Vista’s Prop W Passes By Wide Margin

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All-Volunteer Campaign Potentially Undone by Politician’s “Poison Pill”

Prop W volunteers celebrated the passage of this much needed reform at the polls Tuesday in a multi-city campaign, the first of its kind in California history. The Oaks Project, sponsors of the initiative, cheered the overwhelming support for this local campaign finance reform measure as a double victory: curbing the influence of special interest money in politics and proving the power of volunteer-based organizing to accomplish the task when public officials will not act. Prop W’s passage demonstrates the desire of voters to enact strong protections against politicians trading votes for campaign contributions.

The signature gathering and get-out-the vote efforts for Prop W were done by volunteers, unprecedented in this age of multi-million dollar paid signature gathering operations and equally high-priced campaigns run by public relations firms. In stark and stunning contrast, Prop W volunteers handed out tens of thousands of flyers to educate voters and get out the vote.

“The Prop W campaign is a model for citizen volunteers taking on city hall and winning,” stated Brad Drake, a volunteer Oaks organizer. “Prop W’s passage is a triumph for the power of a genuine, grassroots campaign comprised of ordinary, well-organized people. The support at the polls demonstrates that we can put forward real reform that voters want but that the entrenched political establishment will not address.”

Oaks Project volunteers turned in nearly 5,400 signatures from Vista residents in support of “The Taxpayer Protection Amendment of 2000” in June. Prop W would prohibit a public official from accepting campaign contributions, future employment or gifts from those who have benefited as a result of the official’s actions. Examples of “benefits” include city contract awards, land deals and tax breaks.

More than 60,000 additional signatures were submitted to place identical conflict-of-interest measures on the November 7th ballot in San Francisco and Santa Monica, and in Pasadena and Claremont for the March 2001 ballot. In Irvine, where signature gatherers came just 80 signatures short of qualifying an identical measure, Oaks volunteers are pushing the city council to adopt a city ordinance modeled on the initiative.

“Prop W will prevent a Quackenbush-type scandal from happening in Vista,” stated Oaks volunteer organizer Caren Leon. “Taxpayers should not have to wait for corruption to be uncovered to pass conflict of interest protections. The election results show that an overwhelming number of Vistans agree.”

Vista Vote May Be Undone By PoliticianÕs “Poison Pill” In Phony Counter Initiative

After failing to invalidate the popular Prop W through a pre-election lawsuit, the Vista city council hastily put together their own phony reform measure, Prop V, to confuse voters and stop real reform from happening.

“This is cynical politics at its worst,” stated Drake. “The taxpayers wanted reform, but they will get none Ð exactly what the politicians wanted.”

In a final attempt to ensure that none of the reforms contained in Prop W would be enacted, the city politicians inserted a “poison pill” into their initiative. That provision would invalidate Prop W completely if the politician’s measure received just one more vote than Prop W. According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, although Prop W received 58% of the vote, the politician’s Prop V received slight more.

“We will be reviewing our options as to whether to challenge the ‘poison pill’ clause on legal grounds,” stated Oaks Project Director Paul Herzog.

The Oaks Project

The non-profit, non-partisan Oaks Project was founded in 1997 by consumer advocates Ralph Nader and Harvey Rosenfield to train citizens to participate more effectively in CaliforniaÕs democracy. To become an Oak, volunteers attend monthly training in practical political skills and agree to spend 10-15 hours per month putting those skills to work on legislative and initiative campaigns to create a more democratic political system. Oaks volunteers also agree to raise $500 per year, and collect 1000 signatures on all Volunteer Qualified Initiatives (VQI). The Oaks Project played a decisive role in passing HMO patient protections in the California legislature last year and spearheaded the 1998 drive to lower utility rates for California ratepayers by co-sponsoring Proposition 9.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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