Bond Foes, Friends Make Pact
For School District Reforms
by Steve Miller
copyright © 1996, Electric Nevada
|After four days of secret negotiations and a startling last-minute pact Saturday night, organized opponents of Tuesday's Washoe County School District's $196 million bond ballot issue have agreed to support the measure.|
| The price? Fiscal constraints on the school
"We always had an interest in the welfare of the students. It was my feeling that we could get a negotiated agreement that gave us everything we wanted," said paid CARES consultant Mike Reed.
"When it became apparent to me that we were likely to win, then we had real negotiating strength."
That a major school district defeat was imminent was the reading produced Friday by a cursory EN sampling of previously undecided Truckee Meadows voters. It also was supported by interviews with some experienced local election observers.
"I think it's going down," said one long-time Truckee Meadows political observer, who asked to remain anonymous because of a sensitive position.
"I don't think they've convinced anyone. That's [school district spokesman Steve] Mulvenon's problem. He's out there busting his balls on all these TV programs, and I just don't think [people are] buying," said the source.
"They're trying to make an argument, and I just don't think it comes through. I live in an area that's supposed to get a high school, or at least some kind of a school. And people in this neighborhood are going to vote against it.
"I think it's going down," he repeated. "I don't see how they can pass it."
Other observers also saw sentiment hardening against the bond proposal.
When Electric Nevada first located CARES strategist Reed on Friday, and asked if his group was going to match plans by bond proponents to send precinct-walking volunteers out this weekend, he said 'no,' and added he didn't think it would be productive.
Not only would it be the Labor Day weekend, when many people are gone or simply don't want to be bothered, he said. Indications are also that Truckee Meadows voters have already firmly made up their minds.
What "I found in the last week," said Reed, "is that if you go around and talk to ten people, and ask them if they've made up their mind on how they're going to vote, you're almost going to get ten people saying 'yes.'
"I don't think there's very many undecided. And the way you sway elections is by convincing the undecided bloc.
"If there isn't one, basically the election is all over. People are just going to walk in and vote the way they've already come down.
"That's where we are," he said. "People are very passionate on either side of this issue."
Reed decline to forecast victory, but did acknowledge indications swing voters seemed to be siding with CARES.
Should Truckee Meadows voters decide to vote 'no' on the school bond issue Tuesday, it will be a serious repudiation of Washoe County School District leadership.
Not only have the school district's superintendent, Mary Nebgen, and spokesman, Steve Mulvenon, been stumping the community in advocacy for months, but bond plan backers appear to have put much more money and people into the campaign than have their opponents.
As of Friday, August 30, the pro-bond Citizens Committee to Support Our Schools [CCSOS] had filed forms with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters reporting a total raised of $15,375, while the anti-bond group, CARES, has reported a total raised of $11,780.
However, Gazette-Journal reporter Benjamin Grove wrote August 18 that the pro-bond CCSOS had raised "about $50,000" to handle television and radio spot ads, and some 20,000 targeted voter mailings.
CARES leader James F. Clark has asked the Nevada Secretary of State's office to look into the discrepancy, arguing that the television campaign fielded by CCSOS suggests expenditures more in line with the reported $50,000 than the financial filings of the pro-bond group.
"I think it's against federal FCC regulations to give political ads on credit, so I'm not sure how they could have filed that statement on August 19, which was after the TV ads began to run, without disclosing the expenditure or the additional money [which] would have paid for it," said Clark.
In addition to the larger budget, proponents of bond passage say they are deploying the long-running and well-tested get-out-the-vote operation of the Nevada State Education Association [NSEA] this week-end.
"It's the same kind of campaign that we do for assembly people, and for senate, and for school board races," says CCSOS member Virginia Doran, a leader of the Washoe County Teachers Association who was reached at the Reno offices of the NSEA.
"You identify the precincts that have a history of voter turnout. We've analyzed the precincts with regard to the last two bond issues -- where in fact they've carried bond issues in the past -- and we've added to that precincts where some of the new schools are going to be built because of the terrible overcrowding."
Those targeted precincts, she said, held an initial 36,000 voters.
"Then you get a list of registered voters. You use
a company to do what they call a phone match,
because obviously you don't get phone numbers from the
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