Challenge: Defeat Government Takeover.
In July 2005, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) board approved a ballot question – Measure W – for the November ballot. Measure W asked voters to approve a feasibility study for a public takeover of California American Water’s system. Coming on the heels of hostile takeovers of smaller California American Water systems in Montara and Felton, the threat to this 40,000-connection system was serious indeed.
Prior to any voter communications regarding Measure W, nine case studies were created from past successful and failed takeover attempts. This was supplemented with voter opinion research specific to the Monterey system. BNA and California American Water developed a communications outreach strategy to inform Monterey Peninsula likely voters about Measure W. Public relations as well as targeted direct mail, field communications, and television, radio, and newspaper advertisements were all utilized.
The election resulted in defeat of Measure W, with 62.63% (19,296 voters) voting no and 37.37% (11,514 voters) voting yes. Monterey County turnout totaled 83,030 voters out of a registered 158,708 (52.32%). This campaign proved that when residents understand the costs of condemnation, most do not want the government to take over investor-owned utilities as long as they are receiving high-quality water at the best attainable cost.