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2009-11-06
Mendocino County, CA. Voters Kill Big Box Rezoning

Citizen activists in Mendocino County, California have soundly defeated one of the nation's largest big box developers at the ballot box. Local residents sent Sprawl-Busters an account of their impressive victory at the polls. Even in the face of massive corporate spending, anti-big box organizers managed to deep-six a proposed rezoning effort. On November 3, the voters of Mendocino County rejected Measure A, a ballot initiative sponsored by Developers Diversified Reality (DDR). The measure would have rezoned a prime piece of industrial land, paving the way for a massive new shopping mall. In addition, Measure A would have exempted DDR from the California Environmental Quality Act, circumventing all local government oversight of the development. Measure A would have given DDR special privileges, and potentially stuck the taxpayers of Mendocino County with the bill for offsite improvements. DDR's Measure A was rejected by a wide margin, with 62% of the votes opposed, despite a barrage of telephone polling, mailers, radio ads, TV spots, and pseudo town hall meetings. This lopsided result came even with DDR outspending the opposition almost 12 to 1 in the most expensive initiative campaign in Mendocino County history. The opposition committee, called Save Our Local Economy (SOLE), formed specifically to defeat this measure. SOLE was made up entirely of local residents, representing every corner of the large and geographically isolated county, with members of every political stripe and social background. "This was truly an issue that united our county," said Cliff Paulin, a spokesperson for SOLE "The general consensus was that we were not going to let our local self-determination be sacrificed to the whims of an out-of-state corporation."

What you can do: While DDR was the exclusive source of funds for the Yes campaign, donations to SOLE came from over 500 local individuals and businesses. This level of giving demonstrated the breadth of local support against this project. Tactics used by DDR during the campaign included hiring a discredited former Greenpeace member in an attempt to add "green" credibility, a last-minute mailer imitating a popular "No On A" campaign sign, and in-person polling of residents who were paid $100 cash for their participation in a two-hour focus group. "They used every dirty trick in the book, and it all backfired. By the end of the campaign, we knew that DDR would stoop to any depth to try to fool us," said SOLE spokesman Paulin. Issues of particular importance during the campaign were the effects that the potential development would have on local businesses, traffic impacts, water consumption, the lack of local oversight, and the circumvention of typical environmental review. Readers who want more background on how SOLE beat the big boxes, can contact: Save Our Local Economy P.O. Box 1530, Ukiah CA or email: SOLE@pacific.net. The group's website is: www.NoOnA.com










 
 
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