A campaign supporting the largest bond referendum in Raleigh’s history debuted on Friday with football stars and a cast of four former mayors – but city government may have been overly enthusiastic in supporting the $92 million measure, headed to a vote Nov. 4.
After receiving questions from a reporter Monday, city staff pulled a promotional video from the city government’s parks and recreation website. State law forbids municipalities from using public money to take a position on referendums.
The short video featured pro-parks testimonials from a range of community figures, underlined by the kind of inspirational guitar usually reserved for Kickstarter videos.
“These parks and greenways, natural areas, they’re very egalitarian,” Kevin Brice, president of the City of Oaks foundation said in the video. “You visit a park, and you’ll find people from all walks of life.”
The piece featured no critical voices or information about the tax increase – 1.72 cents per $100 of property valuation – that approval of the bond would bring next July.
Public-information officer Jayne Kirkpatrick quickly decided to remove the video after a reporter asked about its presence on an informational page about the bond. “We’re taking it down because I don’t think it should be up there,” she said.
The city intends only to provide basic information, such as the proposed projects and the tax implications, she said. A review of the city’s published material showed that its website, brochures and interactive map appear to stay within the realm of the informational.
The video was created three years ago as a general promotion for parks, which is a legal use of city funds, Kirkpatrick said.
Parks staff updated it for bond purposes by inserting new text. The city has spent only staff time, not money, on the informational brochures and web page for the bond referendum, Kirkpatrick said.
‘Flip for parks’
The Raleigh Parks and Recreation Advocacy Committee has organized the “flip for parks” initiative, reminding voters the referendum question will appear on ballots’ flip side, because of a large number of judicial candidates. The committee has raised about $25,000 for videos and a website, organizer Jeff Tippett said.
The group works independently of the city, he said; the money will pay for two videos starring football stars Torry and Terrence Holt, a website, and other information, but not advertising, he said.
The largest share of the parks money, about $41 million, would go toward improving and repairing parks facilities; $16 million for greenways; $1.5 million for improvements at historic sites; $6 million for replacing the Pullen Art Center; and $27 million for new land and facilities.
In 2007, an $89 million parks package won 72 percent approval in city elections. If approved, the first projects would begin next fall, with work lasting seven years.