WATERLOO - Despite a massive ad campaign by opposition, a majority of Waterloo voters said they want the city to explore creating a municipal telecommunications utilty Tuesday.
Unofficial totals show 7,730 voters, or 53 percent, favored the measure, and 6,836, or 47 percent, voted 'no," a victory margin of nearly 900 votes.
A companion measure to create an appointed board of trustees also carried, but by a narrower margin - 7.329, or 52 percent, voted "yes," while 6,838 or 48 percent, voted "no," essentially saying they wanted that responsibility to remain with the City Council.
Voters appeared to be divided by income on whether or not they supported the measure. It lost in every precinct in the third and fourth wards, encompassing all of east Waterloo and the near west side, in lower to middle income areas of the city. It also lost in two precincts in Ward 5 and one precinct in Ward 2, also on the near west side.
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In contrast, the measure carried the more affluent areas of the city, in the first and second wards in south Waterloo, by margins of up to 65 percent.
Proponents of the measure with Opportunity Waterloo, who launched a well-timed advertising blitz the weekend before the election, said the vote committed the city to no money but simply gave the community the option to establish the utility. Proponents saw it as a way to create competition with private cable and Internet providers and promote economic development.
Opponents, including the well-financed Project Taxpayer Protection organization and dominant local cable/Internet and phone providers Mediacom and Qwest, said the measure was a risky venture and a needless waste of taxpayer dollars when improved service already is on the way from private providers.