It’s mediocre coverage of crappy poll day in Milwaukee today! First up, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the right-wing think tank run by a former newspaper columnist and which includes rabidly pro-Bucks arena subsidy chamber of commerce president Tim Sheehy on its board, asked a whole 600 people scattered throughout the state of Wisconsin if they approved or disapproved of “public support” for the state’s sports teams. (Margin of error: ±5%.) Verdict: A narrow majority opposed giving public subsidies to sports teams in general (51.3% to 39.5%) and a narrow plurality opposed public aid to the Bucks in particular (39.3% to 36.1%); the Packers fared better, earning 43.1% to 39.7% support, though the Packers aren’t the ones actually asking for money. And only the overall opposition to subsidies clears that margin of error, anyway.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Don Walker’s verdict on this: “sharply divided opinion,” which I guess refers to the fact that most people were “strongly” opposed to or supportive of subsidies? Except for those who had no opinion, that is, though maybe they strongly had no opinion. Verdict: Not untrue, though “Why are we even covering this lousy poll when there have been so many better-worded ones?” would have been more accurate coverage.
Next up: The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance conducted an unscientific email and Facebook poll of members and, it sounds like, friends of members, and asked whether people wanted more public dialogue on a Bucks arena. Amazingly, 77% said yes! Even more amazingly, 23% of respondents actually went through the trouble of clicking on an email or Facebook page to say “No, we don’t want to hear anything more about a new Bucks arena,” which is either a sign that some people are so “strongly” opposed or in favor that they feel the matter is closed, a sign that people’s clicking skills are terrible.
Don Walker wrote about this, too, noting that it was an informal, unscientific survey, which means the numbers are completely meaningless even if the question itself weren’t more or less meaningless. Verdict: What, the first lousy poll didn’t get you enough pageviews for the day?
I pick on Walker a lot, deservedly so, for writing articles that parrot the press statements of Bucks execs and their political allies without even bothering once to call up someone who might disagree, or citing any actual facts to leaven the steady stream of pro-arena-subsidy opinion. But really, the worst of it isn’t the individual articles, but that they’re never leavened with any dissenting views or actual investigative reporting: Instead, on days when nobody from the team has anything to put in the paper, we get rehashes of polls that even the people who conducted them admit are meaningless.
So, Don. (May I call you Don?) You’ve retweeted me, so maybe there’s a chance you’re actually reading this. Since you have all this time on your hands and space to fill, how about devoting some of it to the actual real news that needs to be covered regarding the Bucks arena plans, and not just all this he-said-she-said and rehashing unenlightening poll results? Here, I’ll start you off with a list of story ideas:
- How much public money are the Bucks owners likely to be asking for, including any tax breaks, free land rights, etc.? And where would the Bucks owners get their supposed $300 million in private funds, what revenues would they be giving up in return, and why can’t some of that go to help repay the public’s share?
- What would replacing the Bradley Center actually mean to the Bucks owners financially? If it’s enough to pay off the construction costs, why can’t they fund it themselves out of new revenues? If it’s not enough, would it be more cost-effective for the team to make do with their old building, possibly renovated?
- How serious is the threat that the NBA will sell the team to new owners if a new arena isn’t approved? What did Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens agree to in their purchase of the franchise, and did they authorize the league to play bad cop for their arena demands?
- What would the fiscal and economic impact be for the state of Wisconsin to kick back income taxes on team employees to the Bucks owners, as has been proposed? How have other states fared that have passed similar measures?
I could probably think of a few more (and I’m sure my commenters will, so check down there as well), but that’s plenty for now. Even tackling one of these topics every week or two would be a huge benefit to the public debates around the arena plan. And I hear that unscientific surveys show that people want more informed public debate, so get cracking!