Wow.  There are defeats...and there are DEFEATS.  Voter response to the $19 million bond issue that would have covered the city's half of the expansion of renovation of the Scheman Building was clearly the latter.  A good, old-fashioned, beat down. 

While I don't want to get too inside the numbers, they do tell a lot of the story:

  • 3,103 (63%) of those who cast ballots said "no", while 1,847 (37%) said "yes."
  • Across the seven vote centers and absentees, no single precinct managed any more 45% YES votes.
  • 4,950 (11.7%) Ames voters cast ballots

So...what happened?  Here's what I've come up with.

Numbers were stacked against this issue from the start. State law says a bond issue needs 60% voter approval for passage.  That's an high hurdle for any issue to clear.  If there are any holes in your support, your issue's gonna fail.  And yes, there were some gaping holes in support for this measure.

I don't think supporters ever really got voters to really wrap their arms around the project.  Bond issues for new schools, libraries, fire stations, and parks are easy to understand--there's a much clearer cause and effect.  This was not that.  I think anyone who couldn't see a real "what's in it for me" stayed home, which cleared the path for people who didn't like the project to put a stake in it's heart. "Because it's good for the whole city" is, from here on out, going to be a pretty spindly tentpole to hold up an issue.

Also, I think there's was something a little more insidious at work in this issue.  From the word "go," there was always a feeling of "why should I vote for something that's going to make the rich even richer? You're not going to get over on me!"  I think these are the people who then took to Facebook with all manner of crazy story and conspiracy theory.  How much "no" voters bought into those yarns we may never know--but you're going to have a long way to convince me that it wasn't a factor.

Whatever the reason for the failure, it's a failure that going to be felt for awhile.  If there is an upside to it--I'm sure the supporters of the next bond issue, whatever it may be, are going to have their act wired tight.