Bond Backers Don’t Bother with Costs

They call themselves the "Yes for Libraries Committee." But it seems they are for much more than that.

The glossy brochure that arrived in Denver mailboxes over the weekend doesn't just ask for a vote to build three new branch libraries and fix up various others. It urges recipients to "Vote Yes on Issues A through I" in November.

Thing is, the brochure never says how much "Issues A through I" will cost.

What, did the backers of $550 million in new bonds, plus a tax increase that will add $63 a year to the taxes on a $255,000 home think folks didn't care?

Did they think folks weren't going to ask?

The attempted manipulation of voters by the Yes for Libraries Committee is so transparent that it insults the readers' intelligence.

I love the Denver Public Library. Most folks I know love the Denver Public Library. We might even be willing to vote to issue $51.8 million in new bonds to build three new library branches and fix up various others.

But please don't try to play Denver's taxpayers for fools.

Please don't act like costs matter so little that they don't even have to be mentioned.

"I believe in being up front with voters in terms of cost," said Denver Councilman Charlie Brown.

Added Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz: "I'm stunned that they didn't put any money amounts in the brochure. The people promoting this are saying: `This is a package, Trust us.' Saying how much money is involved is a sign of respect. It treats voters like adults. Incorporate your sales pitch with full disclosure."

Faatz doesn't care how anyone votes. She cares that they make informed choices on nine separate ballot issues.

Lumping things together and skipping details is disingenuous at best. A brochure without cost figures is just plain insulting. A brochure that says, "Ballot Issues A through I will include much needed upgrades and improvements to The Denver Public Library system" is just plain wrong.

In fact, a person can vote only for ballot issue 1C and take care of the new branch libraries and upgrades to existing libraries. Issue 1A increases taxes, a portion of which would go to ongoing maintenance of libraries.

But bond issues 1B, 1D, 1E, 1F, 1G, 1H and 1I commit no money to libraries whatsoever. To suggest that they do builds no trust.

Here is the breakdown of the bonds voters are being asked to approve Nov. 6 and what they will pay for.

The tax increase is separate and will provide an ongoing maintenance fund for a number of city projects.

These are the kinds of details that need to be in every brochure sent out during the run-up to the Nov. 6 election.

The Yes for Libraries Committee has not been straight. It has promoted a vote for $550 million in bonds when it only needs roughly $52 million. But the committee didn't even think it was necessary to include the $52 million figure in its marketing brochure.

A brochure that includes no money figures for a bond issue and tax increase is a brochure that lies by omission.

It is an appeal that makes you feel like you're being played.

Worst of all, it is a campaign that invites suspicion as much as it secures votes.

Councilman Doug Linkhart doesn't think the Yes for Libraries Committee was trying to mislead anyone. But even Linkhart sees how it might help citizens to know that the bond issues are separate and how much money is on the line for each.

Linkhart knows something else.

"People," he said, "don't like to be fooled."

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Jim Spencer

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