Initiative now underway to reconsider CPABy Jay Turner
A few days after Canton voters collectively said “no” to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act in the April town election, Deb Sundin, a conservation commissioner and an ardent CPA supporter, wrote a letter to the Citizen in which she thanked her fellow supporters for their vote, urged the CPA’s opponents to reconsider, and admonished all the “non-voters” for refusing to even show up at the polls.
Also in that letter, Sundin wrote about the many benefits of accepting the legislation, which allows communities to establish a dedicated fund, matched annually by the state at a certain percentage, for the preservation of open space, historic resources, community housing, and outdoor recreation. And she twice asked residents to strongly think it over when — not if — the CPA “comes up again” for consideration.
As it turns out, “again” could be as soon as this November, thanks to a petition started by Sundin and others who are determined to see the question back on the ballot in time for the upcoming presidential election.
These supporters, who call themselves the Voters for the Preservation of Canton (VPC), are currently canvassing the town and will need to collect approximately 800 valid signatures — equivalent to 5 percent of the town’s registered voters — by early next month in order to secure a spot on the November 6 ballot.
“I do think we’ll have enough signatures to present to [the town clerk],” predicted Sundin, who is spearheading the collection effort. “We have been out there trying to get signatures and have collected some already, but we really do need to make a push over these next few weeks.”
Sundin said they are seeking the same parameters that were considered in April, including the same funding source (a 1 percent surcharge on property tax bills) and the same exemptions (low-income property owners and the first $100,000 of residential real property). She added that the town could also now consider extending the exemption to commercial property owners — one of the many changes to the legislation that was signed into law by the governor on July 8.
And while some might say that the voters have already spoken — twice if one counts the town’s defeat of the measure in 2006 — Sundin and the VPC would argue that the opposite is actually true. The proof, they say, can be found in the paltry results from the last town election, when only 9 percent of the total electorate turned out at the polls.
“Not many people showed up to vote, and so it really doesn’t give us an idea of how popular or unpopular it was,” Sundin said. “In order to see if Canton really wants this, we really need to get it on the presidential ballot, and if we didn’t do it now, we would have had to wait another four years.”
Sundin was also quick to point out that the CPA, which has already been adopted in 148 Massachusetts communities, was overwhelmingly approved at the 2011 annual town meeting. She noted that a similar sequence is playing out in Freetown, where the town meeting approved it, the voters then rejected it in the local election, and now it is going back on the ballot in November by way of a petition.
In Canton’s case, Sundin felt the biggest obstacle was the lack of voter participation — a problem that is easily remedied in a presidential election year, when the average turnout spikes to around 80 percent.
“A lot of people we talked to have very strong feelings for CPA,” said Sundin. “A lot of them felt like it was a no brainer. I think some of them didn’t vote [in April] because they thought it would just pass.”
As for the opponents of the measure, which recently included four of the five selectmen and the entire membership of the Canton Association of Business and Industry, Sundin said she would like to believe that the people who did not want the CPA were the “ who voted against it and not many more.”
But rather than counting up likely “yes” and “no” votes, the VPC will instead focus its efforts on those who are either undecided or uninformed on the subject.
“We definitely feel that there’s some education out there that needs to be done,” acknowledged Sundin, “and through this petition process I think we are educating people about this issue.”
Specifically, the group is hoping to provide examples of projects and initiatives that could be supported using CPA dollars — everything from the preservation of the historic Paul Revere barn at the former Plymouth Rubber property on Revere Street, to the development of recreational facilities on York Street, to the maintenance and repair of existing senior housing complexes.
Sundin also plans to tout the many positive changes to the CPA that were signed into law earlier this month, including a provision that allows communities to fund the replacement of playground equipment and make other capital improvements on existing recreational facilities. The law also includes a potential one-time transfer of $25 million to the statewide CPA Trust Fund to boost distribution amounts for CPA communities, and Sundin expects the match percentage (currently at 25 percent) to go up considerably in future years based on recent legislative support for the act.
The bottom line, according to Sundin, is that now is an ideal time for a town to take advantage of what the CPA has to offer, and she is urging residents to learn as much as they can about the act before heading to the polls in November.
“What we really want is an educated voter to go into the booth and understand what the CPA is when they see it on the ballot,” she said. “We know people will definitely vote this time. This is really people’s opportunity to say, ‘Yes, we absolutely want this.’”
Those who would like to sign the CPA petition or get involved in the collection efforts can do so by calling Deb Sundin at 781-575-0232.
Short URL: http://www.thecantoncitizen.com/?p=15148