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Our View: Underhanded campaigns sully hospital sale referendum

 

 

 

On Tuesday, voters in Oktibbeha County will go to the polls to decide if the county can sell the county-owned OCH Regional Medical Center. The vote, it is thought, will bring to an end a long and emotionally charged debate. 

 

For the past five years, there has been speculation over the future of the hospital, a argument that has split much of the community into two camps.  

 

As the county supervisors continued to pursue the prospects of a sale, those who want to keep he facility under county ownership filed a petition to put the matter to a vote. That day arrives Tuesday. 

 

We understand why this is not your typical referendum. The question of the hospital's future is one that evokes strong emotions on both sides. 

 

But as we approach the day of decision, we are disappointed with much of the rhetoric coming from both camps, efforts to stir emotions through exaggerations, distortions and, most recently, unethical conduct that damages the effort to provide voters with a clear, well-informed choice.  

 

The ethical breach to which we refer is the activity of two groups who favor a yes vote on the sale of the hospital -- Nothing But The Facts and The Educational Association of East Oktibbeha County Schools, both of which have produced campaign materials but have not registered with either the circuit clerk's office or the secretary of state's office.  

 

These are clear violations of the election laws that govern our state.  

 

Neither Carol Stern, a Ridgeland resident who is listed as the agent for Nothing But the Facts nor Jacque Ellis of Starkville, who is listed as the agent or the other group, have registered as campaign contributors. 

 

The two groups have purchased air time on local Cumulus radio stations for five ads, two of which are targeted to black audiences, suggesting that voting yes on the sale is in the best interest of black citizens, a claim that has never been mentioned in the debate this issue has produced. The groups have also distributed mailers urging voters to support the sale.  

 

We are disappointed by the breach of campaign law and the unsubstantiated claims made by these two groups and believe they ultimately hurt not only the cause they support but the entire process. 

 

Tuesday's election is important. It is so important that both sides have an obligation to make their cases honestly, honorably and within the rules. 

 

When the issue voters address is obscured and distorted, no one really wins. 

 

So let's have a fair, honest election. 

 

We deserve nothing less.

 

 

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