me was unable, or just didn't bother to conceal that the responses have been largely negative.

If this exemplifies the SAISD's opinion of the voters, the board is off to a poor start in regaining our faith in them. Frankly, my reaction to the “poll” was “Gee you guys must think I'm stupid.” To be sure, it has inspired me to look more closely than I have at the specifics of the proposal, but it did nothing to incline me favorably toward either the bond or the body that spent my money on this shabby bit of foolishness.

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