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Charlotte voters guide: One of the most important issues on this year’s ballot might be at the very bottom

If you’ve already voted early this year or looked at your sample ballot, you know that this year’s ballot is aggressively long. (Mine clocks in at six pages.)

You’re going to be tired by the end of it, and probably emotionally drained after picking candidates in the most divisive elections I’ve ever seen (granted: I’m 29 and this is the third presidential election I can vote in, but still). Even though you might be tired, you should definitely power through to the end and pay attention to three questions on the final page that deal with one important issue: City bonds.

I know, bonds don’t sound sexy, but stick with me, because this is one of those unsexy things that really impacts your daily life. And whether you vote yes or no on the bonds, you should at least know what you’re voting for.

Here’s how the bonds look on the ballot. Below, we’ll describe what this all means.


What are bonds?

Basically, bonds are how the city finances large public projects. Think of them like home mortgages, and the city will pay for them over time using property taxes it’s already gathering. One important note: The bond passing does not mean your taxes go up, and your taxes won’t automatically go down if it fails. The money is already in the city’s budget.

This round of bonds is actually part of a bigger investment in the city, starting back in 2013. City leaders came together to come up with a plan — the Community Investment Plan — to improve infrastructure and attract businesses around the city, especially in what’s known as the “crescent” — areas east, north and west of uptown that had seen declining property values.

Four bonds will be proposed over eight years. The first set was approved in 2014, and this is the second set.

What did the ones from 2014 actually do?

You’ve probably seen the effects of some of these bonds already. If you’ve noticed the bridge being built over I-85 in University City, just south of Harris Boulevard, that was in the 2014 bonds package. In the 2016 package there’s a plan for a bridge north of Harris.

You may have also noticed the effects of bonds in what’s called the “Applied Innovations Corridor” — the area around Statesville Road, Graham Street and North Tryon Street. Heist Brewery is planning an expansion there and the Charlotte Fire Department is investing in facilities there.

Some of the bonds also go toward the Cross Charlotte Trail, the proposed greenway that would eventually stretch from Pineville to University City.

What are the ones from 2016 supposed to do?

There are three different bond initiatives on the ballot this year:

– Transportation: $148,440,000 to fund street and intersection projects, repair and build bridges, improve pedestrian safety, go toward the completion of the Cross Charlotte Trail and more. Other specific projects: Monroe Road streetscape (create pedestrian-oriented corridor between Briar Creek and Sharon Amity) and Northeast Corridor Infrastructure (a collection of projects to improve access to the Blue Line Extension).

– Housing: $15 million to go into the Housing Diversity Program, which strives to “create mixed-income communities by providing a continuum of housing needs from supportive housing to maintaining homeownership.”

– Neighborhood improvements: $55 million to improve infrastructure in neighborhoods that have a lack of connectivity. One specific project: A way to get across the light rail line in South End near the Publix.

See a full list of the projects here

Why should I care?

I talked with Natalie English and Adam Bernstein, who are both part of the Vote Yes for City Bonds campaign in Charlotte. Here’s what they had to say about the importance of these bonds.

(Note: I looked around for a clear opposition group, but couldn’t find one. If you know of one, shoot me an email.)

“We all pay our taxes. … A portion of those taxes go into investing in infrastructure, so we oughta have a say as property tax payers,” said English, the campaign manager and Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Charlotte Chamber.

Said Bernstein, from Carolina PR: “It’s going to have so much of an effect on your community going forward. … This is something the voter can feel really good about.”

Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Pierce/Charlotte Observer file