Livability at the Ballot Box: State and Local Referenda on Parks, Conservation, and Smarter Growth, Election Day 1998

On Election Day 1998, voters across the country considered a wide array of ballot measures designed to protect or improve parks, open space, farmlands, historic resources, watersheds, greenways and biological habitats. Many measures were advanced as part of larger programs and initiatives to enhance community livability and manage growth. In a comprehensive survey, conservation consultant Phyllis Myers identified 240 state and local measures related to conservation, parklands, and smarter growth. The survey finds that: (1) voters approved 72 percent of these 240 measures; (2) the approved ballot measures will trigger more than $7.5 billion in additional state and local conservation spending; and (3) conservation ballot measures elicited strong constituency and grassroots engagement. The paper provides a guide to the goals, finance techniques and strategies of successful measures; discusses regional variations in the success rate; examines lessons from ballot-box defeats; and assesses growing grassroots support for land conservation and more livable communities means for policymakers and practitioners.