When citizens groups go up against companies like Home Depot on an election ballot, one thing they can expect with certainty: the company will spend big bucks to win. That has happened with Home Depot in other communities, like Encinitas,CA and Yarmouth, MA — and it appears to hold true once again in Toledo, OH (see 8/24/98 entry). The Westgate neighbors put a ballot question before Toledo voters on November 3rd. asking citizens to oppose the rezoning of 3 acres of land from residential to commercial. Home Depot wanted the rezoning to allow them to build out their parking lot. Sprawl-busters in Toledo say they received no less than 5 direct mailings from the pro-Home Depot group, along with half page newspaper ads, and “TV spots too numerous to count”. The result? 33,979 voters said they did not want Home Depot to have the land rezoned for their needs. That was 45% of the voters who turned out. Home Depot managed to win 55% of the vote (42,024 votes). Westgate Neighbors says they raised less than $12,000 to fight their battle, while Home Depot largely funded the other side. Final campaign spending reports are not due until December 12th. In Massachusetts, Home Depot ran a similar ballot campaign in Yarmouth, and ended up in a “settlement” with the state’s Campaign Finance office, because the company failed to report a significant amount of its actual expenditures. Home Depot agreed to pay the state $10,000 to close the case. The fact remains, if only 4,023 voters had changed their vote (5% of the turnout), Home Depot would have lost. It is remarkable that a retail store would find that more than 4 out of 10 voters in Toledo did not want them encroaching on one neighborhood. Westgate Neighbors knew they would be seriously outspent, but still managed to walk away with a 45% negative rating for Home Depot.
For more info about the Home Depot vote in Toledo, contact Peggy Daly-Masternak at [email protected]