County spent thou­sands pro­mot­ing parks bond

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Triangle & N.c. - BY ANNA JOHN­SON ajohn­son@new­sob­server.com

ref­er­en­dums: the $120 mil­lion parks bond.

A fre­quent li­brary vis­i­tor and N&O reader asked Cu­ri­ousNC why there are book­marks about the parks, open space and green­way bond at the lo­cal li­braries if there is a law that pre­vents gov­ern­ments from us­ing pub­lic money for cam­paign­ing.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments like Wake County aren’t al­lowed to en­cour­age peo­ple to vote for or against the bond. But it can pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als to help peo­ple make up their minds, said Frayda Bluestein, a lo­cal govern­ment ex­pert from the UNC School of Govern­ment.

“They have to be neu­tral in what they can do and it sounds like what they have done is pro­vide in­for­ma­tional ma­te­rial,” she said. “Whether it’s signs or book­marks or what­ever. They can say ‘This is what the bond is’ and I think they can go as far as say­ing ‘this is why we think we need to do this.’ But if it is more of a mar­ket­ing thing it can be

over the line.”

The book­marks and fliers, which cost just over $8,000 to pro­duce, en­cour­age peo­ple to vote on the bond is­sue but doesn’t push a par­tic­u­lar side. The pam­phlet in­cludes a map of pro­posed projects, how the bond money would be sent and the as­so­ci­ated 0.35 cents per $100 val­u­a­tion in­crease to the county prop­erty tax rate.

“Over­all, we be­lieve it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to ed­u­cate the vot­ers on the bonds which our board has re­solved to place on the Nov. 6 bal­lot,” said Dara Demi, Wake County com­mu­ni­ca­tion di­rec­tor. “The ma­te­ri­als we’ve de­vel­oped help reach dif­fer­ent au­di­ences in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions with in­for­ma­tion only. None of our ma­te­ri­als urges res­i­dents to vote for or against the bonds. They sim­ply of­fer in­sight, so when res­i­dents go to the polls, they can make in­formed choices.”

In a fol­low-up con­ver­sa­tion the reader, who didn’t want her name used, she said she also wanted to know why there weren’t sim­i­lar ma­te­ri­als for the other two bonds on the bal­lot. Wake Tech­ni­cal Com­mu­nity Col­lege and the Wake County Pub­lic School Sys­tem are han­dling the ed­u­ca­tional ef­forts for those two bonds, Demi said.

“To date, Wake Tech and WCPSS have not re­quested to place printed ma­te­ri­als in our pub­lic li­braries,” Demi said. “Our Parks, Re­cre­ation and Open Space staff did re­quest to share book­marks and brochures in our pub­lic li­braries, which is why they are avail­able in those lo­ca­tions.”

CAROLYN KASTER AP Photo

Tom Steyer hopes to af­fect Tues­day’s elec­tions by in­creas­ing Demo­cratic voter turnout.

TRAVIS LONG News & Ob­server file photo

A $120 mil­lion parks bond on Tues­day’s bal­lot would help fund re­cre­ation projects in Wake County such as trails pop­u­lar with jog­gers, walk­ers and cy­clists.

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