Monday, July 30, 2007

Raleigh bond for Dorothea Dix?

According to last week’s survey of likely Raleigh municipal election voters, a strong majority would support a bond referendum to help the city purchase the Dorothea Dix property from the state in order to turn it into a city park.

The city of Raleigh is currently attempting to buy the Dorothea Dix property from the state government in order to turn it into a city park. Would you support or oppose an 80 million dollar bond referendum to help the city purchase Dorothea Dix?

Support 58%
Oppose 33%

The state government may offer to lease the city of Raleigh approximately 200 of the 306 acres of Dix land for 99 years on the condition that Raleigh would spend millions to improve the land as a park. However, the state offer would not include the main hill and historic core of the Dix property. Dix Park advocates claim that the historic core is crucial to the success of a future destination park. Should Raleigh accept or reject such an offer from the state?

Accept 21%
Reject 53%

Complete results here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The following was written by Margaret C.H. Kelly and Matthew Zieper: It can also be found at

When a state, county, or community identifies the need for additional capital, it has several options ranging from
increasing sales or other taxes, to special fees for services, to bonding. A jurisdiction often chooses to issue bonds to avoid raising taxes and fees and/or to meet the specific capital needs of the project. While different states have varying restrictions on the abilities of state and local govern-
ments to levy taxes or impose fees, all jurisdictions may issue debt.
But issuing debt is not always the easiest option. In most states, bonds backed by general taxes (general obliga-
tion bonds) must be approved by the voters. Trying to convince the voters of the need for a $20 million library or park can be a difficult task. In some communities, anti-tax groups who oppose government spending may organize to oppose the bond measure, and the government is left
scrambling to rally support.
Finance officers and elected officials
1 typically do not have the background to
organize and then support a bond referen-
dum. But in spite of that, they will need to
take on the role of marketing executive/
campaign manager/community cheerleader
in order to get a bond referendum passed.
This article highlights six steps necessary
to pass a bond measure and provides case
studies of two communities who success-
fully passed bond measures.
Winning a Bond Measure
Putting a bond referendum before the
voters is only the tip of the iceberg. Most
of the work already has been done by
election day. From structuring a bond
package that meets the needs of a commu-
nity to implementation of the project
funded by the bond, there are six steps
that facilitate a sound public finance
1) capacity building;
2) feasibility research;
3) polling;
4) measure design;
5) campaigning; and
6) implementation.
The purpose of capacity building is to
build a broad base of community-based
leadership to assist with the development
of the proposed public finance measure.
At this stage, it is important to identify
local leadership and facilitate communica-
tion among interested parties.
During the feasibility research phase,
relevant information is gathered to inform
the development of public opinion polling
and measure design. At this juncture, it is
necessary to consider fiscal issues (current
funding, bond ratings, revenue trends, and
debt burden), political circumstances
(local political trends and other pending
ballot questions), key community issues
and priorities, and results of past elec-
During the next step, polling, the goal is
to identify voter priorities. This includes
quantifying the amount that voters are
willing to pay for these priorities, as well
as narrowing down compelling arguments
for the project and testing actual ballot
Measure design involves developing
ballot language that appeals to voters and
clearly explains how this measure ad-
dresses the particular issue targeted by the
bond and meets the needs of the commu-
nity. At this stage, it is also important to
review the proposed measure with the
appropriate government and bond coun-
The focus of the campaign is straight-
forward: publicize the proposed ballot
measure and encourage voter turnout.
Campaign steps include disseminating
direct mail pieces, promoting the cause via
other means (e.g., Web sites), and orches-
trating media coverage.
The last step, implementation, assumes
a successful campaign. Now that the
voters have approved the measure, it is
important to ensure a smooth transition to
the next appropriate project phase. Each
set of local circumstances requires that
this six step continuum be a flexible tool
and a work in progress. The two case
studies discussed below highlight different
circumstances and goals, as well as differ-
ent approaches.
Case Studies: Two Referendums
This section consists of case studies
detailing two successful bond referendum
campaigns that the Trust for Public Land
assisted governments with—one in a
county and one in a state. The first case
study—Dade County, Florida—examines
the successful passage of a $200 million
general obligation bond to fund the Safe
Neighborhood Parks Act of 1996. The
second case study looks at the steps taken
by the State of California to win passage
of the $2.1 billion Safe Neighborhood
Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and
Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2000.
Dade County, Florida
On November 5, 1996, voters in Dade
County approved a $200 million general
obligation bond measure to fund capital
improvements at countywide park and
recreational facilities. Passed with 67
percent of the vote (the highest percentage
for a fiscal measure in Dade County
history), the Safe Neighborhood and Parks
Act united the county and its municipali-
ties in a common cause: to demonstrate
how parks and recreation programs can
make a community safer and improve the
residents’ quality of life. The success of
this bond referendum can be attributed to a thoroughly researched and strategically implemented effort by a well-rounded and devoted community task force. Some
background information about Dade
County and some of the critical steps
taken are discussed below.
In 1972, the Decade of Progress bond
referendum established an award-winning
parks and recreation system in Dade
County, Florida. In the years that fol-
lowed, however, operating and capital
budgets received annual reductions, and in
the 10 years prior to the 1996 referen-
dum, there were six failed attempts by
Dade County Park and Recreation De-
partment staff to get a capital improve-
ment bond measure on the ballot. By
1995, park and recreation needs were
estimated to be more than $1 billion.
In this hostile, “no new taxes” environ-
ment, Dade County Park and Recreation
staff and a network of local, state, and
national experts pulled together a coali-
tion that took the following—ultimately
Research and Polling. In addition to
determining the financial needs of the 29
municipalities in Dade County, a promi-
nent California public opinion firm polled
nearly 500 voters from a cross-section of
ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The results of this poll ascertained that
Dade County voters were concerned
about crime (juvenile violence, in particu-
lar), government mismanagement, and
rampant growth and development.
County priorities were identified as
providing juvenile crime prevention
facilities, protecting natural resources,
creating safer neighborhood parks and
facilities, and improving the quality of
life. To achieve these goals, voters ex-
pressed a willingness-to-pay of no more
than $7-10 per household (annually) with
a cap of $200 million in total cost.
A second poll several months later gave
the effort its name, the Safe Neighbor-
hood Parks Act of 1996, and helped
organizers identify respected community
spokespeople, the most beneficial election
timing, and the critical swing voters. The
poll further emphasized the intensity of
the public’s distrust of government.
Knowing the voters and allowing them to
help develop the parameters of the pro-
posed measure were critical to the ulti-
mate success of this referendum.
Measure Design. A coalition of busi-
ness and civic leaders formed the Trust for
Safe Neighborhood Parks (The Trust),
which began to screen potential projects
to be included. This draft, or ordinance,
was a critical step in the process because it
would have to be approved by the Board of
County Commissioners (BCC) to appear
on the ballot and needed to meet the legal
requirements of a bond measure. Further-
more, the ordinance needed to address
citizen concerns of government misman-
agement of public funds. To assuage this
latter concern, the ordinance called for the
creation of a Citizens’ Oversight Commit-
tee, a detailed exhibit of the specific
projects funded by this money, and inde-
pendent annual audits of approved
projects. Last, before a draft of the ordi-
nance was finalized, project proponents
met with elected officials of both the
municipalities and the county to incorpo-
rate their feedback and garner support.
With a proposed ordinance in hand, the
Trust sought the endorsements of munici-
pal governments, chambers of commerce,
law enforcement agencies, religious and
educational institutions, and others. They
also embarked upon a series of mandatory
public forums throughout the county. In
July, the BCC approved the ordinance for
inclusion on the November ballot and the
second phase of the campaign began.
Fundraising, Message Development,
and Communications. For practical and
logistical purposes, the post-July cam-
paign was split in two: 1) a grassroots
effort headed by the local office of a
national non-governmental organization
(NGO) and their political action commit-
tee (PAC), and 2) a media campaign
organized by a Citizens Advisory Commit-
tee (CAC), which incorporated the Trust.
Fundraising efforts were undertaken at
both the grassroots and corporate levels.
Sources included parks support organiza-
tions with operating budgets (e.g., the
Zoological Society), playground equip-
ment vendors, landscapers, corporations,
financial institutions, and individuals. The
bulk of these funds paid for professional
political consultants, airtime, and the
production of 30-second Spanish and
English television commercials.
The grassroots campaign produced two
messages: 1) the benefits-based message,
and 2) the consumer message. The ben-
efits-based message focused on quantifying
research to highlight the benefits derived
from improved park and recreation facili-
ties. The consumer-based message re-
minded voters that the ordinance had been
designed so that “no blank check” would
be given to government if voters approved
this bond measure.
These two messages were conveyed via
direct mail, signs at parks, an active
speakers’ bureau, and a volunteer phone
bank that contacted more than 15,000
potential voters. A professional media
campaign included print media (editorial
discussions as well as some print adver-
tisement) and broadcast media (public
access television, Spanish-language radio,
and two 30-second television commer-
An additional consideration during this
phase of the campaign was the presence
of competing issues on the ballot. Not
only is there the potential for some voters
to “drop off” (proceed no further) once
they have cast their vote for candidates in
the larger elections, but other ballot
questions may spark controversy so that
voters either vote “no” for all issues or
confuse issues. In the Dade County
election there was a hotly contested race
for the executive mayor’s office, a no-
new-taxes/anti-government proposal, a
“Save the Everglades” proposed amend-
ment, and a referendum to build a new
arena for the local professional basketball
team. For the most part, these issues were
cast in a very negative light, playing on
the public’s fear of overtaxation, govern-
ment waste, and environmental damage.
The Safe Neighborhood Parks Act coun-
tered this ballot competition by offering a
positive benefits-based message.
Results and Implementation. On the
day of the election, volunteers in “Vote
for My Park” t-shirts, carrying placards
and handing out palm cards covered the
precincts’ polling stations. The result was
better than most had hoped for, with a 67
percent “yes” vote.
Between the November 1996 win and
the fall of 1997—when the first round of
bonds were sold—the Administrative
Rules of the CAC were drafted. This
involved a task force comprised of
municipal park and recreation directors.
Simultaneously, the BCC appointed a 23-
member Nominating Committee charged
with finding COC candidates from each
parks and recreation district. There are
13 members of the COC-–one from each
district-–who serve on one or more of
the three subcommittees: 1) Grant
Application and Review, 2) Administra-
tive Rules, and 3) Grant Monitoring and
Auditing. Each year, the Safe Neighbor-
hood Parks Bond Program issues a
public year-end report highlighting
accomplishments and discussing the
year’s work.
Page 3
2001 • G
On March 7, 2000, the voters of
California passed the $2.1 billion Safe
Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean
Air, and Coastal Protection Bond Act with
more than 63 percent of the vote. Prior to
this success, the state’s last park bond was
passed in 1988. While the 1970s generated
$590 million in park bonds and the 1980s
produced park bonds totaling $1.7 billion,
the dearth of new bonds funds in the
1990s took its toll on the state’s parks and
recreational facilities and open space
Research and Polling. There were
several rounds of polling throughout the
various stages of the campaign. Early
polls, prior to drafting the bill, were
conducted to gauge support for the differ-
ent issues (e.g., parks, water) in an effort
to construct a strong and cohesive bill. A
campaign poll, conducted after the mea-
sure was on the ballot, assessed the stron-
gest arguments for and against the bill and
sought to identify key swing voter popula-
tions. Finally, results of tracking polls as
the election neared gave campaign manag-
ers feedback on the effectiveness of their
various efforts.
Once the bill was approved by the
state legislature and headed for the
March election, grassroots support for
the bill—now known as Proposition 12
or the proposed Safe Neighborhood
Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and
Coastal Protection Bond Act—coalesced
into a formal steering group: Californians
for Safe Neighborhood Parks and Clean
Measure Design and Competing Issues.
The bond measure was designed specifi-
cally to meet the many and diverse needs
of the counties and communities through-
out the state. After so many years with
no new capital funding for parks and
open space, competition for funds was
intense. Proposition 12’s funding priori-
ties were the result of months of negotia-
tion within the state legislature. In the
end, the bill sought to address issues
related to coastline, watersheds, Lake
Tahoe, open space in the suburbs, farm-
land, forests, fish and wildlife habitat,
and the crumbling parks and recreation
infrastructure. The $2.1 billion was
divided between regions and communi-
ties, but funds were assigned to agencies
or causes as follows: local parks (35
percent), state parks (26 percent), conser-
vancies (17 percent), wildlife and land
acquisition (13 percent), park acquisition
for low-income and at-risk youth (5
percent), resources agency (2 percent),
and other (2 percent).
In terms of crafting the actual ballot
language, representatives of supporting
grassroots and non-government organiza-
tions played a significant role by assisting
the bill’s authors. This constructive dia-
logue between those in the legislature and
those “in the field” ensured that the
measure reflected polling results and voter
There were four additional spending
(bond) issues on the March ballot: 1) a
water bond known as Proposition 13, 2) a
library bond, 3) a bond to build veteran
retirement homes, and 4) a bond to build
a criminal forensics laboratory. The ballot
also consisted of 14 other ballot measures,
as well as the primary elections of presi-
dential and legislative candidates.
All of these campaigns were competing
to get their particular message to the
voters simultaneously. Likewise, each
spending proposal would be accepted or
rejected by voters based on the unique
circumstances of each ballot measure.
Because Propositions 12 and 13 had
similar conservation-oriented objectives,
their proponents sought to achieve a
critical mass of sorts and merged forces to
run a joint campaign.
Fundraising, Outreach, and Communi-
cations. Fundraising efforts were managed
by an executive committee of the Califor-
nians for Safe Neighborhood Parks and
Clean Water. Donations came from land
trusts, the environmental community,
companies with a significant presence in
California, and philanthropic individuals
and organizations. In total, the joint
campaigns for Propositions 12 and 13 cost
approximately $7 million—all of which
was raised from these fundraising sources.
The multi-media publicity campaign
behind Propositions 12 and 13 was
coordinated by Californians for Safe
Neighborhood Parks and Clean Water.
Direct mail pieces, the brochure, newspa-
per advertisements, and fliers made the
case for both Propositions 12 and 13.
Television and radio spots for the two
propositions were run in the few weeks
preceding the election. In addition to
these materials, direct mail pieces on
behalf of the two conservation-oriented
propositions were sent out with the
endorsements of the California Black
Chamber of Commerce, the Latin Ameri-
can Voters of America, the Planning and
Conservation League, the American
Association of Retired Persons, the
League of Women Voters, the California
Chamber of Commerce, and Cal-Tax.
These groups demonstrated a wide base of
support for the two bond proposals.
The Audubon-California division
launched its own media campaign in
support of Propositions 12 and 13 in
Spanish, recognizing that the urban
Spanish population of California repre-
sented a key group of voters. Proposition
12, in particular, addressed the parks and
recreation concerns of many urban His-
panic constituents.
Results and Implementation. Both
Propositions 12 and 13 were passed by
voters in the March 7 election, with 63.2
percent and 64.9 percent of the vote
respectively. Of the other proposed spend-
ing measures on the ballot, only the bond
to support a new criminal forensics lab
did not pass. Of all the proposed spending
measures, however, Propositions 12 and
13 received the highest percentage of votes
in favor of the measure.
The bond as passed requires that all
funds be appropriated by the California
legislature through the budget process. To
date, the legislature has approved more
than three-quarters of a billion dollars in
new bonds under the now implemented
Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water,
Clean Air, and Coastal Protection Bond
While it is never easy to ask voters to
raise their taxes to pay for critical capital
investments, in this case parks and open
space, there are several critical steps that
can increase the likelihood of success. To
boil it down to the core: 1) Find out voter
priorities through public opinion research;
2) ask them how much they are willing to
pay, 3) craft a ballot measure that reflects
voter interests and 4) communicate the
benefits to likely supporters. In essence,
give the voters what they want.
Some states and local jurisdictions have restrictions
against government employees (e.g., finance officers)
campaigning on behalf of ballot measures, so be sure
to consult your government’s legal counsel first. In
most instances, however, elected officials are free to
campaign for any measure, or finance officers can
enlist the help of community leaders to support the
measure in their stead.

Successful Bond Referendum Will Provide New, Improved Schools

The voters of Durham County gave the good work of Durham Public Schools a resounding show of approval on November 6 by approving the school bond referendum by a nearly 4-to-1 margin. This means three new schools, plus extensive additions and renovations to many more.
Dozens of school and community leaders and supporters turned out to celebrate the overwhelming victory at the Museum of Life & Science. The event honored the many citizens who worked so hard to ensure passage of the bond.
DPS collaborated with many community partners to spread the word throughout our community about our needs for new schools, along with expansion and renovation to many others. In the weeks leading up to the vote, bond teams comprising DPS employees, parents and community supporters scheduled presentations at their own schools, along with dozens of neighborhood and civic organizations and communities of faith.
MaryAnn Black, Associate Vice President of Community Relations for Duke University Medical Center, and Steve Toler of Steve Toler LLC, were the co-chairs of the Vote for Learning committee, which promoted the bond. The committee comprises representatives from Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College and the Museum of Life & Science.
The bond will provide $194.2 million in funding for a new elementary, middle and high school to ease crowding at a number of schools, plus provide additions and renovations for 17 existing schools, some of which date back more than 80 years. The bond also would provide land purchase funds for future schools, plus playground upgrades.

District 5 considers building options
Lexington-Richland 5 school board might try a third time to pass a school construction plan in 2008, chairwoman Paul Hite said after Monday’s board meeting.
“We are going to do a little bit of brainstorming and looking at our options,” she said.
Irmo-Chapin area voters Nov. 6 defeated a $256.5 million bond referendum that would have built three new schools and renovated seven existing ones.
It was the second time the loosely organized group, “Putting Students First,” composed largely of area retirees, led a successful bid to defeat a school construction plan.
In 2005, voters overwhelmingly rejected a $131.4 million construction plan.
Members of both the watchdog group and political science professors said the 12-member group with roughly 300 unofficial supporters cemented its status as a strong political voice.
At Monday’s District 5 school board meeting, Chapin resident and group member Don Carlson said the group recognizes schools are becoming crowded but disagrees with the district on what the needs are and how much to pay for them.
“If you have an open, two-way public board meeting and find out what the public did not like about the past bond referendums, there’s no reason we can’t have a positive bond referendum in 2008,” he told board members.
Hite said after the meeting that group members were included in the discussions. She said Carlson served on a facilities committee.
In the month leading to the election, Putting Students First members sent out direct mailings and e-mails, wrote letters to the editor and posted fliers listing reasons to vote against the construction plan.
Republican political strategist Rod Shealy Jr. has worked as the “Vote No” campaign consultant for the past two bond referendums.
He said he saw the reward for the group’s aggressive campaign on election day.
“In talking to people who told me why they voted no, they were listing the reasons that we put on the fliers,” he said.
“I thought, ‘wow unlike typical political campaigns, people are reading theses fliers top to bottom.’”
Some Chapin parents complained after the Nov. 6 vote that members used scare tactics and placed inflated emphasis on higher tax bills.
On election day, Kim Murphy was among a number of callers to the Richland Election Commission to get results before all the votes had been counted.
Murphy often attends monthly school board meetings, questioning board members and administrators during the public participation and recording the proceedings on a personal tape recorder.
She said she has questioned whether she is stepping on toes, but residents have reassured her she performs a service.

November 04, 2007
Mayor White endorses HISD bond referendum

Earlier this week, Matt Stiles noted that Mayor White had not yet taken a public position on the HISD bond referendum. Well, now he has, with an endorsement op-ed that's in the print edition of today's Chron but which for some reason I can't find online.
Nothing is more important to our city, state and nation than the education of future generations. I personally have seen schools within the Houston Independent School District in need of repair or reconstruction. So I support the issuance of bonds by the Houston Independent School District to pay for these school improvements. The alternatives would be to increase tax rates by financing improvements without the use of debt or to allow schools to deteriorate even more.
I urge citizens not to vote against HISD's bond issue in protest. Students should not suffer because of the errors of individuals within school governance and administration.
Many citizens have doubts about HISD's bond issue because of concerns about school closings and consolidations. I share their questions about school closings, and have expressed myself forcefully to HISD. But school board elections, not the bond issue, are the best way to act on these concerns without hurting students.

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