Utility meter group explains petition
On behalf of the Fairfield Coalition for Safe Utility Meters, this statement accompanied the petition which was handed to the city council Monday night [July 23].
— The Fairfield population is currently 9,201, down from 9,464 at the time of the 2010 census. Based on the most recent census, about 7732 are adults over the age of 18. All petition signers were 18 or older.
— When the petition total was 1,051, those who signed the petition represented more than 13.6% the adult population of 7732. (Based on the current overall population, with 200 fewer people now, the petition signers represent a very significant portion of the city’s populace, with approximately 14% of the adult population with 1051 signatures.)
— We gathered the hard copy signatures for a limited time period - from about June 12 to June 29. With a limited volunteer base and time constraints in a very short period for this activity, our efforts have not by any means covered the entire city. With the very high percentage of support for the petition, among those canvassed so far, there can be no doubt that many more people would agree with this petition, if presented with the opportunity.
As we engaged in the process of gathering public opinion on this issue, we were always vigilant to respond to suggestions and criticisms from members of the city council. We wanted to ensure the highest integrity, credibility, and validity of the findings of this survey. We are confident the final results reflect adherence to this commitment, and are most definitely credible and valid.
Council Member Michael Halley asserted that “people sign petitions lightly, and without really understanding them ... Keep in mind that petitions are a weak form of proving support since people often sign them without fully understanding the issue.”
— We responded to that criticism with commitment to thoroughly inform the respondents of the background and focus of the petition. Almost everyone who signed was aware of the issue, and serious about signing. The majority of people who were approached had already heard something about it. If they were not familiar, the petition signature gatherer explained why
there was controversy. Almost everyone who signed felt it was unfair to charge to opt out, citing the issues of the controversy, and the reporting of negative effects being experienced and reported to the city council.
— At all times we clearly stipulated, ‘this is only for people living within the City limits, not outside city limits.’ Many more people outside the City limits wanted to sign, but we said not to. Considering the significant number who wanted to sign, but were not accepted, it is clear that there are many more uncounted citizens in the community who are opposed to the meters and opt out fees.
— We were also vigilant to avoid anyone signing the hard copy twice.
Toward the end of the gathering period one member of our group was told that someone on City Council had stated that actually anyone using Fairfield water should be able to sign the online petition, even if they live outside City limits. But then there were subsequent claims that the online petition would be invalidated, due to people signing outside the City limits. Apparently the aforementioned Council person now feels that anyone serviced by Fairfield water should be allowed to sign. Therefore, since we adhered to the more restrictive standards, it is justifiable to conclude that we would have secured a significantly greater number of signatures of Fairfield water customers.
— We also rejected signatures from those who rent rooms on MUM campus, in the Abundance Eco-village, or in Maharishi Vedic City. (Even though they couldn’t, almost all wanted to sign.)
— Council member Michael Halley recommended that we engage in a broad survey of town demographics, for signature gathering. On several occasions he stated or implied that we were only approaching a small group of the community: “I suggest you take your petition to Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee and talk to folks who you may not generally talk to. “
We were totally committed to following this recommendation, and testing this assertion. We were quite thorough in our endeavors, to comply with his demands in this regard. We did go to Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart, and to many different parts of town. About 6 out of every 7 people at Hy-Vee were eager to sign, when presented with the opportunity. We went door to door in different neighborhoods. We canvassed on the Town Square, at a music festival, at the Italian Festival, at parties, a broad cross-section of the community. We found that many people from different backgrounds and different parts of town were supportive.
— Council member Michael Halley claimed: “I asked a petition gatherer to explain the issue to me as if I was a layman and he refused. Clearly even those “working” on this issue don’t fully understand it.”
We feel quite certain that this anecdote does not reflect the level
of knowledge of those who worked on this petition. Mr. Halley may have challenged someone and received a noncommittal response. But we believe everyone who worked the most on gathering signatures knew enough to talk about it.
In conclusion: It appears the majority of the people of Fairfield don’t want RF meters. For some, something simply does not feel right about it, others feel the City should be listening to the people, rather than to industry promotional points, and others see it as emphasizing minor “efficiency gains” at the expense of the citizens’ pocket books, health, and other best interests.
Lisa Ashelman represents the Fairfield Coalition for Safe Utility Meters.