CAMPAIGNS: Grassroots PR - ARP stunts state's growth initiative

Client: Arizonans for Responsible Planning (Phoenix)

Client: Arizonans for Responsible Planning (Phoenix)

Client: Arizonans for Responsible Planning (Phoenix)

PR Team: APCO Insight (Washington, DC) and Integrated Web Strategies (Phoenix)

Campaign: No on Proposition 202

Time Frame: 1998 - November 2000 Budget: Nearly dollars 4.8 million as of late November 2000



Sheep and cattle ranchers used to battle over land in the old West. Today's land battles often occur between developers and environmentalists, so it wasn't surprising that a coalition, which included the Sierra Club, placed a Citizen Growth Management Initiative, Proposition 202, on Arizona's November ballot.

The coalition insisted that Prop 202's passage would bring about sensible growth planning. It required community land management plans and ensured citizen participation by requiring voter approval. Early media polling showed that more than 60% of voters supported the measure.

Developers argued that the initiative would create municipal boundaries that limit essential services, while creating congested living conditions.

Arizona's homebuilders and construction industry mobilized against the initiative.



Strategy

APCO Insight President Mark Benson provided strategic counsel for Arizonans for Responsible Planning (ARP). Originally an educational committee, ARP became a political committee opposed to Prop 202.

Benson's research showed that 202 had vulnerability. Throughout the campaign, ARP asserted that ordinary citizens were cut out of the drafting process.

'It goes too far' was a constant message. But Benson realized his side would need to defuse charges that ARP was just fronting for the developer interests.



Tactics

Pre-May 2000 activities by ARP included building up the 'opinion leader' file and distributing educational material to prominent Arizonans as a way of cutting proponents off at the pass when they tried to recruit support. ARP campaign manager Spencer Kamps says the list of opinion leaders reached 50,000.

Groups and individuals were recruited to join the ARP election coalition, which showed that opposition to Prop 202 reached beyond developers. Among those recruited were the Carpenters Union Local 897, the Greater Phoenix Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Minority Contractors Association, Habitat for Humanity, United Phoenix Firefighters Association, the state AFL-CIO and the president of the Greater Phoenix Urban League. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns adopted a resolution citing opposition to Prop 202 because 'Arizona is not a one-size-fits-all state.'

Coalition members helped provide recruits for the 150-plus speakers that ARP trained. They included elected officials, nonprofit housing advocates and attorneys. Speakers delivered personalized messages in more than 1,000 town hall meetings, debates and campaign coffees.

An economic study forecasting dire results for the Arizona economy if Prop 202 passed was released in August. But the Web, which regularly communicated to the campaign's 2,700-plus online activists, proved to have the greatest reach.

Integrated Web Strategies partner Wes Gullett, who worked on Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, says that's more than the number that the Arizona Republican signed up in his own home state.

Regular dispatches and requests for assistance helped build a sense of community. For instance, online activists were encouraged to turn out in communities where farmer Mark Schnepf and his family would be stopping on their five-day, mid-September, RV-driven campaign tour. Gullett says Web activists have seemed responsive to such appeals for assistance.

ARP also used advertising and in direct mailings included the 22,000-word initiative, complete with red editorial comments about its alleged shortcomings.



Results

Prop 202 lost 70% to 30%. Benson believes the results proved ARP's effectiveness with grassroots, coalitions and publicity. 'In a campaign where the information level is so high and the suspicion of who funds TV advertising so great, you can do more through grassroots and coalitions,' he says.

Sierra Club spokeswoman Sandy Bahr counters that ARP's coalition was 'Astro-turf' and the election committee's level of spending, particularly on advertising, played a decisive role in thwarting Prop 202's passage.



Future

ARP intends to keep its coalition active. The Sierra Club says the growth problem continues. The club says it will make sure future ballot measures are written more clearly and directly to avoid future PR attacks.



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