CPA signature drive hits target, ballot question likelyBy Jay Turner
A grassroots effort to get the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act back on the ballot via petition appears to have reached its goal, reported CPA organizer Deb Sundin on Monday.
While nothing is official until certified by the town clerk, Sundin said supporters were able to collect over 950 signatures from Canton voters over the past several weeks — far exceeding the minimum requirement and presumably in time to qualify for the presidential ballot in November.
“I am happy to report that we have gathered enough signatures to move forward with getting the CPA on the November 6 ballot for Canton,” said Sundin in a statement emailed to the Citizen. “The volunteers worked so hard to get the required number of signatures and I am so grateful.”
Hailed by proponents as an innovative “smart growth tool,” the CPA is an optional state law that enables adopting communities to establish a dedicated fund for the preservation of open space, historic resources, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation. Funds are raised locally through a surcharge on property tax bills (up to 3 percent) and matched annually at a certain percentage through a statewide CPA trust fund.
Since its inception in 2000, 148 cities and towns have voted to adopt the CPA, although it has not fared as well in Canton, where voters have twice said “no” to the measure — once in 2006 and again this past April in the annual town election.
The most recent defeat was viewed as a mild surprise to supporters, many of whom had engaged in a coordinated campaign effort, led by the political action committee Voters for the Preservation of Canton (VPC).
However, Sundin, who was one of the leaders of that effort and serves as VPC president, believes that their greatest obstacle in April was the lack of voter turnout, a problem that is easily remedied in a presidential election year, when the average turnout spikes to around 80 percent.
As Sundin told the Citizen last month, “A lot of people we talked to have very strong feelings for CPA. A lot of them felt like it was a no brainer. I think some of them didn’t vote because they thought it would just pass.”
The current ballot initiative, if certified by Town Clerk Tracy Kenny, would seek the same parameters that were considered in the previous election, including the same funding source (a 1 percent real estate surcharge) and the same exemptions (low-income property owners and the first $100,000 of residential real property).
Sundin said the town could also now consider extending the exemption to commercial properties — a recent addition to the legislation that could possibly entice some of the local business owners.
In the last election, the Canton Association of Business and Industry publically opposed the CPA, as did four of the five Canton selectmen and all but one of the voter precincts.
Yet Sundin and her fellow supporters remain confident that with enough education and campaigning, the third time will indeed be the charm for the CPA in Canton.
“Once the signatures have been certified and we know the CPA question will appear on the ballot, we will begin to educate and campaign for CPA to get it passed,” said Sundin. “Now that the state passed legislation that adds $25 million to the CPA trust for [fiscal year] 2013 and allows rehabilitation of existing outdoor recreational sites, it is more compelling than ever to have CPA in Canton.”
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