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Bi-Partisan Consultants To Lead Push For Arts Tax

Mecklenburg County
Voters will decide in November whether to raise the sales tax by a quarter-cent to support the arts.

Former Mecklenburg Commissioner Darrel Williams will chair a new organization created to convince voters to support a quarter-cent sales tax for the arts.

The group, Partnership for a better Mecklenburg Committee, will be filing its paperwork soon to the Mecklenburg Board of Elections, according to a news release.

Williams will be leading three different consultants.

* Aisha Dew, the former chairwoman of Mecklenburg Democrats and the former vice chair of the state Democratic party.

* Patrick Sebastian, a Republican strategist with Majority Strategies. 

* Brad Cone, an independent consultant who has worked on political campaigns for 28 years.

The quarter-cent tax, which is projected to raise $50 million in its first year, will be on the November ballot.

Mecklenburg Commissioners have said they would dedicate $22.5 million to the arts. Parks and greenways would receive $17 million, and education would get $8 million. The county's six towns would divvy up $2.5 million for arts and cultural programs.

But the ballot question will not tell voters how the money would be spent. It will only ask if they want to increase the general sales tax.

Former Mecklenburg Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour is leading an effort to defeat the tax. Ridenhour has said his effort will rely on social media and some yard signs. He expects to spend less than $10,000.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.