Thursday, October 30, 2014

Advertisements In Oconee County Weekly Newspapers Tout Referendum 2 But Don’t Say It Is For Liquor By The Drink

Improve Quality of Life

Oconee County voters who want to improve the quality of life in the county, enhance the county’s infrastructure and spur economic development should vote Yes on Referendum 2 on Nov. 4, according to advertisements in today’s edition of both of the county’s weekly newspapers.

Voting for the referendum will make sales tax revenue go up and property taxes go down, the half-page advertisement on page A3 of The Oconee Enterprise claims.

Vote Yes For Referendum 2

The full-page advertisement on the back page of The Oconee Leader states that Referendum 2 will increase funding for water and sewer services and for public works, i.e., roads and bridges.

Referendum 2 will increase funding for parks and recreation, the advertisements in both papers assert.

Neither advertisement mentions what Referendum 2 actually is about, and voters might think they are being asked to vote for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which is on the Nov. 4 ballot.

If approved, the 1 percent sales tax will generate funds designated for the county’s parks, for water and sewer projects, for roads and bridges, and for economic development.

Referendum 2, however, is for liquor by the drink.

Ad Sponsors Unknown

The advertisements carry the name “Oconee Citizens For Economic Growth” and list the URL at the bottom

That link leads to an attractive web site with a series of rotating pictures.

It lists additional benefits of passage of Referendum 2 as funding for the Oconee County Sheriff’s (it says Sherrif’s) Department and for Oconee County Fire Rescue.

It also has a large button at the bottom linking to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system, though registration for the Nov. 4 election closed on Oct. 6.

Small Button At Top

At the top of the web page is a button marked “Referendum 2.”

That button links to another web page with this statement:

    Officially, voters will be asked if they want to allow “the governing authority of Oconee County” to “issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink.”

In fact, the issue is more complicated.

If citizens in the four cities in the county approve the referendum, the governments of those cities also will be authorized to pass ordinances for the issuance of licenses for the sale of distilled spirits in restaurants provided the referendum passes countywide.

The page also contains this message:

    Click on map below to zoom in and see where the sale of distilled spirits, beer and wine will be permitted:

The map shown is for the county’s current beer and wine ordinance.

The county has not written an ordinance for where alcoholic beverages will be allowed in restaurants if the referendum passes.

Who Paid?

Neither advertisement indicates who paid for its publication, and neither of the papers wrote a story about the advertisements or who paid for them.

The web site also does not indicate who is responsible for it.

Costs for construction of a web site vary greatly, from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Advertising costs also are hard to estimate, as publishers print rate cards but can discount from them.

Based on rate cards from this spring, the half-page color advertisement in The Enterprise could have cost more $600.

Again based on rate cards from this spring, the full-page advertisement in The Leader should have cost about $750.

Russell Lee

The Leader reported in its City Desk column on Sept. 25 that Russell Lee and a group called Oconee Citizens for Better Economic Development planned to advocate for the liquor-by-the-drink referendum through a web site, social media and mailers.

That name is similar, but not identical, to the group named in the advertisements.

Though The Leader report didn’t say, Lee is the former president of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce. The Leader story also didn’t identify any other member of Lee’s group.

I called Lee’s home and cell phones numerous times after that story appeared and left message, but Lee did not return them.

I called Lee on his cell phone again at 7:30 p.m. tonight, and he answered.

He told me I was “interrupting” his dinner. I asked him when he would be finished, and he said in about an hour.

I called back at 8:30, but Lee did not answer this time. He also didn’t return the call.


Beanne said...

Wonder what Mr. Lee is so concerned about that he wants to be kept invisible.

Anonymous said...

Cowardice and gall. If Russell Lee and a group called Oconee Citizens for Better Economic Development are going to put up a website and advertise for thw alcohol vote, be adult and responsiblw enough to put your name on it!!!

Shameful and ebarassing

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Russell Lee had been Melvin Davis' campaign manager.

Anonymous said...

These ads were a disgusting effort to trick voters who weren't paying attention into voting for something they might not actually support. And I'm sure in many cases it will succeed! Glad to have some names to associate with it! Thank you.