Adoption Case Studies

The following case studies highlight six communities that voted on CPA, some successfully, some not. Campaign leaders were interviewed in each of the communities and helped identify important lessons for how to run a successful CPA campaign. The campaign leaders provided thoughtful and helpful insights which are summarized in the case studies. The case studies cover the campaigns of New Bedford, Deerfield, Lenox, Plympton, Quincy, Seekonk, and Andover and include information on how campaign efforts began, campaigning strategies, and advice from the campaign leaders.

Case Study #1: New Bedford


In 2013, a group of local activists from the city of New Bedford contacted the Community Preservation Coalition (“the Coalition”) to find out more about how the Community Preservation Act (CPA) could help them preserve the city’s many historic buildings and sites. They were particularly motivated by Fall River, their sister city, which had been successful in adopting CPA in 2012. Coalition staff members met with the activists, and helped them design outreach materials to use in pulling together a network of interested stakeholders to launch a New Bedford CPA adoption campaign. 

The Campaign

The Waterfront Area Historic League (WHALE), a dynamic non-profit organization long involved in improving New Bedford’s waterfront area, hosted initial campaign planning meetings, and proved to be a driving force behind the CPA campaign. They assembled a diverse campaign working group, hired a campaign coordinator skilled at managing volunteer outreach efforts in city neighborhoods, and registered the group as an official local ballot question campaign committee. The campaign to pass CPA in New Bedford was underway!

The first order of business for the campaign committee was to convince the New Bedford City Council to advance the CPA question to the local ballot. Two politically-connected activists from the campaign met with each city councilor to ask them to support sending CPA to the ballot in 2014. With a unanimous vote of the City Council, and with the support of the Mayor, the CPA question advanced to the city’s November 4, 2014 ballot. The Campaign next developed a comprehensive, strategic outreach and communications plan and a detailed campaign budget. It quickly brought in funds from several local foundations, as well as from individual donors and local businesses. With this strong start, the campaign held a well-publicized formal launch event in September at a picturesque waterside park, in front of a historic building in need of rehabilitation.

To prepare for their outreach efforts, the campaign wrote and published collateral materials, including a white paper, a brochure, ‘Vote Yes” lawn signs, a press release, a true/false sheet, and a PowerPoint presentation. A campaign Facebook page and an interactive campaign website were developed and actively managed by a web designer at the Buzzards Bay Coalition. The Campaign assembled a large outreach team of diverse stakeholders interested in historic rehabilitation, parks and open space and to a lesser extent, affordable housing in New Bedford. They then scheduled and held over 30 community outreach meetings, and participated in a variety of neighborhood and local events. Fortunately, the New Bedford Economic Development Council endorsed CPA early on, and secured helpful campaign donations from business leaders. Of particular importance to the campaign’s ultimate success was positive media coverage - The New Bedford Standard Times formally endorsed CPA for New Bedford, published several pro-CPA op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, and the campaign secured two positive editorials after meeting with the Standard Times Editorial Board. The Campaign also purchased and ran a full-page color advertisement in The New Bedford Standard Times two days before the election. Supporters were interviewed on local cable TV and radio stations. Finally, New Bedford Mayor Jon F. Mitchell hosted a formal press event endorsing CPA a week before the election, which further boosted the campaign’s efforts.

As part of the Campaign’s get-out-the-vote work, three separate direct mail pieces were created. These were sent to over 17,000 likely voters throughout the city and hand-delivered to nearly 1,000 likely voters the weekend before the election (the first piece was mailed two weeks before the election, the second piece one week before, and the last piece three days before.) On Election Day, the campaign distributed palm cards to voters at the polls, held signs, and wore “Vote Yes” for CPA stickers.

Luckily, New Bedford CPA campaign faced very little active opposition. One citizen activist wrote a letter to the editor addressing some concerns, and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District’s President responded in a separate letter to the editor.

The result on Election Day was extremely positive - New Bedford voters supported the CPA measure by a comfortable 54% “yes” to 46% “no” vote, becoming one of three communities to pass CPA in November 2014. The Land Trust Alliance featured the results of the New Bedford campaign in their national magazine Saving Land. The article discusses how local land trusts, like New Bedford's Buzzard Bay Coalition, can be active in helping to pass conservation funding ballot elections. 

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

The New Bedford campaign worked well because its leaders were committed to the cause and were prepared to take on the challenge of running a strong, positive campaign and educating the voters. The campaign was effective at raising funds for printed materials, a web site, and direct mail pieces, and in using the local press to get its message out to key influencers and active voters, including seniors. Working closely with experts at the Coalition and The Trustees of Reservations who were experienced in running CPA campaigns in other communities, provided a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. Election Day was sunny and relatively warm, which increased voter turnout. A larger team of volunteers would have been beneficial to the campaign, especially on Election Day. The campaign did not have the time or resources to conduct a phone banking program, which may have turned out even more support. However, all-in-all, it was a successful, positive, and well-run campaign, of which New Bedford CPA supporters can feel proud.

Case Study #2: Deerfield


In the fall of 2006, the Deerfield Board of Selectmen responded to concerns voiced by community members over the increasing loss of open space, particularly prime agricultural land, by appointing a study committee to identify potential resources for open space conservation. Working with The Trust for Public Land's Connecticut River Valley Project coordinator, Clem Clay, the committee began to outline ways in which the community could better manage its growth. Clem suggested that Deerfield consider adoption of the CPA as one way to fund open space protection, and the committee invited staff from the Community Preservation Coalition to give a presentation about CPA.

According to campaign leaders, the presentation generated excitement from study committee members, who then turned their attention to pursuing adoption of the CPA in Deerfield.

The Campaign

At the study committee’s recommendation, CPA was placed on the warrant for a Special Town Meeting to be held in March of 2007. A second open space measure was also placed on the warrant for consideration by the Town Meeting members at the same time.

The Town Meeting vote was successful, and CPA advanced to the ballot. Soon afterwards, a local CPA campaign committee was formed and the campaign for CPA passage was underway! Time was short, however, and the campaign was faced with the daunting task of educating voters on the complex CPA law and the benefits it could bring the community in the space of two short months.

Initially, things went well. Guest columns in the local newspaper provided support and publicity for campaign events, and helped spread the word about the coming election.

However, while the Board of Selectmen agreed to form the initial CPA study committee and hold the Special Town Meeting, not all of the Selectmen came through with strong and open support for the campaign. Some were concerned about the political implications of supporting the CPA.

The campaign pressed on, and while the CPA study committee had focused primarily on CPA as a funding source for open space preservation, the CPA campaign committee presented balanced information about all three (four, including recreation) funding areas of the CPA. Two Selectmen supported this effort by reaching out to town groups with interests in historic preservation and affordable housing. Meanwhile, the campaign committee organized one targeted mailing to all potential “yes” voters.

During the course of this relatively short CPA campaign, campaign supporters did face a mild level of organized opposition from individuals in the community against CPA adoption. Several guest columns in the local newspaper provided an opposing point of view and one anonymous anti-CPA flier was distributed on doorsteps.

Finally, however, on May 7, 2007, the committee’s efforts were rewarded with 52% of Deerfield’s voters casting their votes in favor of CPA. Ultimately, some of the campaign committee members were appointed as founding members of Deerfield’s Community Preservation Committee, and were able to be involved in getting Deerfield’s CPA program up and running.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

As campaign leaders explain, the Deerfield campaign worked well because a context had already been created for the CPA by the initial CPA study committee. Establishing the CPA study committee allowed the Selectmen to be involved in the process from the beginning. The Selectmen's involvement legitimized the committee, and ultimately, CPA and the campaign for its adoption.

Case Study #3: Lenox


According to Kevin Sprague, President of the Lenox Land Trust, “The Lenox CPA process was an interesting case of old town/new town. The CPA was something that had been talked about for awhile, but it took one of our newer, forward thinking selectmen to bring it forward and get it moving. An ad-hoc community committee was formed, with membership that represented the different perspectives of the CPA: historic, land, and housing. Lenox is a community that is prime for the CPA, as there has been a steadily and growing awareness of the connection between the health of our tax base and the preservation of our environment, cultural, and community attractions. Throughout the process, it was clear from one meeting to the next that the vote would be pretty close. The old town wasn't interested in anything that smacked of an increase in taxes and the new town was consistently able to grasp the nature of community investment: i.e., that the state matching funds would leverage our local contribution and create this necessary pool of money."

The Campaign

The campaign committee used an email newsletter to help spread the word. The committee turned a current issue with the local town library into an example of how the CPA funds could be used.

But the most surprising part of Lenox’s campaign was the recount. After the initial vote, the results showed that the CPA lost by just 3 or 4 votes. When the CPA campaign committee asked for a recount, it became clear that the machines that were used to tally votes were flawed. Despite some intransigence on the part of a few municipal officials, the campaign committee pushed through with their demand, and at the end of the recount, the measure won by 8 to 10 votes.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

Campaign leaders advised others campaigning to pass CPA to choose a few basic points to center the campaign around, such as the actual amount that the tax bill will increase by; the amount of money gained through state matching funds; or that the community must approve every project. Other advice offered includes the following points:

  • Keep the message simple and transparent. Avoid confusion!
  • Remember that you have the right to ask for a recount (within the restrictions of the law). 
  • Target all the different neighborhoods of your community and set up public forums so that residents' concerns can be addressed.

Case study #4: Plympton


The May 2008 election was Plympton's third attempt to pass the CPA. Many pressures on the town had culminated in a strong need for the solutions that the CPA could provide. A casino planned for the nearby town of Middleborough created new stresses for Plympton, such as a heightened awareness of the need to be able to have a say in affordable housing development and open space protection. Many in the town realized that everything they wanted to do – particularly the development of affordable housing – was actually do-able, with the right resources.

The Campaign

The campaign was well balanced between the three major programmatic areas of the CPA: affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space. Because this was the third time that the CPA was up for approval, the campaign group felt it needed to do less voter education and more work securing the yes votes, by targeting voters and encouraging citizens to get out and vote. They promoted a 1.5% surcharge, which was significantly lower than the 3% surcharge they had previously promoted. The lower surcharge made CPA seem more approachable for many residents. To promote the campaign, the group sent out mailings and conducted informational seminars. Some campaign volunteers also made calls to friends. A canvassing effort in the neighborhoods was very successful, and direct support was also garnered through the informational seminars. The committee mailed letters to elected town officials that included a reply card, so the officials were required to sign the card and send it back if they wanted to support the campaign. This ensured that all of the endorsers were truly committed.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

The Plympton campaign was able to ensure support for the CPA through one-on-one contact with voters and by employing a creative way to induce town leaders to commit to the campaign. In a previous CPA attempt, they handled opposition by targeting people in the opposition’s circle of influence and swaying their opinion favorably to CPA. Campaign leaders also stressed the importance of staffing the campaign well and enlisting campaign workers who are excited to get out and do things and who like to talk to others about how the CPA can be great for the community. This is especially important if, as in Plympton, you need to get the measure on the ballot through the ballot question petition process. 

Case Study #5: Quincy


After CPA passed by 57% of the vote on November 7, 2006, Steve Perdios, campaign organizer and subsequent Chair of the City's new Community Preservation Committee, was pleased that all the campaign's hard work paid off. CPA came to the forefront in Quincy primarily as a result of concerns over losing open space.

A group led by Mr. Perdios first attempted to put CPA on the ballot in 2005 via a vote of the City Council, but was unsuccessful. However, Mr. Perdios and a group of about 10 steadfast volunteers did not give up. In the summer of 2006, they successfully gathered about 4,000 signatures on a petition to put CPA on the ballot. The signatures were gathered primarily by volunteers manning tables outside of supermarkets and armed with talking points and flyers about CPA. Not only was the effort successful at gathering signatures, but it accomplished widespread outreach and education about CPA.

The Campaign

The campaign committee raised $7,000 and worked with up to 35 volunteers, of which there were about 10 core volunteers. The campaign committee was also supported by efforts of the Quincy Environmental Network, a local open space protection advocacy group. The campaign committee strategically focused on getting the word out to people who were most likely to vote. They began with a list of all people who voted in all of the last six elections, which narrowed the master list of over 50,000 to about 10,000 names. The committee focused on getting at least one good piece of literature into the hands of each of those 10,000 voters. Literature was distributed in one of two ways: door to door and mailings. Using maps that highlighted the targeted voters' residences, a small army of volunteers went door to door in each of the 30 precincts leaving door knockers. For voters on the list of 10,000 who lived in large apartment complexes that had limited access, the committee mailed literature. These drops were made within two weeks of the election and, according to Perdios, worked like a charm.

In addition to the door to door effort and the limited mailing, the committee also organized press events, community meetings, letters to the local press, a guest appearance on Quincy Access Cable, and use of a phone bank. The phone bank accomplished about 80 phone calls with local volunteers and another 500 by contracting with a firm. Although the CPA campaign only had the support of two city councilors, the other seven did not officially oppose CPA. Also, the Mayor did not take an official position. The lack of official opposition was a boost to the campaign.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

As Mr. Perdios explains, “It’s a lot of hard work. You’ve got to dedicate yourself for at least six months – just hunker down, really allocate time, and get it done. Expect everyone to come out against you and work your tail off. And, finally, don’t get greedy, 1% is a lot of money.”

  • Focus strategically on people who are going to vote.
  • Get out one good piece of literature to the list of most-likely voters.
  • You can never raise too much money or have too many volunteers.
  • Talking to over 4,000 individuals to gather signatures for the petition to put CPA on the ballot was helpful to spread the word, to perfect our talking points, and to learn early on which voters are not worth talking to.
  • Collect 25-35% more signatures than you need because many may be thrown out during the certification process due to illegibility and other reasons.
  • Leaving literature door to door at the homes of the most likely voters was highly effective.
  • You have a much better chance of succeeding with no organized opposition.

Case study #6: Seekonk


After a handful of Seekonk citizens attended the Community Preservation Coalition’s Southeastern MA conference in November 2007, they were inspired to shape an organized effort to adopt CPA in their community. 

The group called themselves “CPA Seekonk” and solicited interest from other volunteers to join the effort. The Seekonk Land Trust was instrumental in supporting the group’s efforts from the beginning and was particularly helpful with outreach efforts and funding.

The preservation of open land and development of a town park were the leading issues that initially generated local interest in CPA. Although many citizens were passionate about the issues, the group was working under tight time pressures—they only had about three months to collect almost 500 signatures in order to get CPA on the ballot for the April 7th, 2008 municipal election. Setting up stations at the local library, they focused their efforts on getting the requisite signatures and successfully submitted over 500 signatures to the town clerk in mid-February—about a week early. Soon they learned that the Town Clerk had certified the results, and CPA was on the ballot!

The Campaign

With only about six weeks to educate local town boards, commissions, and officials as well as voters, the small group had to scramble. They held two public meetings, made a presentation to the Board of Selectmen, wrote several letters to local newspapers, displayed two newspaper ads, mailed about 1,200 brochures to registered spring voters, and made some telephone calls. 

They received official support from various entities including Seekonk Human Services, The Land Conservation Trust, the Seekonk Historical Commission, as well as Representative Steve D’Amico, the Runnins River Watershed Steering Committee, The Trustees of Reservations, and MassAudubon.

Why it Failed

The timing proved difficult for Seekonk’s 2008 CPA campaign for two primary reasons. As Susan Waddington, a member of CPA Seekonk, reflects, “There was not enough time between turning in the signatures and the election to adequately educate town officials and the public about CPA—we were not experienced enough to do both at the same time”. Just before the election, it was clear that some influential citizens did not have a full understanding of CPA. In addition to the limited campaign time, a contentious race for Board of Selectmen vied with CPA for the attention of the voters. 

Try, Try Again

Although CPA failed to pass in April 2008, voters in Seekonk ultimately endorsed CPA at the municipal election held on April 6, 2009. By building on the education and outreach effort that was started for the prior 2008 campaign, CPA supporters were able to reach out more broadly and in some ways with more clarity and focus.

The committee also held an open house at the town library where various stations were set up to provide information about CPA. The library is a major gathering place in Seekonk and meetings there are announced on the library’s web site. Previously the committee had held a traditional public meeting at the middle school, which was not as well attended as was hoped.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

In Susan Waddington’s words, “If you can get community opinion makers on your side, that’s a great thing. You also need hardworking and committed volunteers”. Timing is important— having enough time to campaign and educate. As campaign leaders explain, opponents often insist that it is “not the right time” for CPA, but by explaining that adoption of CPA allows communities to access the state trust funds, community members can be convinced that they can complete much-needed projects that could never be funded through the regular and shrinking municipal budgets.

Case Study #7: Andover


The town of Andover voted on CPA for the second time in March of 2008. Andover’s first attempt to adopt the CPA had been in 2002, but it failed to get past the Town Meeting vote at that time.

On reflection, campaign leaders believed that the 2002 attempt failed because the campaign did not present a clear picture of what the CPA funds would be used for. In addition, CPA faced strong opposition from the then-Finance Committee chair. Campaign leaders also felt that general cynicism about state politics resulted in an underlying belief that the CPA, still a brand new law in 2002, could not survive long, because the state would not be able to provide the matching funds guaranteed by the program.

At the March 2008 election, CPA was again defeated in Andover, with 44 per cent of the local electorate voting for passage, while 56 percent voted against it. Read on to find out what went wrong during this community’s second attempt to pass the CPA.

The Campaign

By 2007, many communities near Andover had adopted CPA. A core group of townspeople realized that by not voting for the measure in 2002, the community had missed out on a great opportunity. So they decided to bring the question before the voters again, and this time successfully got the measure through Town Meeting and on the ballot for spring 2008.

Unlike during the 2002 campaign, there was no strong opposition to CPA from town officials; however, there was no strong support either. The Finance Committee was split, with some members supporting CPA and others opposing it, while the Selectmen chose to take no position at all. The town appeared to be behind the measure, and town residents had a history of supporting open space preservation by periodically voting to bond for large open space acquisitions. The campaign also pushed the development of more local affordable housing as an important benefit of participation in the CPA program.

Unfortunately, when election day came, the ballot initiative failed, with about 1,500 voting against and 1,200 in favor of CPA.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Campaigns

According to campaign leaders, resident opposition to new taxes was very strong. The town was facing financial difficulties and many were opposed to any tax increase. Most of the residents’ current tax concerns were focused on the school system, and some believed that the CPA would make it harder to raise funds for the schools and other town services. Residents were also wary of the measure because the state is no longer able to match the funds by 100% and some residents voiced the opinion that, without a 100% match, it was not worth paying the surcharge. Despite the town’s long-standing support for open space preservation, an open space bond that was on the ballot with the CPA also failed.

In 2002, CPA campaign organizers had spoken to every small grassroots activist group in the area in order to gather their support. In 2007, the campaign focused its efforts on meeting with various town committees, such as the Conservation Commission, and with local conservation groups. The fact that a total of eleven Andover community groups strongly supported the CPA in 2007 was a testament to the campaign’s efforts.

Campaign leaders reflected that if they were to try again in the future, they would stress that even a 26% annual match is still a very good return on taxpayers' investment in the community. Having a strong argument against the anti-tax opposition would have been the best way to pass the CPA.