Friday, April 22, 2011

Still "Screwed By The Town of Cary"?

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 issues.

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 Mayor.

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:


First thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. It helps to hear what citizens are thinking.

In 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.

I 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.

Nor 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 precedent. 

Much 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. 

I 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.

Respectfully in service to you and all of cary,

Erv portman
Cary town council member at large

And, 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:

Mr. Pomeranz,

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 life.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact the council.

Harold Weinbrecht
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 media.

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 story.

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,

Don Frantz
Cary Town Council
District B


  1. Jim: I just read the blog page you sent out. I only have one question -

    Who does the town council think paid for the insurance???

    I could be mistaken, but I believe it would be the people of the Town of Cary......

  2. Wow, I thought everyone over eight knew cities were capitalized, except perhaps Erv Portman. It is this disregard of standards and laws that got us into this mess in the first place. Call me old-fashioned, but when you let the rules of grammar slide away with the rule of law, the whole community slides...apparently into the home of David Bowden!

    Buy the man's house and be done with this nonsense!


Would you care to comment about today's blog. If so,here's the space and your chance: