After reading the latest—a story on the website of The News & Observer—in the saga between the Town of Cary (where I, a native North Carolinian not a relocated Yankee, have lived since 1982) and Cary resident David Bowden, the man who wrote “Screwed by the Town of Cary” on the side of his house because of a dispute over the widening of Maynard Road and the damaging results to his property and home, I dashed of a short email to all the members of the Cary Town Council. (Funny, it’s the Town of Cary, but it’s the Cary Town Council. Why isn’t it known as the Town of Cary Council?)
My email, sent to Gale Adcock, Don
Frantz, Erv Portman, Jennifer Robinson, Julie Robison, Jack Smith, and Harold
Weinbrecht, said: “Get over it. Move on. Quit spending my tax money on losing
That was Wednesday, April 20th
at 6:04 p.m. By 11:00 that night, I heard from Mr. Portman, an at-large member
of the Town of Cary Council. Before 10:00 a.m. the next day, I heard from Mr.
Weinbrecht, the honorable Mr. Mayor of the Town of Cary, or is he the Cary Town
They each raise interesting and
supportable points, and in all fairness to them and my fellow citizens of the
Town of Cary, I offer the responses by Mr. Portman and Mr. Weinbrecht, just as
written to me without editing. Here goes:
From Erv Portman, who copied all those
to whom I sent my three-sentence email:
thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. It helps to hear what citizens
this case I can tell you we have evaluated the towns case and the costs and
have decided to appeal the judges decision. Having already met or nearly met our
insurance deductible you will be happy to hear that this appeal is mostly
covered by the insurance we have already paid for, so it's not on your tax
dollar or mine.
can also tell you that we feel strongly that the citizens of cary have a rights
to regulate how our town looks, and that should not require us to regulate
holiday decorations to do so. I expect the overwhelming majority of cary
residents would not appreciate their neighbors turning their neighborhood into
a series of house sized billboards.
should cary residents be blackmailed into buying someones house just because
they have a beef with the town. That's our money too, and frankly a bad
is at stake over our ability to protect the look and feel of cary. It is unique
and one of the reasons so many of us choose to live here. I feel this can be
protected and not violate ones right to free speech.
suspect you may not agree, ant i respect that too, but my responsibility is to
be open and explain my actions. If you care to discuss this further I am open
to a call or meeting with you.
in service to you and all of cary,
Cary town council member at large
without further ado or additional comments, here’s the response from Mr. Mayor,
who included Susan Moran, Town of Cary Public Information Director, and Deanna
Boone, Town of Cary Deputy Public Information Officer, on his distribution
along with the rest of the Town of Cary Council. Again, without editing:
Thank you for contacting council members about the ongoing case on
the sign ordinance.
Unfortunately, the article written was misleading, incomplete, and
in my opinion was generating news rather than reporting it.
Here is some information you should know:
- To appeal the town had to ask Judge Flanagan to reconsider
which we did a few weeks ago. Of course she said no but that is part of
the process. So basically the N&O is rehashing old news and reporting that
we are continuing a process (without printing it). To leave that point out
makes it more sensational and helps sell papers.
- The cost of this appeal will be significantly less and may not
cost us much more at all. The reason, the leading firm is appointed by the
insurance company and we have reached our deductible. So most, if not all, of
future costs will be shouldered by the insurance company. Once again, to leave
this significant point out helps sell papers.
- If we don't appeal one of two things will happen: 1) we will not
be able to regulate any kind of sign anywhere. This means your neighbor could
put up a 50 foot sign will flashing lights and there would be nothing we could
do about it. OR 2) we would have to regulate Christmas decorations which I
personally think is absurd. Of course the paper has never printed the
consequences of doing nothing.
- We believe this ruling is not about the 1st amendment. As a
matter of fact Mr. Bowden has always been allowed to put his message on a sign
in his yard. If he would have done this then none of this would ever have
happened. Again, the paper fails to mention that he can put a sign in his yard.
- It is important to understand that the council's decision to
appeal is to protect the sign ordinance which protects our citizens' quality of
I hope you find this information helpful.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact the council.
Town of Cary
PO Box 8005
Cary, North Carolina 27512-8005
"In executing the duties of my present important station, I
can promise nothing but purity of intentions, and, in carrying these into
effect, fidelity, and diligence." - George Washington
Please note that e-mail sent to and from this address is subject to the North
Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties including the
Thanks to Mr. Portman and Mr. Weinbrecht for their quick and thoughtful responses. It’ll
be interesting to follow this case to the United States Supreme Court because
win or lose by either party in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the United
States Supreme Court will be asked to hear the case. It may refuse the case and leave standing whatever the Fourth Circuit decides.
Of course, if you wish to comment on the "story" or the responses from the Town of Cary Council members, there's space below, or send an email to the Town of Cary Mayor who I'm sure will share with his fellow Town of Cary Council members and me.
POST SCRIPT: Shortly after posting this story, I received an email from publicity hungry Don Frantz, also a member of the Town of Cary Council. He said:
Thank you very much for taking the time to contact the council with your
thoughts regarding the David Bowden sign dispute. I see that councilmember
Portman and the Mayor have already responded in detail and there is not much I
can add to their comments. I will add however that I was disappointed - but not
surprised - to see a number of my quotes left out of the News and Observer
The point I tried to get across to the reporter was that we are not trying to
silence Mr. Bowden's right to free speech. We do however as a community have
standards. He is more than welcome to place a sign in his yard that complies
with town requirements that says exactly what his existing sign does now. We do
not regulate content.
Thanks again for writing,
Cary Town Council