Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports on a citizen watchdog group’s concern over the Town of Cary’s “education” effort for an upcoming bond vote. Is it “education” or is it encouraging a “yes” vote?

A Cary government watchdog organization believes the town is violating state law by placing a one-sided video on the town’s website hailing the benefits of tax increases to pay $80 million for three bond referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot.

N.C. General Statute §160A-499.3 bars any “municipality from using public funds to endorse or oppose a referendum, election or a particular candidate for elective office.” The law was adopted in 2010 as a response to cities, towns, and counties running information campaigns that critics say were little more than tax-funded propaganda for new government projects.

“My impression was that what they were doing was selling the project,” said Ray Czarnecki, a member of the grass-roots group Cary Watchmen, after watching the video, at “I felt like they were trying to get you to vote yes, period,” or else “Cary’s going to fall apart.”

Czarnecki said initially he wrote a complaint letter to the town after viewing some newspaper advertisements purchased by the town as part of its $186,000 “information” campaign about the three bonds. One $57.6 million bond is for transportation, a $15.8 million bond is for parks and recreation, and a $6.4 million bond is for construction of a new fire station.

Czarnecki said in his complaint he highlighted the town’s contention that without bond approval “we probably won’t do these for three to five years, and maybe even a question mark after that.”

“What is this, you guys are threatening us if we don’t approve this? You won’t put them in? That’s terrible,” he said. “It’s not up to the town to tell us to vote yes or no.”

Czarnecki said he suggested the town give opponents matching funds to present their position on the bonds, “but they just ignored us completely.”