Why voters should approve all 3 bond initiatives at the end of ballot (Commentary)

As an avid Carolina Panthers fan, I often draw inspiration from the “Keep Pounding” motto for causes beyond the team’s […]
Jesse Cureton

As an avid Carolina Panthers fan, I often draw inspiration from the “Keep Pounding” motto for causes beyond the team’s performance on the field. The three city bonds referenda on the Nov. 6 ballot are perfect examples.

These important questions are all about the bonds that challenge us to sustain the hard work and forward thinking that built this great city. On at least one vital issue, affordable housing, they motivate us to up our game.

This year’s bonds represent the third of four offerings over a decade that are part of the Community Investment Plan (CIP), which addresses municipal infrastructure and improvement needs over the long term. City voters will decide on three separate measures totaling $223.08 million.

  • $118.08 million for streets: For streets and intersections, continued development of the 30-mile Cross Charlotte Trail, upgrades to our traffic control system, measures to improve pedestrian safety, and repairs and construction of bridges, sidewalks and bikeways.
  • $50 million for housing: Increase the supply of quality and well-maintained affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households through construction and preserving existing housing.
  • $55 million for neighborhoods: Improve infrastructure such as sidewalks, greenways, bike lanes, streetscapes, curbs and gutters, storm drains, landscaping and pedestrian lighting in established and emerging, high-growth areas.

The City of Charlotte issues bonds to fund much of its infrastructure needs, as is common among large cities across the country. City staff proposes projects and related costs, including debt service to issue the necessary bonds, as part of the annual budgeting process. Council then approves placing bonds on the ballot.

Using bonds in this way is an effective fiscal policy and reflects smart stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. Charlotte’s “AAA” credit rating, the highest possible grade a municipality may have, is a validation of this approach, and also enables the city to borrow money at lower interest rates.

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A portion of property and sales tax receipts and other revenues help pay for the CIP. The tax increase approved by Council last year will support the $223.08 million total for this year’s bond package, enabling the city to cover debt service for the life of the bonds until the debt is paid off. In other words, voting “yes” will not result in higher property taxes or negatively affect our AAA bond rating. On the other hand, a “no” vote will not lower property taxes and could cause a lowering of our bond rating.

Voters wisely and decisively supported similar bonds packages in 2014 and 2016, with approval levels ranging from 63 percent to 78 percent. Here’s why we should follow their lead this year.

Regardless of who you are, a home is fundamentally vital to your quality of life. Charlotte faces a critical shortage of affordable housing for its most vulnerable residents. News media reports as recently as last week spotlighted this persistent problem and the difficulty of overcoming it. City Council unanimously voted to allocate an unprecedented 20 percent of units funded by housing bonds for those Charlotteans managing on minimum or very low wage jobs, a commitment that we are proud to honor with the upcoming bond funds.

Providing diverse housing choices for these low and moderate-income individuals and families is one of the highest priorities on our civic agenda and demands bold action. These citizens form the backbone of our regional workforce; they are our police and EMTs, our nurses and hospitality workers, teachers and bus drivers, cashiers and preschool teachers. If they can’t find an affordable and accessible place to live, our community at large and regional economy will suffer.

Reflecting this imperative, the $50 million bond is more than triple the size of any previous affordable housing bond, and if it passes, the private sector has committed to raise a matching $50 million. A “yes” vote on the affordable housing bond will help fund an unprecedented $100 million investment to increase the supply of safe, affordable housing with new construction and preserving existing housing through rehabilitation.

The streets bond will fund improvements that will make our commuting easier and improve access to residential, commercial and retail areas citywide. Examples include extending New Garrison Road to promote economic development around the Airport Intermodal Facility on the west side, a streetscape project to improve the Monroe Road corridor in the east, and the bridge over I-85 that connects Research Drive to J.W. Clay Boulevard in the north. There are also infrastructure investments in the North Graham Street and Statesville Road area.

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The neighborhood improvement bond is an investment in protecting and improving both older and emerging neighborhoods that are showing wear and tear for various reasons. Targeted neighborhoods include Central/Albemarle/Shamrock, Prosperity Village, SouthPark, Sunset/Beatties Ford, West Trade/Rozzelles Ferry and Whitehall/Ayrsley. Emphasis will be on increasing connectivity to employment, shopping and entertainment opportunities.

Charlotte is renowned for its progressive spirit, decisive leadership, intentionality and willingness to invest in a future over the horizon. Voters in past elections compelled us forward with their vision and wisdom. We must follow their lead and sustain the momentum they built. On Election Day, “keep pounding” by voting “yes” on all three city bonds at the end of the ballot.

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