Sunday, October 11, 2009

Star Continues Propaganda Campaign For Wishard Referendum

The Indianapolis Star continues to give its subscribers more reasons to drop their subscriptions to the newspaper as they have been in droves for the past several years. Not satisfied with its false and misleading editorial from a couple of weeks ago endorsing passage of the Wishard referendum, it's back today with another false and misleading editorial. Judging by today's editorial, you would get the impression the hospital is on the verge of being declared unsafe for occupation. The headline reads, "Vote yes, take Wishard out of intensive care." "The bad and the ugly that are confronted every day by the staff and clientele of Indiana's largest public hospital must be experienced to be appreciated," the editorial opens. It then goes on to describe decrepit conditions that suggest the building is unsafe.

If any of what the Star says in its editorial was remotely true, then why hasn't the hospital been cited for all sorts of public health violations? After all, isn't it the job of the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County to do just that? Perhaps the conditions the Star describes in its editorial don't represent public health violations. I see nothing in the editorial about how the hospital just got through spending tens of millions renovating its operating rooms. What about the renovated rooms for patients? No, nothing in there about that. I see nothing explaining how the hospital managed to obtain full accreditation from the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals. Not bad for a building in such a state of disrepair, eh?

It's bad enough that the newspaper's editors insist on misrepresenting everything about this proposed referendum, but it's even worse when its news reporters deliberately mislead Star readers in their news reports. Let's take a look at a story business columnist Dan Lee logged today on the referendum. "Wishard ballot issue lures vocal allies," the headline reads. And just as the headline indicated, Lee decided to park his journalistic integrity at the door when he wrote this story. Despite Lee's tough questioning of Gutwein during a recent interview, which raised serious questions deserving of further in-depth reporting by Lee, none of those tough questions were addressed in Lee's story. Instead, he provides a sappy story about how IMPD officer Jason Fishburn, the police officer shot in the head last year and successfully treated at Wishard, and his father, Dennis Fishburn, also an IMPD police officer, are serving as co-chairs for a PAC promoting passage of the referendum. Forget any discussion of the propriety of city police officers being allowed to use their city positions to lobby for passage of what may turn out to be the biggest property tax increase in Marion County history. Lee writes:

Dennis Fishburn stood before a room full of pastors last week at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church on the Eastside and preached about his support of the proposed $754 million Wishard Memorial Hospital building project.

He recalled the horror of receiving the news in July 2008 that his son, Indianapolis police officer Jason Fishburn, had been shot in the head during a foot chase. He spoke of his own faith and thanked those in the room for their prayers . . .

Dennis Fishburn, 56, and Jason Fishburn, 30, are co-chairs of Citizens for Wishard, a recently formed political action committee working to persuade Marion County residents to approve the project.

"Wishard Hospital absolutely saved my son's life," said Fishburn, speaking after his presentation to about 100 people last week at a meeting of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. "We want to pay it forward."

Citizens for Wishard is using classic campaign tactics such as community meetings as well as social-networking tools such as Twitter to gain support.

The group has an e-mail list of about 1,000 local residents who now receive regular updates, such as links to news coverage on the Wishard project and information on early voting, according to Susan Becker, community outreach manager for Citizens for Wishard.
There is a bit of humor in Lee's story. "Health and Hospital Corp. Chief Executive Officer Matt Gutwein and Wishard Health Services CEO Dr. Lisa Harris say they are not personally urging people to vote "yes" -- which state law prohibits them from doing," Lee writes. "But the pair speak about the need to replace Wishard's aging buildings," he continues. "They also have repeatedly said the new hospital can be built without using any additional property tax funds." Say what? Are your ears burning as much as mine? Lee goes on to describe all of the public appearances the two have made over the past several months:

Before the campaign ends, Gutwein will have spoken to more than 70 organizations, including churches, civic groups and public hearings on Wishard's building plans. He's also part of a media blitz that hit local TV and radio shows such as Greg Garrison on WIBC-FM (93.1); Amos Brown on WTLC-AM (1310) and Abdul in the Morning on WXNT-AM (1430).

Gutwein's speaking agenda for this week includes talks with the League of Women Voters, the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, the Far Eastside Neighborhood Association, the Pike Neighborhood Association and the Reagan Park Community Action Group.
If you hang on long enough and don't tear your newspaper to shreds in anger, you'll find a small mention of small opposition to the greatest thing since moms and apple pie. Lee writes:

Others, though, question whether Health and Hospital Corp. will be able to pay off debt from the project without having to tap into additional tax funds.

"I just didn't see them making that kind of money," said Carl Moldthan, an Indianapolis resident who described himself as a taxpayer advocate.

Moldthan said Health and Hospital Corp. is depending too heavily on the extra income Wishard receives from Medicaid for its sizable nursing home business. That premium revenue, Moldthan maintains, could be in jeopardy if the government reimbursement policy changes.
Lee completely ignored the analysis that Moldthan has performed of the hospital's Medicaid reimbursements, which affirmatively establishes the fact that the HHC is defrauding the federal government with its nursing home billing scheme. A former HHC CEO and former FSSA Secretary, Mitch Roob, has described the scheme as "a bit of a scam" on the federal government. He predicted it would eventually get his former employer in trouble with the federal government. It's those very revenues that HHC is relying upon to pay for construction of the new hospital. Despite their claims to the contrary, these revenues are not deemed reliable enough to back revenue bonds. Accordingly, the HHC is proposing to issue more than $700 million in general obligation bonds that will be backed by property tax revenues as high as $54 million a year to ensure repayment of the bonds. You'll find none of that information in the bond referendum question you will be asked to answer on November 3 because it doesn't even tell you that a new hospital is being proposed, let alone how much it plans to borrow and how it will repay the borrowed money.

On another subject, some of you have been complaining about how Greg Garrison has been an outspoken proponent of the Wishard referendum and is not allowing any balanced discussion of the issue on his show. This should come as no surprise. You may recall that Garrison, despite his claim to be a fiscal conservative, advocated for the passage of the recent $27 million tax, spend and borrow bailout of the CIB. Garrison refused to allow anyone opposing that plan to speak on his show. Garrison has added reason to disallow fair and balanced coverage of the Wishard referendum on his show. It turns out his wife, Phyllis Garrison, is employed as a Privacy Officer for the HHC earning $75,000 a year. I also learned from a public records request that Indianapolis Taxpayers PAC Chairman Carl Moldthan obtained from HHC that State Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) is earning a whopping $115,000 a year as Vice President of External Affairs for the HHC. That's a surprising amount considering the fact that he spends a great deal of his time performing his state legislative duties. I suspect State Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis), who holds a similar job at Ivy Tech, is envious of Porter's pay.


Ed Coleman said...

I did most of my clinicals at Wishard and did some PRN work for Wishard after I got my license.
They actually have some very nice areas in the building. They could remodel the other areas for much less money if they are that bad.

Ultimately this comes down to the fact that IU wants the property. If IU wants it so bad and is going to be acquiring the property after the new hospital is built, why are they not paying a large sum for the property to offset the cost?

As long as the ballot question is as misleading as it is they won't receive support from me.

Citizen Kane said...

It flies in the face of logic that they can operate a public hospital on medicaid and medicare funds and construct a new hospital, without increasing taxes. If one could be so profitable by doing so, all of the hospitals would be competing for a slice of the pie.

So, of course, they have to be running a scam (that should be obvious without even uncovering the facts you have presented here, People are too trusting of their government, when it aligns with their beliefs, and they fall for every propaganda program presented to them.

This referendum will pass easily just like the IPS referendum did(including $750,000 for electronic signs - no one knew they were voting for that, I'm sure).

As for the many legislative prostitutes - I guess two sinecures are better than one.

Downtown Indy said...

Has anyone seen even ONE advertisement by an opposition group hit the media? No, I think not. There's no money for that, although Carl Molthan is trying to raise some. On the other hand there's millions in cash for the HHC side to play with.

Yeah, that's a fair fight.

Jon said...

So the current mayor who was elected under the promise no new taxes has pushed ever tax increase that he has seen. Did he rescind the increase in CAGIT, no. Did he do anything to fix the CIB, no. Did he throw out the large influential law firms, no. Did he fulfill any campaign promise, no.
Now the mayor is pushing the new Wishard via corporate e-mail and he is prosmising time off to work at the polls to furhter that goal. Is it legal for the mayor to use corporate e-mail to push his agenda? Is it legal to allow workers time off to work at the polls? Legality aside is it ethical?

spooknp said...

This post is exactly why I no longer listen to self-proclaimed fiscal conservative commentators. Many are really fiscal socialists, all about the status quo and what is good for them and their bank account. If it is good for their personal back accounts, the support going full steam head toward socialism.

artfuggins said...

then Downtown Indy, pony up some money and get the multitudes that are against this to chip in....or perhaps it is the will of the people. I am going to vote against it but I know that it will pass 2 to 1....I quit doing missionary work for lost causes years ago.

Sean Shepard said...

So, essentially, the bonds would be backed by up to $60 or $70 per M.C. citizen (or around $200 per household?) in property tax revenue should the other revenue sources fail.

Ed Coleman's comment suddenly helps me understand why the Chancellor of IUPUI e-mailed their staff and faculty to support the proposal. They want the land.

And Downtown Indy's comment just highlights that there is never any money in fighting the machine. But, as long as the beast is fed and that money can be used to pay salaries of legislators, commentators, their wives or to promote 'economic development' so that contractors, developers, unions and other folks can get their cut of the public dole. OR, so that someone else can get the land. Ugh.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Art, don't you think it matters that the referendum question has been written so they don't mention a new hospital or how much is being borrowed? Don't you think it matters that they put it in a non election year.

You make it sound like it's a fair election where the anti-Wishard people just have to get their people to the polls.
The Wishard people intentionally rigged this election from the beginning.

patriot paul said...

Indiana is not known for being an activists state, and the property tax rebellion brewed to boiling in 2007 only AFTER unfair taxes hit taxpayers' pockets.
The Star's lack of investigative journalism coupled with throwing caution to the wind, makes you wonder if they have a conflict of interest. They've written several opinion articles for a ban on smoking to make Indianapolis 'healthy', 'attractive place to live', and to bring our state health into the '21st century' with half the other states, yet they throw taxpayer risks to the wind by using citizen property as collateral for default. Hardly a healthy fiscal posture. This kind of journalism is playing with loaded dice for a predetermined outcome.

Stop Indiana said...

Professional investors demand a higher interest rate for revenue bonds & unsuspecting investors or property owners are duped by an illegitimate process of nondisclosure; biased, monopolistic, incomplete, imbalanced, insidious- WRONG! It's unAmerican.

By unchartered assumption, government abuses terminology (language) in its characterizations of the free market; "economic development, public / private partnership & brain drain." It's not the job of government to make such determinations, it's inappropriate, like a referee jumping into the game whenever they "feel like it."

Libertarians should join Mr. Moldthan in fighting this referenduh / referendumb; the wording of which makes horrendous assumptions about the very public it claims to "serve."

dcrutch said...

This has been done earlier, but my corrupt-o-meter on the wall is vibrating and smoking, so before we lose all the data:
1)The referendum was sneaked into the last budget bill, of the last legislative session (by Senator Kenley? If I've got the wrong guy, I apologize). I'll make a wild guess that particular law and construction firms were to be likely beneficiaries.
2)There had been little in the media in the prior year regarding need for rebuilding or replacing Wishard. Can someone correct me with the media outlet, guest, program, anything that demonstrates a clamoring for this project?
3)The wording on the referendum is incredibly ambiguious. It's basically insulting to voting citizens that are to stand in a voting booth, and use the wording to help make up their mind. And, that's the idea isn't it? If your standing in the booth and you're not sure about the "right" thing, why you'll have to err on the side of compassion, right? Why give information to make a plausible, sound, logical case when you can get what you want through intimidation by guilt?
4)The suppossed cash flow to pay for this is based on a billing scam exactly when our government is on the hunt for billing scams to cover their overspending.
5)The taxpayers will be paying for this hospital constuction when the cash flow dries-up. This comes when the dollar is devaluing as global competitors withdraw from using it as a sound currency of trade, continuing national economic decimation from foreclosures and unemployment, and local public safety and education underfunding.
6)Local media you might sometimes count on for honest coverage (Garrison) or dream of for honest coverage (The Star), have either got a horse in the race or have never seen a public project they didn't like - respectively.

I want to use the logic that House Speaker Bauer used (stay with me) in nixing pursuit of property tax caps a second year: Let's wait and see. If the hospital rennovation is such a bright idea, then it will still be a bright idea in the next session as we wait and see if the economy pulls out of this nose dive. That will present the opportunity for a more honest and thorough presentation of need and funding to the taxpayer.

That'll happen. Right?

Downtown Indy said...

Well, Art, if I had a spare Mil in a trunk I could dig up out in the backyard, or knew folks with that kind of money I'd be all over it.

Stop Indiana said...

Tea party twist: Public vaccination day is November 3rd.

swan said...

The tax payers in Indianapolis are being so suckered by the powers that be here, in the bought-and-paid-for local media and government. I so admire the caring citizen journalists, who, on their own dime, work so hard to investigate and educate us, about the corrupt scams the powers that be are foisting on us.

There is too much tyranny, and too little honesty in county politics. That is why I only vote Libertarian.

kshkara said...