Feb. 28--More than $16,000 has been spent by supporters of the March 4 bond referendum for a new convention center, campaign finance reports filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board show.
There has been little organized opposition to the referendum, which the City Council scheduled last November at the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau's request.
All of the spending reported Thursday was by Ames Convention Center -- Yes!, a political committee run by employees of, and established with a $30,000 contribution from, the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB).
That contribution, ACVB Director Julie Weeks said, was authorized by the organization's board and funded with ACVB revenue from set-aside project funds, membership dues and fees for services over the past couple years.
The ACVB's committee reported about $3,370 in expenditures and $13,000 in incurred indebtedness, or expenses that had yet to be paid off by the time the report was filed.
Spending included about $2,200 in printing services provided by Alpha Copies of Ames, $1,070 for promotional videos made by B & G Productions of Ames and $1,750 in postal costs.
Another $11,400 was reported for consulting services provided by Strategic Elements LLC of West Des Moines that included opinion research, mail and phone campaigning and graphic design services.
The committee also reported about $6,000 in in-kind contributions, or donations of good and services, which included about $4,300 for ACVB staff time, $740 for website fees and $500 for air time on KASI-AM radio.
SMG, the company that manages the Iowa State Center for the university, filed a separate report disclosing that it gave $5,000 to the Ames Convention Center -- Yes! committee on Feb. 24.
State law requires committees that spend more than $750 to file reports due five days before an election. That was Thursday for the Ames referendum; the committee reported spending through Feb. 22.
Since then, the committee mailed another flyer to Ames residents reminding them to vote, Weeks said. It has also run full-page advertisements in the Tribune.
"We understand that there are still a lot of people in Ames that are unaware of the project, and we hope that individuals have discussions over the weekend so that more people vote next week," she said.
Several outspoken opponents of the proposed convention center have been distributing a flyer of their own that questions why half the project's $38.8 million cost should be funded with property taxes when the hospitality industry might disproportionately benefit, and if the center would benefit Ames as much as the ACVB has claimed.
Ames resident Judy Lemish, who has distributed the flyer but said she hadn't been involved in writing it, expressed concern about the relatively short time span between when the council scheduled the vote in November and next Tuesday's referendum.
"It is rather quick," she said. "There's a lot of people in this community that don't even know there's a vote coming up, and don't know what it's for."
The flyer's authors had concerns about revealing their names, including that they didn't want to be misidentified as part of an organized group, according to other opponents of the convention center proposal who have distributed the flyers but said they didn't write them.
Under Iowa law, residents acting independently can spend up to $100 of their own money on ballot issues without filing a disclosure report.
On March 4, Ames residents can vote at any one of seven polling sites from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will be located at the Ascension Lutheran Church, Bethesda Lutheran Church, Collegiate United Methodist Church, Heartland Baptist Church, State Forest Nursery, Trinity Christian Reformed Church and University Baptist Church.
Residents who are not registered to vote can do so on site March 4 under Iowa's same-day registration rules.
Early voting will also continue Friday and Monday at the auditor's office on the second floor of the Story County Administration Building in Nevada, 900 6th St., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
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