Sprinkler referendums narrowly defeated

Disappointed but determined: Arizona installers, fire and city officials assess the vote
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Saturday, October 1, 2005

GOODYEAR, Ariz.-- Two days after suffering an electoral defeat, proponents of a fire sprinkler mandate were circling the wagons and talking about how to pass a similar measure in the future.
Referendums here and in the neighboring town of Avondale that would have required the installation of fire sprinklers in all new single-family homes were narrowly defeated on September 13. (See related story on this page.)
Owners of local fire sprinkler installation businesses--including Don Dews of Dews Fire Protection and Chuck and Cindy Sullivan of Trinity Fire Protection--were among the proponents of the measure.
The opposition was led the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, which waged a well-financed campaign to defeat the two referendums.
To win a referendum in the future, the efforts of installers and other proponents will have to be more coordinated, the installers said.
"I think we'll have to be more organized next time, because the home builders, frankly, have a lot of money," said Dews a native of Avondale who recently moved to Scottsdale.
The installers said opponents spread misinformation, telling people that the mandate would require all homeowners to install sprinklers, when in fact the mandate would apply only to new construction.
Installers also complained that referendum opponents painted the installers as only being interested in the potential profit that would result from passage of the mandate.
While Cindy Sullivan readily acknowledged that business would increase if the referendums passed, she and other installers said that they support the referendums because of the live-saving benefits of sprinkler systems. The installers say they wanted to spread the word about how spinkler systems save lives--not only of homeoweners, but of fire fighter as well.
The cities' fire marshall and fire chief--because they are city employees--were unable to actively work to promote the referendums.
"The whole process has been an education in the political process," said Paul Adams, Fire Chief of Avondale.
Fire officials and the city councils in both cities favored the mandates. Both cities adopted the mandate earlier this year, and it was brought to a vote when the HBACA initiated a petition drive to bring it before the voters as a referendum.
Rob Antoniak, a Goodyear City Councilor, said city officials in both locations are discussing what, if anything, to do next.
He echoed other sprinkler proponents when he said that the mandate would have a better chance of passing when it's brought forward by the community.
"I hope this will get on theballot again, but I hope that it's citizen-driven," he said.
Cindy Sullivan of Trinity Fire Protection, said she's eager to begin the campaign anew.
"I'm ready to do everything in my power to get the mandate back on the ballot."