2009 Annual Report

Letter from the Executive Director

The year was 2004. Joe Tondu, a power plant developer originally from Michigan and now based in Texas, had honed his sights on New Carlisle, Indiana, a small town outside of South Bend. Undeterred by his recent unsuccessful attempt to site a conventional coal plant in Manistee, Michigan, he began to spin the benefits of coal gasification to local officials, unions, and businesses in the South Bend area. Unbeknownst to Joe, he was about to run into a community-organized buzz saw. The citizens of New Carlisle rallied to protect their property values, their water supply, their air quality, and the concept of sustainable development. They rose to the occasion with fierce, but thoughtful, determination and stopped Mr. Tondu in his tracks, very thoughtful determination.

Driving into South Bend to attend one of a number of County Council hearings on the issue, I tuned into a local radio station. Within minutes, music to my ears – the citizens group, now known as Michiana Quality of Life, was running radio commercials against the plant. They had raised money to mount a paid media campaign. I felt a huge grin developing across my face. When I arrived at the meeting the room and most of the hallway were packed. Literally, hundreds of people carrying ping pong paddle-sized signs with question marks on them. Since they weren’t allowed to speak at this hearing, the members of Michana Quality of Life held these signs in view of their elected officials the entire time. And they definitely had questions – that they answered constructively and systematically.

MQL was always well organized. They sought and gained expertise from Notre Dame on the water volume impacts that plant would have. They researched Joe Tondu and communicated with the citizens of Manistee who also defeated his attempts. They were always well prepared and had all angles of the issue covered in testimony. And they had their paid media campaign. At the not so important meetings 200 people would show up. At the important ones 500 attended consistently.

CAC coordinated its strategy with MQL. The CAC canvass rolled into swing districts and generated hundreds of letters to the fence-sitters. Joe Tondu set himself up with erroneous statements about the plant’s rate impacts that CAC took advantage of in the press. It was a well-orchestrated, intelligent campaign. We created a truly symbiotic relationship with MQL. Among the positive results was that Michiana Quality of Life remained intact to work on sustainable economic development in the region.

Please join us on November 7, 2009 to celebrate, as we explore, effective citizen action at CAC’s annual meeting. If you’ve ever wanted to do more, this moment belongs to you. This is an opportunity for you to enjoy learning more about the work we at CAC do every day; and how all of us, working together with hope, determination and principled advocacy, can reclaim our rights and responsibilities as citizens!

Thank you again for your many years of support.

Grant Smith
CAC Executive Director

Click here to read the full 2009 Annual Report in PDF format.