EDITORIAL: Whose responsibility is it to get educated about bonds?

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 09:44 AM

In an age of “bring it to me” convenience, where you can custom-order and pay for a pizza from your cell phone and have it delivered to your door (and then, to boot, text the delivery driver directions to his next three stops without getting out of your easy chair), some of those engaged in discussing the City of Sanford’s bond referendums seem to be confusing “right to know” with “responsibility to learn.”

The four bond issues — part of $14.5 million in city improvements that would bring upgraded sidewalks and recreational facilities, an extension of the city’s greenway and other streetscape projects to Sanford — will be decided by voters on Sept. 10.

Some council members and citizens speaking at a public hearing last month pushed to delay the city-wide vote until November. Ultimately, the council voted unanimously on the Sept. 10 date. But even now, after the timing of the vote being addressed multiple times by city council members, there have been complaints about the “rush” to make a decision on the bonds.

Don’t let that noise be a distraction to the question at hand.

There’s already volumes more information about the bond issues available to voters than there is about the candidates for city council, so why isn’t anyone asking those elections to be delayed? There may not be enough facts available for some opponents, but the bonds have been in the planning stages for years, in the discussion stages for months and a reality (insofar as the September vote) for weeks. There’s still just under a month until the primary election. If that’s not enough time for city residents to 1) study the four issues, and 2) make a decision about each of them, then will two additional months be enough time?

Finding information is easy. If you’re reading this, then you have access to information about the bonds, the improvements they’ll finance, the tax implications, and other questions through many sources, including The Herald’s series of stories about the bonds (www.sanfordherald.com), through the city’s bond website (http://www.sanfordnc.net/Bonds/bonds.html), by e-mailing the city (bonds@sanfordnc.net), by contacting your city councilman or by attending an event where a city official will discuss and answer questions about them. (You can access a calendar here: http://www.sanfordnc.net/calendar.html.)

The decision part? It’ll require some study and thinking.

Thomas Edison, one of our great thinkers, was quoted as saying, “Five percent of the people think; 10 percent of the people think they think, and the other 85 percent would rather die than think.”

Put another way: we’ve either forgotten the art of thinking or collectively become too quick to absolve ourselves of the responsibility of thinking and deciding on issues when they might be too weighty for our minds. But if you’re going to vote — and every city resident should make their voice heard by doing so — you should first reflect, and think.

The question, no doubt, is a difficult one, particularly in this economy. But there are easy starting points: If property taxes are your paramount concern, then you’re probably less likely to vote for a bond — regardless of the tax implications. If you think beautification and “quality of life” improvements, neglected for so long around here, are vital to attracting investment and other good things, then you’ll probably lean heavily in favor of the bonds. And if you like the idea of what the bonds will accomplish but have concerns about the return on investment of the bonds or the timing in a recovering economy, then you’ve got to engage your mind and build off the work that city staff and city councilmen have done and make a choice.

But regardless what your starting point is, start. Think, study, and make a decision. Then vote on Sept. 10.