More than 600,000 absentee ballots were mailed out to NC voters on Friday. It is great to hear that the word has gotten out about the importance of voting in the 2020 elections.

There is a lot more than the presidential election on the ballot this year, and so-called “down ballot” races impact many aspects of life in North Carolina. State offices from the governor on down to local offices like county commissioners are on your ballot, and you need to weigh in on all of these.

For Charlotte voters, there is one more thing on the ballot – capital bonds. Until I received my ballot, I had not heard much about these bonds.

As Charlotte’s former mayor and county commission chair, I have seen a lot of bond campaigns. Usually our business community is supportive and helps fund a voter-information campaign. But as of yet I have not seen signs of a campaign this year.

I called several City Council members who did not remember many specifics about these bonds, and I heard from some sources that there was a “sense” that the bonds were going to pass anyway, so there was not much need for advertising.

I beg to differ. There is no guarantee that voters will support this capital spending without more information. Charlotte voters need facts.

There is a total of $196.7 million in bonds on the ballot this year, including bonds for housing, streets, and neighborhoods. I checked the city’s website and found a list of 2018 bond projects, but nothing yet on the ones we are voting on in 2020.

Several questions come to mind: Has this list changed to reflect current realities and needs? How will additional debt service affect the city budget in the coming year, when we are facing declines in sales tax and income tax revenues?

Other cities are delaying capital projects. According to a July 9 article on cities and COVID by the National League of Cities, “…65% of cities indicate that they are delaying or completely canceling capital outlays and infrastructure projects, and 61% say they are delaying or canceling equipment purchases…”

The only thing I found on the web with respect to Charlotte’s bonds was this site, which offers no detail to date:

I hope that voters will get this information soon, as bond issuances of almost $200 million during a pandemic and recession should be big news. Unfortunately, many voters will fill out absentee ballots before they get any detail on these bonds.  

I am one of those voters looking for that information, and I hope it is forthcoming. It needs to be put out in multiple media outlets, before voters fill out absentee ballots.

Votes for bonds should not be taken for granted. Why is Charlotte different from other cities which are delaying capital projects? What are the urgent projects on the list that need funding?

And for those concerned with an ongoing pattern of racial injustice in services, criminal justice and policing, there are even more important questions: have any capital projects changed in nature or in priority in response to recent events? This also includes consideration of the growing threats from air pollution, climate change and its impacts. Does our capital spending prioritize, for example, purchasing all-electric buses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in challenged neighborhoods?

This voter looks forward to hearing more — and soon, so I can safely mail my ballot in, in time to be counted.

Jennifer Roberts was elected mayor Charlotte in November 2015 and served one term. She previously served four terms on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. welcomes your voice on issues affecting the Charlotte community. Have an opinion about an issue? Email the editor. It might get published.

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Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

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  1. Jennifer, you are spot on. I too found a dearth of detail on these significant and substantial spending proposals. I am generally for bonds but my ballot is waiting for bond details, otherwise I would send it today. I’ll make a plea here, to the Charlotte Observer, to address the bond issues immediately.