Few people are surprised when a government body wastes money. But there is waste, and then there is waste!!!
Spending that makes you think, What the #[email protected]& is going on here? This is absolutely absurd!
We have a really good example right here in Salem, Oregon. Bradd Swank described the outrage in a January 23 letter to the editor in the Statesman Journal.
Download $25_000 in taxpayer dollars wasted PDF
$25,000 in taxpayer dollars wasted on facility campaign
In October 2013, Salem approved $25,000 (taxpayer dollars) for a Portland political consultant’s help on an $80 million bond vote for city hall/possible library improvements and a new police facility. The result, so far, is a city website poll that started Jan. 21 that failed me four times.
Known politically as a “push” poll, it presents opinions, slanted questions and unsubstantiated information to “push” views other than seek unbiased responses. It gets people agreeing, makes political assertions and then asks further questions making the assertions more appealing.
This “push” poll asserts — in several places — political conclusions supporting a single proposed location for the police. Some questions imply, as fact, that all alternative police/court sites would be less efficient, not centrally located and eventually more expensive.
These are issues with much local professional and political disagreement, some from professionals who helped the county save tens of millions of dollars on the county facility redo — and would like similar thought for a city police/court facility.
Eugene’s similar-sized new facility was tens of millions of dollars less than proposed here. Why buy a Cadillac? Why public money on consultants to help convince us we should? Is it appropriate to use taxpayer money to sell a future bond measure vote?
Having heard about the poll on January 21, I found a link to the survey on a City of Salem web page about the Public Safety Facility and Civic Center Seismic Need project.
I also found the survey distressingly biased. It really is largely a push poll. Which isn't a compliment. Especially for a government agency supposedly dedicated to providing accurate information to citizens.
Here's a PDF file of the survey. Read it and see what you think.
Download Survey PDF-New Police Facility, Salem Civic Center Survey
There are various definitions of a push poll. These usually are conducted by phone and only consist of a few questions. Like, "Would it make you more or less likely to vote for Joe Jones if you knew that he sliced up live kittens, put them in a blender, and drank them for breakfast?"
Naturally Joe Jones actually doesn't do this. The question is just intended to put the thought in someone's mind, akin to the classic loaded question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?"
Here's a pertinent quote from a Pollster.com article, "So what is a *push* poll?" After talking about telephone surveys that are obvious push polls, Mark Blumenthal says:
If a pollster lies in a real survey, that's sleazy and wrong.
The City of Salem online survey has this at the beginning:
The survey is similar to a scientific poll of Salem voters conducted in mid-January 2014 by an opinion research firm.
So this was a "real survey." I consider that the City of Salem, with the pollster's acquiescence, lied in it. Ergo, what the City of Salem did is sleazy and wrong. Let's consider the evidence. When I first read question #7, it immediately struck me as especially push'y, being factually incorrect.
The alternatives presented to the survey-taker are stated as factual truths.
A police facility built at the Civic Center will be less costly to tax payers over the long term, even though the construction costs are higher. A police facility built on an existing vacant lot outside the downtown core will be more costly to taxpayers over the long-term.
Since Salem Community Vision is claiming that a new police facility built away from the Civic Center could cost about $15 million less than the $35 million cost of a Civic Center police facility, I couldn't understand how that $15 million saving meshed with Question 7.
So I emailed the City's coordinator for this project, Courtney Knox Busch.
I’m curious about the City’s basis for question 7 in your Survey Monkey poll (shown below). The City makes factual statements in the first two options: (1) that building a new police facility at the Civic Center will be less costly to taxpayers over the long-term, and conversely, (2) that building a new police facility on an existing lot away from the Civic Center will be more costly to taxpayers over the long-term. (my emphasis in bold)
This is the response I received from Busch:
To which I replied:
Re. your message below… Yes, but that isn’t what the question says. The clear message is that a police facility located at the Civic Center will be “less costly to taxpayers over the long term.”
Haven't gotten any additional information.
So I believe Bradd Swank was correct when he said that the $25,000 spent by the City of Salem on a survey was indeed largely a "push poll." If this isn't illegal for a government agency to do in preparation for a possible bond levy vote, it sure seems unethical to me.