By Jane Stoever, PeaceWorks Kansas City
Kansas City, Mo., voters received a barrage of negative publicity from the “vote no” camp before the April 2 election, but 23 percent of the voters still said yes to stopping future KC financing for producing parts for nuclear weapons. The vote tally was 25,006 against and 7,559 for the measure.
“It’s a win!” said Rachel MacNair, campaign coordinator for “vote yes” proponents, after the polls closed April 2. “We’ve always said our strategy was to educate the public about the nuclear weapons parts plant, and our goal of making the plant and the nuclear weapons upgrade program more controversial has been achieved.” She said it was amazing to gain 23 percent of the vote in the face of the negative publicity from the opposition.
That publicity, focusing on jobs and national security, included three pricey mailers, robo calls from Mayor Sly James, handouts from paid workers at polls, and ads in local papers. For example, a promotional insert from Freedom Inc. in The Pitch in late March said of the ballot measure, “This is a rogue issue that was placed on the ballot by initiative petition, motivated by anti-nuclear extremists who want the United States to dispose of its nuclear weapons while other nations keep theirs.”
When, earlier, the second mailer from the “vote no” camp made the same charge, MacNair countered that peace groups are calling for multilateral, not unilateral, disarmament, and the third mailer carried revised language. However, that third mailing featured North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threat to turn Washington, D.C., into a sea of fire—a way to call for strengthening the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Despite the fear-based mailers, many voters talked with peace activists outside the polls, and some voters said they’d vote yes because of those contacts. One voter who, on leaving the poll, said she had voted yes, was asked why. In a quiet voice, she replied, “It’s just terrible to make those weapons.”
Before election day, PeaceWorks members informed the community about the peace measure through multiple activities. KKFI community radio interviewed various proponents on four programs and played a public service announcement. KCUR, an affiliate of National Public Radio, played and replayed a segment quoting MacNair and City Councilman Scott Taylor, who opposed the measure. Local TV programs such as “Week in Review” discussed all the election issues. Although The Kansas City Star editors recommended a no vote on the measure, news reporter Lynn Horsley quoted heavily from MacNair in her story originally titled “David vs. Goliath in Measure on Weapons Manufacturing.” PeaceWorks members circulated flyers at churches, offered informational cards to “Disney on Ice” attendees and to community groups, and leafleted on sidewalks. Perhaps the most flamboyant stint was the dropping of three banners above highways 71 and 670. The banners flew a few days.
PeaceWorks committed $4,000 to the campaign as its major contributor. The opposition amassed more than $123,000, with donors including Honeywell, which manages the current and new KC plants for the National Nuclear Security Administration; J.E. Dunn Construction Co., which heads up construction for the new plant; and the Chicago law firm Richmond Breslin, home base to Kevin Breslin, lawyer for CenterPoint, the development company that worked with KC on the plan for public/private ownership of the new plant.
Ann Suellentrop of PeaceWorks shared election results with national peace leaders on behalf of the KC peace community. The American Friends Service Committee disarmament coordinator, Joseph Gerson, replied, “Thank you for all that you’ve done. Born Jewish in 1946, in many ways my frames of reference are from the Second World War and the Holocaust. It would seem that … the majority of voters in KC seem to care in the short term about their well-being but, in what Hannah Arendt once termed the ‘banality of evil,’ put jobs and comfort ahead of nuclear genocide or omnicide.”