By Jesse Wood
Nov. 1, 2013. It always heats up at the last minute.
It’s that time of year during election season, where fliers start popping up in mailboxes with heated messages to try and swing last-minute voters days before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Two fliers especially have Boone candidates irked with opponents calling foul. Not intertwined in all of this is write-in candidate for mayor Jenny Church and mayor candidate Brad Harmon.
THE REAL PROGRESSIVES
In one, Boone Mayor John Mena and candidates for Boone Town Council Mark Templeton, James Milner and Matt Long are depicted as wolves in sheep’s skin trick-or-treating at the house of Boone with the message “This Trick is No Treat.”
The reverse side of the ad, which is paid for by the campaigns for Friends of Andy Ball, who is running for mayor; and Friends of Jennifer Pena; Brantz for Boone Town Council; and Friends of Quint David, all of whom are running for Boone Town Council, contends that David, Brantz, Pena and Ball are “The REAL Progressives,” while Templeton, Milner, Mena and Long are “The FAKE Progressives … disguising their true agenda.”
The ad also claims that Templeton, Long, Milner and Mena are all endorsed by the “Citizens for Change” PAC, which was formed “out of out of ardent disagreement with the steep-slope and view-shed ordinances adopted in October 2006,” according a 2007 election season article in the Watauga Democrat.
The ad notes that Templeton, Long, Milner and Mena’s agenda is to:
- Promote unlimited high-density building on Boone’s mountainsides
- Sell out our quality of life to individual development interests
- Gut regulations that protect our neighborhoods and small businesses
- Shortsighted use of water and other resources
- Use of misinformation and fear to divide our community
THE SUNSHINE TICKET
The other ad, titled “Elect the Sunshine Ticket,” supports Templeton and Long for Boone Town Council and is paid for by the Watauga County Republican Party.
The top of the ad states, “The local Boone political machine has controlled Boone Town Council for decades and is directly responsible for” cronyism, secret meetings, shortsighted business decisions, stifling business and jobs, blight and eyesores, wasting taxpayer money and lack of professionalism and cooperation with Watauga County Commission” – with a short description of each bullet point.
- Cronyism – Town committees are stacked with like-minded cronies who are chosen for their adherence to the machine’s agenda, while others who would provide balance are rejected. Town refuses to seat County appointees to various boards
- Secret Meetings – Boone Town Council held 78 secret meetings in 2012 (far higher than other comparable cities in the state) and will not divulge information or comply with NC “Open Meeting Laws.”
- Shortsighted Business Decisions – Actions by the Boone Council KILLED the $19 million sale of the old high school property, costing Boone taxpayers millions in lost tax revenue and jobs
- Stifling Business and Jobs – Burdensome regulations discouraged Target, Red Lobster, Olive Garden & Krispy Kreme from coming to Boone
- Blight and Eyesores – Because of their inflexibility and anti-business attitude, properties like the Scottish Inn and The Library have been sitting vacant for years
- Wasting Taxpayer Money –
- Spent $2.4 million on the purchase and refurbishing the Boone Post Office under the guise of “protecting” it when it was already under the Registry of Historic Buildings;
- Solar trash cans and parking meters installed are now being considered for removal. Decorative street lights installed at wrong height on new 421, correcting error cost $31,000. Mature trees cut down along King Street because they were not “urban friendly;”
- Hiring expensive lobbyists cost $560,000 from 2006-12, and paying exorbitant legal fees – more than $140,000 in 2012
- Lack of Professionalism and Cooperation with Watauga County Commission – The recent debate over sales tax reallocation was the result of a lack of cooperation between the Town of Boone and Watauga County
Here are the candidates’ responses from the ads that have stirred things up a bit just before early voting is set to end at 1 p.m. on Saturday. See images of the ads below.
James Milner, Candidate for Boone Town Council
James Milner, who is also grouped on an ad paid for by Mena for Mayor titled, “For a Better Boone Vote” for Long, Templeton, Mena and Milner, said he was disappointed about the trick-or-treat flier.
“Here is what I am disappointed about. My whole campaign has stayed positive, and the opponents came out and went negative,” Milner said on Friday morning. “At no time have we said they are horrible council members or have done a horrible job. Effectively, we want to bring change, in the true spirit of the word progressive, we want to bring progress and prosperity to Boone.”
While Milner said he never sought the endorsement of the Citizens for Change PAC, he acknowledge that he received the “backing and endorsement” from Citizens for Change in an email.
“I have accepted contributions from citizens or groups that felt I could make a positive impact on our town by using my leadership and expertise by serving on town council. I want smart development, have a economy that is viable and sustainable, and work on the relationship between the county and Town of Boone,” Milner said.
As for the notion that Milner wants to overturn all of the town’s ordinances, Milner said that is false, that tweaking, not overhauling, the town’s ordinances is what is needed.
Andy Ball, Candidate for Mayor of Boone
Speaking on Friday afternoon, Andy Ball was brief with his comments. While noting that some people have talked to him about the imagery of the trick-or-treat ad, he said that the depiction of some candidates as wolves in sheepskin is a separate matter from the actual content in the ads that concerns Town of Boone issues.
“Nothing in our mailer was factually inaccurate, whereas the Sunshine mailer did contain many inaccuracies and we are trying to run a campaign on the facts and to be honest,” Ball said, preferring not comment any further.
Mark Templeton, Candidate for Town Council
Mark Templeton said he had heard about the ad but hadn’t actually seen it, so he said he was limited in commenting on the trick-or-treat mailer. But he did say that “mud slinging” aimed at him didn’t bother him.
“I am going to stick to the issues and try to be positive,” Templeton said, adding that the current divisive political culture didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago.
“It was more about neighbors and being neighborly. We need to get back to that,” Templeton said, adding that many of the current problems and gridlock that exists in the town happens because mud is thrown instead of talking about the issues.
“Really, the only ones adversely affected are the residents of Boone,” Templeton said. “I am not going to participate. That’s not my nature. If it works for them, of course, it’s their campaign; they are paying for it. [But] it’s not for me and my campaign.”
As for the “Sunshine Ticket” flyer, Templeton said that while it was commissioned by the Watauga County Republican Party, he stood by those bullet points and could argue the accuracy of those issues all day long.
While Templeton said he appreciates Andy Ball’s willingness to serve and anybody else who is willing to throw their hat in the ring, he said it doesn’t change the fact that Boone needs a change in leadership.
Templeton’s brother Jeff Templeton formed the Citizens for Change PAC in 2007.
Jennifer Pena, Candidate for Boone Town Council
Pena said she didn’t have a comment regarding the ads other than to say, “It’s pretty typical for different sides of a campaign to send out mailers.”
Quint David, Candidate for Boone Town Council
David’s immediate response about the “wolves-in-sheepskin” ad was that he and fellow council candidate, incumbent Rennie Brantz, were both initially “kind of worried” about engaging in mudslinging during this municipal election.
But he said the ad, paid for in part by Friends of Quint David, “seems minor” when compared to being referred to as cronies and the other references in the sunshine mailer.
“If they want to pretend to be progressive when in fact they are endorsed by conservatives, that seems minor in comparison,” David said.
Jokingly, he said he was particularly mad that the ad paid for by the Watauga County Republican Party was titled the sunshine ticket because his original logo created in July featured shining sun in the corner.
“It’s funny my background is in solar energy. When they came back with the sunshine ticket, I wanted to be the sunshine candidate,” David joked.
In all seriousness though, he addressed some of the issues that are included in the sunshine mailer by the Republicans. He noted that while certainly nobody in Boone wants to have closed-session meetings, he said, “If the town keeps getting sued by certain folks, the town” is obligated to meet in closed session to address legal matters.
“It’s an odd thing to call the town out on,” David said, referring to the Templeton family and its frequent litigation with the Town of Boone.
As for the cronyism and political machine, David said, “If the machine is protecting the rights of the people in the Town of Boone, I see why those folks keep getting elected. I am not sure calling them cronies is the best way to describe them if they are doing what the people want.”
John Mena, Candidate for Mayor of Boone
Mena was perhaps the most vocal about the “trick-or-treat” ad that portrayed Mena as a wolf in sheepskin. But he particularly took exception to the bullet points that the “Real Progressives” used to slam the “Fake Progressives.”
As for unlimited high density, Mena said he didn’t want high-density developments on property that couldn’t handle high density. He added that the established Boone Town Council are the ones that allowed the “monstrosity” behind Walmart.
As for building on mountainsides, he noted that small homes, possibly affordable housing, could possibly be built on mountainsides.
“I don’t want to chop down the mountainside,” Mena said. “There are alternatives.”
As for the bullet point for gutting regulations that protect small businesses, Mena exclaimed, “I am the only small business person. None of the progressives have a small business. Why would I want to gut regulations when I am a small business owner? That is the backbone of this country.”
As for shortsightedness, Mena said the Boone Town Council has spent over $2 million on the water intake with nothing to show for it and paid more than $80,000 an acre for flood-plain property. He added that he wanted to “salvage” the project – not “scrap” it.
As for community division, Mena said the town is the one that doesn’t want to talk to the county.
“I want to see a recreation center for our kids, a downtown flourish more than it has,” Mena said. “What I am saying is if I had seen a little bit of progress in the past 25 years, I wouldn’t be running in this thing.”
Since Mena isn’t a member of the Watauga County Republican Party, his name isn’t on the “Sunshine Ticket” flier. Mena, who is unaffiliated, said he didn’t want the endorsement of any political party.
“I want the endorsement of the people of Boone,” Mena said.
Mena is also on the top of a flier that features Long, Templeton and Milner for Boone Town Council. The flier is paid for by Mena for Mayor.
Mena said he saw Brantz, David, Pena and Ball teaming together and thought, it would be easier and a more powerful campaign if they all worked together for a common cause “to improve our community.” He said this wasn’t a political plan that was hatched years ago. He also noted that he turned down a check from Citizens for Change.
Mena’s campaign manager Bishop Glover said that they were surprised and disappointed with the “misinformation” disseminated in the flier attacking Mena.
“I can’t think of any mudslinging throughout our campaign,” Glover said. “Our purpose is on the issues and not the opposition. When something like this happens this close to the election, John has the responsibility to address it.”
Matt Long, Candidate for Boone Town Council
Long didn’t respond to a message left on his cell phone on Friday. A secretary at his construction business said he was on vacation.
Rennie Brantz, Candidate for Boone Town Council
Brantz didn’t respond to a message left at his house early Friday afternoon.