The Sunnyvale Public Lands Act
08/19/2015 – Mercury News
Sunnyvale voters next year will go to the polls and decide if residents should have the final say about how the city swaps, transfers and sells public property.
A measure will appear on the November 2016 ballot that, if approved, would give residents final approval in the sale, lease, swap or transfer of city parks or community service amenities like public parks, golf courses, pools, community centers and libraries.
The Yes on Public Lands for Public Use committee collected 7,411 petition signatures, 6,315 of which were verified by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. The committee has been working to ensure that Sunnyvale residents will have a hand in any sale of public lands since April 2014. The initiative was sparked by the city’s sale the of Raynor Activity Center to Stratford School in 2013.
The committee collected 6,315 verified signatures, more than the 5,531 signatures required to qualify the measure.
“We had a goal of collecting 25 percent more signatures than necessary, because it’s rather fuzzy on what could disqualify a signature: illegible writing, misspelled names, old addresses; there were even a few duplicate signatures,” said Steve Scandalis, a committee member. “Our circulators finished extremely strong, collecting 33 percent more than required.”
The Sunnyvale City Council reviewed and certified the initiative on Aug. 11.
“It’s amazing. We’ve spent countless volunteer hours over the past year working on this,” said Tim Dietrich, one of the originators of the committee. “To get the number of signatures we did is really exciting. We now have the chance to make a real difference in protecting Sunnyvale’s parks, open spaces and community amenities.”
Volunteers worked tirelessly to amass signatures at public events and locations such as the Sunnyvale Farmers’ Market, the public library and the community center, sometimes even going to door to door to ensure the goal was met.
“Collecting petition signatures is extremely difficult. When people see a clipboard, they tend to walk the other way,” said Deborah Marks, a committee volunteer. “But when we were able to actually talk to someone, the response was overwhelming. So many people would say how much they appreciate what we are doing.”
Dietrich added that the group did most of its work off small donations and grassroots efforts.
“Most initiatives have to pay an exorbitant sum of money to large canvassing firms in order to gain the signatures we need,” he said. “We did this on a small donation-based budget and relied heavily on the efforts of volunteers to collect the signatures.”
Now that the initiative has been certified, there is no means of retraction. No organized opposition to the initiative has been formed thus far.
“Even though we’ve qualified the initiative for the ballot, there is still lots of work to do,” said committee treasurer Andy Frazer. “We expect a fierce negative campaign from developers that have an interest in acquiring our public lands, along with their council supporters. In order to counter that, we are going to need to raise money.”
For more information, visit SunnyvalePublicLandsAct.com.