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E-M:/ Land use and elections....

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

Forwarded bounced message from DAn Farrough, Sierra Club

From: "Daniel Farough" <daniel.farough@sierraclub.org>
To: "Conan Smith" <conanmec@voyager.net>,
"Enviro-Mich@Great-Lakes.Net" <enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>
Subject: RE: / Tell Us About Your Election 2000 Land Use Battles!
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000 10:54:09 -0500
Message-ID: <MGELJAENFMPKNFONHMJMKEEGCBAA.daniel.farough@sierraclub.org>
MIME-Version: 1.0
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Meridian Township, which you mention briefly below, did see a massive swing
in the local board based almost exclusively on land use issues. A group
called the Meridian BiPartisan Leadership, that I had the privilege to work
with as their campaign manager actually put partisan differences aside,
coalesced around a series of land use issues, and challenged an incumbent
board that was heavily backed by developers. The campaign has several
elements that may be of interest to readers facing their own struggles and
contemplating a run for office.

Land Use as a Campaign Message - A key success of the group was linking the
theme of land use to other everyday concerns of people in the township. It
wasn't just about preserving openspace, although this is in itself a worthy
goal for obvious reasons. It was about escalating traffic problems, it was
about improper zoning next to schools and the schools need for residential
development (in order to keep enrollments up and the schools strong) over
exploding commercial development. It was about the large amounts of
developer money flooding into the coffers of the incumbents and it was about
Board actions which made Township tax dollars vulnerable to developer
lawsuits due to consistent violations of Development plan. Fortunately
Meridian Township also had a long history of unpopular actions by the
incumbent board, such as the removal of a Urban Services Boundary, a 425
agreement for a golf course development and a history of violating the
communities master plan over 60% of the time.

Citizen Input as a Campaign Message - In order to push through an extremely
pro-developer agenda, the (previously) incumbent board had to take steps to
curtail and block public input. This created another layer of issues to use
in the campaign that had its foundation in land use. Such actions included
violating the open meetings act, ignoring massive citizen turnout and input
at planning commission and board meetings, ignoring protests of other
respected public bodies like the school board and eventually voting to close
the Township Hall room for public use. From a campaign perspective, this
extra layer of indifference to the public, on top of the land use issue
specifically is exactly what one wants to see, for it broadens the message
and helps protect against accusations of "nimibism." For others
contemplating running a local campaign in the future our experience tells us
that it is critical to link land use with popular and easily grasped themes
and to have other complementary issues such as Public Involvement and health
of the Schools etc.

Activism - Prior to campaign season, activists in the township mounted a
vigorous effort to keep key land use issues alive and before the public.
Frustrated with actions taken by the Board regarding a 425 agreement / golf
course development and the removal of the popular urban services boundary
(among others) a group formed called the Meridian Issues Committee to hold
forums on key issues facing the Township. The groups first meeting on land
use in the town hall was extremely well attended and received excellent
media coverage. The meeting also sparked a backlash from the incumbent
board which voted to ban the use of town hall to resident, in turn producing
another issue with which to run on. The Meridian Issues Committee is just
one example of many in which residents concerned about development patterns
made stands and helped produce fertile ground for a political campaign.
Bipartisanship - The theme of bipartisanship was a powerful one in Meridian
Township. The Meridian Bipartisan Leadership was made up 2 Republicans and
4 Democrats, all of whom had a history of involvement in the Township and
were well spoken and circumspect. Bipartisan appeal was quite powerful,
especially when mixed with a concrete platform. It wasn't bipartisan for
the sake of being bipartisan, but rather bipartisan for the sake of the
agreed positions that mattered most to residents. In the course of the
campaign it became clear that the message was resonating, as for a period it
appeared that the pro-developer candidates were forming a bipartisan group
in response to ours. This would have been a remarkable event. Imagine two
bipartisan groups fighting it out over the issue of land use, with one
representing public interest and the other developer interests. Although
this is in fact what we had on the ground, our opposition never made their
working together explicit....unfortunately.

In the end, after a vigorous campaign with many twists and turns, 5 of the 6
of our candidates won their race (Supervisor, Treasurer and all our
Trustees). Only our Clerk lost and by less that 1%. If anyone with a
public interest approach to land use issues is contemplating a run for
office and is interested in learning more about this campaign please feel
free to contact me or any of the candidates.

-Dan Farough

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
[mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net]On Behalf Of Conan Smith
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2000 11:16 AM
To: Enviro-Mich@Great-Lakes.Net
Subject: E-M:/ Tell Us About Your Election 2000 Land Use Battles!

I'd like to hear from folks about local goverment electoral politics that
had strong land use components to them, both in terms of initiatives and
office changes. For example, Milan Township's board saw a complete turnover
because of a land use issue; Meridian Twp saw advocates elected and a
purchase-of-development-rights program adopted; and Washtenaw County
approved a millage to purchase sensitive natural areas. I want to celebrate
the importance of land use in this last election and would love to hear from
as many of you as possible!

Conan Smith
Land Programs Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
p. (517) 487-9539
f. (517) 487-9541

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  ajs@sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permits/Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste Issues
and Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971 (voice); (517) 332-8987 (fax)

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