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Media Blitz Trumpets Three Wake County Bonds

BY T. Keung Hui
by T. Keung Hui on 10/13/00.

If your heart is being tugged and your mind exercised, the media campaign launched this week by Wake's bond campaign organizers just might be working on you.

With a month to go before Election Day, Friends of Wake County has revved up the campaign with radio and newspaper ads, soon to be followed by television spots. Through appeals to both the intellect and the emotions of voters, the group hopes to win passage of the $ 500 million school bond, the $ 20 million jail bond and the $ 15 million open-space bond.

While on one hand trumpeting that the bonds would not raise taxes, the campaign is also reminding voters to "do it for the children." As one radio ad says, "Some things in life you simply must have, no matter what the cost."

"We're saying, 'Here's the reason and the need,' and we get the emotion in there to encourage you to vote," said Ballard Everett, campaign strategist for Friends of Wake County, the group formed to get the three bonds passed.

The largest bond issue on the Nov. 7 ballot is the one for schools, which would pay for 14 new schools and improvements at 96 others. The bonds are supposed to ease overcrowding by creating additional classrooms and take care of long-neglected maintenance problems.

The jail bonds, which are proving to be a harder sell, would pay for the first phase of a new county jail that would relieve overcrowding.

The open space bonds would purchase land such as forests, meadows, fields and wetlands that are relatively undisturbed. This preservation is intended to protect water quality and provide more parks.

In the absence of any organized opposition to the bond issues, supporters have the field to themselves to persuade voters.

"We've been very fortunate that the [N.C.] Citizens for a Sound Economy and the [Wake County] Taxpayers Association have worked with the group to support the school bond," Everett said. "Some of the groups have problems with the open space and jail bonds, but they're not actively opposing them."

Friends of Wake County put some of the $ 140,000 they have collected so far on 60-second radio spots and ads in weekly newspapers that made their debut this week. Everett said 30-second television ads, which include images of crumbling schools and children in crowded rooms, will begin airing next week on cable television.

Everett said cable allows the group to target voting groups. For instance, families with schoolchildren will see ads on Nickelodeon while the no tax increase message will reach older viewers on the Arts & Entertainment channel.

Everett said a direct mail piece will be sent to voters within 10 days of the election.

The campaign is also working on its grass-roots support.

The Wake County PTA Council's executive committee has passed a resolution urging the 117 school PTAs to endorse the school bonds. So far, 44 school PTAs have lent their support and more are expected, according to Paula Lipford, the campaign coordinator.

On Wednesday, more than 1,500 yard signs along with assorted fliers and bumper stickers, most for the Wake school bonds, were handed out to PTA members.

"It's important that we get it passed," said Beverly Sherron, Adams Elementary School's PTA president, as she picked up 15 signs to distribute in Cary. "We need to get children out of broom closets."

PTA members are also expected to play a major role in next Friday's countywide sign blitz. Volunteers will place at least 6,000 campaign signs for the three Wake bonds, the Raleigh municipal bonds and the $ 3.1 billion state higher education bonds at prominent locations.

Barbara Goodmon, co-chairwoman of Friends of Wake County, said that if voters get complete information, she expects them to support the bonds.

"If we do our job right, we're educating the public about what the bonds do," Goodmon said.