CPA Campaign Case Study: Lenox (2006)


Lenox Library - Photo by John PhelanAccording 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.