Friday, March 23, 2007

Dixon Downs Voting Nears; Pace Quickens

Dixon Downs Voting Nears; Pace Quickens
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Campaign momentum is picking up the pace, with Dixon voters set to head to the polls in less than a month to decide whether a horse racetrack and entertainment facility should be built in the city.

Two opposing groups - "Don't Let Dixon Down," in favor of the track, and Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, opposing the project - are setting their campaigns at a gallop toward the April 17 finish line.

On that day, voters will have to approve Measures M, N, O and P - two ordinances and two resolutions - for the project to pass.

"It's an uphill battle," said Erin Lehane, campaign manager for Don't Let Dixon Down. "But we're gaining momentum."

Lehane and other supporters, including "Yes on Dixon Downs," a grass-roots group in favor of the project, are putting their best foot forward in trying to register voters before an April 2 deadline. New site maps of the project are hanging around all over town, giving voters a better understanding of the proposed location and details of the complex.

"Before, people didn't have a concept of where it is," Lehane said. "This way they have a different perspective."

The project, proposed by Ontario, Canada-based Magna Entertainment Corp., would sit on 260 acres in the northeast quadrant of the city, along Interstate 80 and Pedrick Road.

Don't Let Dixon Down, using $300,000 if its own money, given to them by the Pacific Racing Associa-tion, a subsidiary of Magna, used the money for campaign consultants, professional services, meetings and appearances and campaign materials. The group spent more than $6,200 at The Embroidery Shop of Dixon.

The grass-roots, "Yes on Dixon Downs," has received most of its campaign money from businesses and long-time Dixon residents including: $1,000 from Salaber Associates Inc.; $500 from Gordon Hammond, former president of the Chamber of Commerce; $500 from Helmut Sommer; $500 from Realtor Kevin Johnson, $100 from Jill Orr, former City Councilwoman; and $100 from Ken Mistler, former City Councilman. The group spent the majority of its money on yard signs.

Recently the proponents of the track said they felt the mood of the people shift, with a lawsuit dropped by the Campbell Soup Co. and an endorsement from the Dixon Professional Firefighters Association, a first for the group.

"We seem to have different ideas of what opportunity is," Lehane said. "We seem to have taken away some of the substance of our opposition."

The opposition, however, is moving forward with its campaign as well.

Not wanting to reveal too much about their plans, Ada Preston, a member of Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, said they're still making phone calls and visiting door-to-door, as in previous months.

A recent mailer was sent out to residents that said, "Don't Gamble with Dixon's future."

"We're very encouraged," she said. 'We have our plan in place."

Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth has received more than $9,000 this year for its campaign efforts, bringing the total income to more than $16,500. Planning Commissioner Kay Fulfs Cayler and her husband Russ gave $500; residents Jack and Janet Mueller gave $300; residents Thomas J Ruppel and Nancy K. Clark together gave $1,000 and the Sierra Club gave $1,000. The majority of the group's funds were spent on mailers and yard signs.

Gail Preston, Ada's husband, explained that the April 17 vote boils down to what people want for Dixon's future.

"Do you want to be the 'destination center' they advertised or the one you grew up in," Gail asked.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome before the vote, according to supporters of the track, is battling confusion.

"Confusion is our obstacle, not theirs," Lehane said. "If one measure doesn't pass the whole project fails."

Lehane understands there seems to be a lot of fear about the project, but she reassures voters to not be scared, but to "have hope and not fear."

To some, the project does bring the fear of losing Dixon's quality of life.

"We're too small of a town," Ada Preston said. "We want to protect the quality of life, we'll grow just fine without them."

In the end, when all the votes have been counted, Magna and Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth agreed to abide by the vote.

Lehane said if the project doesn't pass, Magna will pack up and move, since there are numerous cities making invitations.

Gail, expecting a battle with Magna even if his side wins the election, was pleased to hear that Magna would be willing to concede if they lost.

"We'll just have to wait and see," he said.

In weeks to come, Dennis Mills, vice chairman of Magna, hopes to reveal a plan that addresses problem gambling and a mural of a horse race that will be displayed in town.

Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, on the other hand, will be sending out more information in the mail.

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

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