March 5, 2006

Hisses from the OB Sentinel

Apparently this blog has struck a nerve with the OB Sentinel. Sundays edition carried a Hiss on the editorial page that referred to a recent post in this blog. It stated that we were incorrect about the process for holding a referendum that needs to pass both town wide and in a service district
Obviously either the blogger or -- if town officials really stated such -- the town is not aware of federal and state election laws that ensure the privacy of the voter and how they choose to vote. How would it be possible to identify the oceanfront property owners without violating their guaranteed privacy of how they voted? And there is the issue related to the fact that voting is not just a privilege of property owners.

Good question, too bad you didn't ask it before you published the piece. Here is how it is done. When voters come in to vote they are asked where they reside (they have already provided this information as part of the voter registration process, you ask again in case it has changed). Voters are identified as residing in a service district or not residing in a service district. This creates two or more groups of voters depending on the number of service districts that have been created. Each voter is given a a ballot. The completed ballot is placed in the ballot box for the appropriate service district, the ballots are counted. The referendum must pass both on ballots cast for each service district and on all the ballots cast townwide. The Sentinel is correct that the vote is not limited to property owners, the group a voter belongs to is established by where he or she resides not by property ownership. I should have been more careful in my use of the term property owner.
As I go back and read the article again I realize what the problem is, the reporter doesn't understand (or doesn't accept) the concept that the voters who reside in a service district have an approval requirement that is separate from the townwide approval requirement. Here is the relevant section of NCGS 160a - Article 23 Municipal Service Districts
ยง 160A -543 Bonds authorized.
A city may incur debt under general law to finance services, facilities or functions provided within a service district. If a proposed general obligation bond issue is required by law to be submitted to and approved by the voters of the city, and if the proceeds of the proposed bond issue are to be used in connection with a service that is or, if the bond issue is approved, will be provided only for one or more service districts or at a higher level in service districts than city wide, the proposed bond issue must be approved concurrently by a majority of those voting throughout the entire city and by a majority of the total of those voting in all of the affected or to be affected service districts.(empahsis added) (1973, c. 655, s. 1; 2004s. 4.)

This citation makes it clear that a bond that provides a higher level of benefit to an established service district must be passed both by the voters in the service district and townwide and it must pass concurrenlty, that means in the same election. The full text of the service district law was provided to the BOC in their packet for their meeting on Feb. 15 under item C. This is what the committee recommended and this is what the town is considering, The referendum must pass two separate tests. With two different sets of voters, one a subset of the other. One vote, counted two ways.

Now here is another issue. Journalistic ethics.. The Sentinel choose to refer to this blog as :" the be {sic} blogger...This person, whose identity is unknown to us" Why not name the source so readers can evaluate for themselves that accuracy of the criticism. The name of this blog is View from the Ridge, the URL is http://jockeysridge.blogspot.com/. I clearly reference and provide links to their pages why not have the same courtiesy Perhaps the Sentinel didn't want readers to view the rest of that post which amplified and explained a number of quotes that appeared in the original Sentinel article.
Hisses to the Sentinel for getting it wrong again and for not providing a link to this blog so readers can judge for themselves.

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