As recently as last week officials predicted a proposed tax for school construction and other items in Guntersville would be approved on Tuesday’s ballot by a similar margin to the 62 percent to 38 percentage passage of a similar measure passed in Montgomery in November.
However, the Auburn-based Take Back Action Fund scored another ballot victory with a 58 percent to 42 percent win on Tuesday to defeat the measure. The Action Fund did not invest in advertising, but Field Director Lars Wiechman set up a website “Not Another Tax” and Event Coordinator Ashley Sellers led a weeklong blitz to distribute literature door-to-door and at stores in the area a few weeks before the vote.
“We wanted to use our grassroots field efforts to give the voters information so they could weigh the pros and cons, without running heavy advertisements,” said Action Fund President John Pudner, who in the past 20 years ran bigger scale operations to stop the lottery in 1999, Governor Riley’s proposed Amendment 1 in 2002 and effort to change how the State School Board is selected last year. “Once we felt the voters had the information to make an informed decision, simply stepped away the last two weeks confident they would make the right choice - whether they agreed with us on the measure or not. I believe one voter quoted by Channel 19 summed up our concerns better than we could have said it.”
His reference was to this media story in which Guntersville resident John Gaines said:
“They raised gas taxes a couple, three years ago, so they had that plus sales tax and they don’t seem to be telling us where all that money is going and that’s the concern I think most people have is where is it all going and why are they so vague about $50 million. $50 million for a community of 8,000 people, that’s a lot of money per extra student and I think it comes out to 100 extra students for that new school. $50 million for 100 students is a little bit much,” explained Gaines.
Take Back Action Fund is based in Auburn, Alabama, but has been on the winning side of all five state referenda to date, with wins to stop pay-for-play systems in North Dakota and South Dakota, and for more compact Congressional Districts in Ohio and Michigan.
The group grew increasingly concerned after the passage of the similar measure in Montgomery and the lack of follow-through on children, as noted in the appearance by the President (Francis Johnson) of the Action Fund’s sister organization, Take Back Our Republic, in this Fox and Friends appearance. The Action Fund and Take Back Our Republic are concerned when it appears students are being used as the selling point to get money from taxpayers when some of it is actually going to political donors for business projects in a pay-for-play system.