A shadowy group calling itself the Citizens’ Coalition to Save Our Main Street has hit High Point voters with a mailer attacking the nonprofit City Project and the citizens group We Heart High Point over their advocacy for a proposal to reduce lanes on North Main Street.
The idea of reducing lanes while adding on-street parking and beautifying North Main Street so that it becomes more appealing to pedestrians was part of the Ignite High Point master plan submitted by renowned urban planner Andres Duany and local architect Peter Freeman. The plan was commissioned by City Project, whose executive director Wendy Fuscoe received her salary from the city of High Point. By majority vote, the city council reassigned Fuscoe earlier this year to a new position as coordinator of revitalization efforts in the Core City.
A slate of candidates, including Ward 4 incumbent Jay Wagner, and Alyce Hill and Roger Sims — challengers respectively in wards 3 and 5 — have embraced street dieting and the overall thrust of the revitalization proposal by Ignite High Point. David Rosen, an at-large candidate, is an organizer of We Heart High Point, which has been promoting street dieting on its Facebook page.
The mailer does not include a phone number or any other type of contact information. Brenda Wallace with the Guilford County Board of Elections said the board has no information about the group behind the mailer. No campaign filings are posted on the website of the State Board of Elections, and no one from the state agency could be reached for comment as to whether the organization has formally filed as a political action committee, as required by law.
The mailer argues that the proposed dieting initiative would “benefit a handful of wealthy property owners” while leaving businesses on the street “devastated.” The mailer doesn’t explain how businesses would be devastated while their presumable lessors become enriched.
The mailer also argues that “a massive bond package” would have to be approved by voters to pay for the project, even though city council has yet to approve the plan, much less determine whether it will be a limited undertaking with repainted lines or an ambitious project with tree plantings and buried electrical lines.
UPDATE: Josh Lawson, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said there is no group by the name of the Citizens’ Coalition to Save Our Main Street registered with the state agency. Lawson said the State Board of Elections opened an inquiry into the matter after it was brought to their attention by the Guilford County Board of Elections.
Lawson said there are many factors that determine whether disclosure is required and whether the law is being broken, including whether the purpose is to elect certain candidates or to advocate for an issue, and whether aggregate spending in the effort exceeds $5,000.
He added that only the State Board of Elections has the authority and resources to investigate election matters and potentially refer a matter for criminal prosecution. He also said that it would be premature for anyone to comment on whether the law has been broken in this case or not.
CLARIFICATION: The original version of this story quoted Brenda Wallace of the Guilford County Board of Elections as saying that it is illegal for any organization to carry out electioneering activities without registering with either the local or state board of elections. While the story accurately quoted Wallace, she subsequently added that since the mailer “didn’t mention any specific candidates, then they were okay.”