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Case #815

Organizers win San Francisco solar campaign in two months


You've just learned that your city will vote in two months on two propositions that are environmentally and fiscally smart. The trouble is that hardly anyone knows about them. With time running out, how can you help them pass?

This was the challenge Kristin Casper faced when she learned that San Francisco voters would decide on two solar power propositions last November. Casper started by employing five students from Green Corps, a Boston-based field school for environmental campaign organizers. "We hit the ground running," says Daniel Firger, one of the five. "By the end of the month we had twenty-five regular volunteers and fifty to sixty others."

By the end of their second month, Casper's troupe had assured the victory of both initiatives. Proposition B allows the city to issue revenue bonds to create active-solar facilities for city agencies, with the bonds to be repaid by revenues generated and saved, rather than new tax dollars. It opens the potential for San Francisco to nearly double capacity of grid-connected photo-voltaic systems in the entire United States. Proposition H allows the city to enact future clean-energy projects without a citywide vote each time.

Not half bad for six (or sixty) campaigners. How did they manage?

"First off," says Casper, "the five organizers were fresh out of school and full of energy. Second, we focused on city districts we knew would turn out to vote if informed." They also targeted religious groups, which, in recent years, have increasingly shown a sense of responsibility for protecting the Earth, she says.

Third, they just plain worked hard. They planned the campaign over breakfast at 7:00 A.M. and then worked until 10 PM., distributing 300,000 leaflets, posting 1,500 signs, calling 50,000 voters, and tapping new support. In the end, more than 200 volunteers got involved. "We recruited everyone from bedridden seniors, who made calls,... to high school students," says Firger.

Officials of other cities have approached them for guidance, and they're happy to help.


Great work!
Location: San Francisco, California, US
Action: Political
Setting: Developed World, Urban
Extent of Action: Local
Issues: Resources, Conservation
Year(s): 2002
Outcome successful
Source: HOPE - July/August 2002 p. 9


Kristan Casper
415-225-9221, ext. 321


29 Temple St., Boston, MA 02111
Prepared By: dp, 06/03
Rating: 1
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