[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Poll: Schools Instead of Cultural Facilities

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Poll: Schools Instead of Cultural Facilities

The very interesting results of an interesting survey regarding the Miami Megaplan and use of taxpayer money was published in today's Miami Herald. The poll was conducted last month by Bendixen and Associates.

Here are two PDFs with details on the survey questions and breakdown of the answers.

My summary of the results:

- Only 37 percent of respondents viewed the Marlins ballpark as a "good investment for Miami-Dade taxpayers (I thought the primary money source for the ballpark is from tourist taxes, but let's put that aside for now). Hispanics, mostly Cubans, were more likely to support the ballpark effort (50 percent overall and 56 percent for Cubans).

- Support was even lower for the other megaplan projects (Museum Park, PAC and Port Tunnel at 29, 29 and 33 percent, respectively).

- When asked if they would support taxpayer money for construction and refurbishing of public schools, the results were totally different: 65% said yes.

The numbers themselves are interesting enough, but when you read the questions they were asked (first PDF link above), it becomes even more thought-provoking. One key example: Question 2, which asked whether respondents support investment of tax dollars for the Museum Park, specifically mentions that a General Obligation Bond was passed by Miami-Dade voters in 2004 to fund construction of the museums in Bicentennial Park. If you recall, voters approved General Obligation Bond funding for the Museum Park and other projects back in 2004.

The respondents' answers to Question 2 (29% approve of Museum Park funding) contradict the election results from less than 4 years ago. Weird, but perhaps it has something to do with lack of trust in local government handling our money.

The conclusion that I arrive at is this:

Voters are understandably down on giving money to Miami-Dade government for projects such as the Marlins ballpark, Museum Park, etc., even if some of these projects will be funded by tourist dollars and not necessarily out of the residents' pockets. The latest controversies surrounding misuse of public funds for housing and transportation, just to mention a few, no doubt has soured public confidence in local government.

So then, it would also make sense if the same group of respondents viewed giving taxpayer dollars for schools as a bad idea, since Miami-Dade Schools has also been under criticism recently for misspending our money. However, two-thirds of the respondents said, "Sure let's give the schools more money". Unlike the money targeted for the ballpark, money for schools comes right out of our property taxes. Look up your last tax bill and see how much of your money you gave to our schools last year, and then think about all the teacher positions the school board is proposing to eliminate because of poor planning and budgeting (in other words, wasting OUR money). Just like the results of Question 2, this is a real head-scratcher.

The survey results would have made much more sense, and been a true reflection of our opinion of local government, had the schools question been met with the same skepticism as the components which make up the Megaplan. Also, voters' short memory doesn't help. The answer to this poll isn't that people are more apt to spurn projects that are perceived to be "low-culture", since the PAC also received low support.

All this just tells me that Miami-Dade voters, if accurately represented by this Bendixen poll, are extremely misinformed and don't really think when they go to the polls. They just react based on half-truths and sometimes downright lies, instead of taking the time to become truly informed. I'm sure this is the same across the country, but this poll really spells it out locally, in my view. I understand the strong sentiment that schools should have a very high priority in a community, since I share that view. However, it appears that people are willing to overlook true mismanagement of our tax dollars because it makes them feel good that they're investing in our schools, even if that money ends up going nowhere.


Blogger The Universal Spectator said...

Isn't Bendixen a Democrat pollster?

10:52 AM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Helicopter Catch said...

I agree with your assessment, and I commend you for pointing out the assumption made by Miami-Dade voters that Schools will be able to manage money more effectively, whereas local government will not.
It stands to reason that if one govt entity will mismanage money, the other will as well, and their respective track records bear this out.
Also, I can't help but feel that those who do not approve of financing for the stadium, and other projects, are not native South Floridians. They come form places like NY, Boston, Chicago etc. Places that already have stadiums and sports teams, all of which have been financed by public financing. So why can't we do the same.
I support the use of public funds (tourist taxes) for a new stadium for the Mrlins.
There is no doubt that one of the things that bind us together as South Floridians is our affection for the Dolphins, Heat and Marlins.

11:06 AM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Indeed George, Bendixen is a Democrat pollster. He's the guy that commissioned the recent poll on the South Florida congressional races.

11:40 AM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Helicopter Catch,

Couldn't agree more. A big problem we have is a lack of a sense of place among our residents. Not only are we from somewhere else, but our allegiances remain in those far away places instead of here. It's not the main reason for many of our issues, but it's a big part of the overall puzzle.

11:47 AM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Helicopter Catch said...

BTW, I have enjoyed your blog for quite awhile. Keep up the good work.

12:40 PM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Thank you...and thanks for being patient with my irregular postings!

1:01 PM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Henry Louis Gomez said...

My position has always been clear. Can anyone prove that NOT building a stadium will improve education? The annual budget of Miami-Dade Public schools is $6 billion for the 350,000 students in the system. Logic dictates that a couple of hundred million dollars spent on a ballpark isn't what's making our kids and schools fail.

3:28 PM, July 19, 2008  

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