The Open Space Council Blog


Liveblogging from the Almost Spring Gathering!

March 21, 2013


What an energetic Gathering! There was a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity and collaboration in the Tamalpais Room at the Brower Center this morning. The room was full and people were ready to learn. For some it was the first time they’ve attended an Open Space Council event and for others they have lost track of exactly how many of these things they’ve been to. People came from Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties. There were Executive Directors, General Managers, consultants, Conservation Directors, Communications Managers, and many more. The Open Space Council members represented ranged from some people who have been there from the beginning and a brand new member. We want to thank everyone who attended the Gathering and all who contributed to the conversation.

Here are some pictures from the day:

There was a lot of chatter on Twitter including the following:


A lot of thanks to our speakers:

Thanks to Back to Earth for delicious sandwiches and thanks to the sun for shining today. We enjoyed getting outside and soaking up some sunshine at lunch.

Our next Gathering will be September 12, 2013 and we’ll have more information about it over the summer. Next up for us is our Open Space Conference on May 16 at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio. Are you coming?



11:57am: Rosemary is wrapping up. Jenn Fox, the Executive Director of the Open Space Council, will say a few words and then it’s lunch! I’ll add pictures and tweets later this afternoon…

11:54am: Question about operations and maintenance and how to get it funded. Linda said that partnering with MALT was key. We did a lot of listening and changed the language so that we could be successful. Rick said that they, too, included O&M in their measure. They didn’t talk about O&M… they used language that is meaningful to the voters.

11:50am: One of the key questions that funding measures need to answer is who will manage the funding. Linda said in Marin they constantly told people that they would, that the funding wasn’t going to Sacramento.

Question about the Water Bond and how that affects funding measures. Jared said it’s going to have a major impact in some parts of the state. In other areas, it won’t have that much influence. Individual agencies have to focus on their measure and what they can control.

Jared BoigonJared Boigon

11:44am: We’re opening it up to general Q&A. The first is how would a region-wide measure work. Sam said that we could, in theory, do a sales tax in one county, parcel tax in another county, etc. I’m not sure if we could pull that off.

11:40am: Sam is fielding questions. The Restoration Authority measure concept is really an idea at this point and there are a lot of unknowns.

“If we need 2/3 vote, we can’t have paid opposition. That’s what happened to the Oakland Zoo in November 2012. We have to make sure it’s not going to happen.”

There was a question about a regional Habitat Conservation Plan. Sam said that it could be done but it’d be challenging.

Sam SchuchatSam Schuchat

11:35am: Amy Hutzel added to the conversation that in focus groups they learned about values. When they started talking about wetlands, a focus group participant said ‘you’re making me feel dumb.’ It’s really about values: what do people care about.

11:34am: Question: has there ever been a regional measure? Sam said that yes, the regional toll authority passed one a few years ago. There is very little track record to go on.

11:31am: Applause for Sam! Rosemary opened it up to questions and used her power with the mic (!) to ask who will pay for the costs of the election. Sam said that it will be a part of the fundraising efforts.

11:28am: Sam: a 9 county campaign could cost $5-7 million just to get on the ballots in all the counties. That doesn’t include the polling costs! We are a start-up. The measure’s success really depends on what Save the Bay, ABAG, and Coastal Conservancy can contribute to the effort.

11:25am: Sam: we learned that people are afraid of swimming in the Bay, not because it’s deathly cold but because they think it’s very dirty. It’s actually cleaner than people think. We learned that we have to go with what people believe, not what we want them to believe.

11:23am: Sam: we learned in 2010 that voters love the San Francisco Bay. All issues are about water now. We all need to talk about water quality now.

11:20am: Sam is talking about the Restoration Authority now. Here’s his presentation:

Going Forward – Restoration Authority funding possibilities from OpenSpaceCouncil

You can see more about the Restoration Authority on their website.

11:18am: Applause for Jared and Rick! Rosemary is now introducing Sam Schuchat from the Restoration Authority…

11:16am: Linda said that most of the fundraising for their campaign came from MALT’s donors. Polling is important and costs a lot of money.

11:15am: Question about costs. Jared said that polling is critical to spend money on up front. You spend $100-200,000 on polling and you could get millions or billions in the campaign.

11:14am: Another question: when did you start the focus groups? The answer: we started in March 2011.

11:12am: Applause for Rick and Jared. We’re now going to take questions. First question is how was the business community involved. Rick said we scrambled to raise ~$270,000 for the campaign and therefore relied on social media and other grassroots tools.

11:11am: “Don’t listen to your gut. Follow your polling,” said Rick.

Rick CallendarRick Callendar

11:10am: Jared said there are two big lessons:

  1. The time to build the foundation is critical.
  2. Huge investment of time and staff of the agency. It’s a special project that requires special resources.

11:07am: Jared: we used social media to strengthen the resolve of our partners. We used Twitter and Facebook to get news out there and influence opinion leaders. The result was more endorsements and ultimately good press. We used Facebook ads that showed that we were winning and that this campaign is a good thing.

11:00am: “Initially we wanted to propose a lower parcel tax than the 2000 meausre. We poured through hours of focus groups videos and tons of data. We found that when we talked about the parcel tax amount people started hesitating. They were confused. Instead we decided to maintain the same amount from the 2000 measure. That means more money for the district which is good of course, but more importantly it stopped the conversation about the money. The truth is that people don’t trust government to save them money!” said Rick.

10:57am: Jared Boigon is sharing that SCVWD learned through polling that 2010 was not a good year for us. They learned that water is a good topic in a presidential election. This might not be true for land organizations. It’s important to know what kind of election most favors your ask.

10:54am: Rick shared that they decided to pull together the measure about 18 months before election day. “How do we pull this off?” he asked himself with a laugh. “Let’s take a grassroots approach and bulid a program from the ground up.”

10:52am: Rick Callendar is kicking it off and here is their presentation:

Lessons Learned – Measure B in Santa Clara Co, November 2012 from OpenSpaceCouncil


10:50am: Rosemary is moving us on to the Measure B presentation. We will have time at the end and at lunch to discuss more about Measure A. For Measure B we will hear from Jared Boigon from TBWB (a consulting firm) and Rick Callendar from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

10:46am: Question about sunseting the measure. Linda said that poll numbers said that 9 years was the magic year. We will do dazzling annual reports and then in 8 years we’ll be ready for that magic year 9.

Another question about the term “open space.” Linda said that every word was thought through and polled and carefully crafted.

10:45am: David Loeb asked if there were things that they thought would poll well but actually didn’t. Linda said yes! One example is operations and maintenance costs. She didn’t think that they’d poll well, but they did.

10:42am: Second question is what do you do to keep the support and momentum going? Linda said that we did a lot of the ground work for the campaign mostly because of the real conflicts that we need to resolve in the county. The campaign started the conversation with so many groups and those conversations are continuing.

10:41am: Rosemary Cameron is opening up for questions. The first question is how did Marin County bring special districts into the campaign. Linda said that the special districts were not included in the allocation of funding. That was not part of the discussion.”

Rosemary CameronRosemary Cameron

10:40am: “I could talk about this for 3 days. Unfortunately that’s not what they asked me to do today,” said Linda.

10:36am: “We spent a lot of time with Rotary’s throughout the county and feel like it made a difference,” Linda Dahl. “I’m not a tweeter but there are people who are and I’m so glad that we have folks on staff who know that stuff.”

10:29am: Linda’s lessons learned (also in her presentation):

  1. Be ready
  2. Poll it
  3. Get out the message
  4. Clearly define roles
  5. Remember the ground game

10:28am: Here’s Linda from the podium:

Linda DahlLinda Dahl

10:25am: “Number one thing we learned is to figure out what is important with your community. Find those words they think are important and keep using those words,” Linda Dahl says. “95% of people they polled said that they know and love Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) and so of course they are a natural partner for this measure.”

10:23am: Linda Dahl from Marin County Parks is now presenting about Measure A which passed by 74% in November 2012. Here is her presentation:

Lessons Learned: Measure A in Marin in November 2012 from OpenSpaceCouncil


10am: Good morning! The house is very full for our Almost Spring Gathering at the Brower Center entitled: Going to the Public for Conservation, Learning about land and water funding around the Bay Area. As you know, a significant source of funding for land conservation in the Bay Area is voter approved measures. Look closely at any county and its open spaces and you’ll discover a funding measure that played a major role in the protection of the land. The region faces decreased funding for conservation overall and plans for more bonds and funding measures are in the works around the Bay Area. Today we will hear presentations about:

Rosemary Cameron – previously with the East Bay Regional Park District and currently Board Chair of the San Francisco Parks Alliance – will moderate the panel. Between each presentation there will be an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists and discuss each measure.

This is Annie Burke and I will be blogging about the event for the next two hours. Refresh your browser often and pretend that you’re here. My colleagues will be tweeting at @BA_OpenSpace and we’ll share pictures on Instagram. Pose questions for the Q&A portion of the program on Twitter with the hashtag #osc321.

Ready? Let’s go!