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California Forever accused of deceitfully gathering signatures in push to get measure on November ballot

California Forever facing allegations of deceitfully gathering signatures
California Forever facing allegations of deceitfully gathering signatures 03:16

SOLANO COUNTY - California Forever is back in the hot seat, accused by city and county leaders of deceitfully gathering signatures in their push to get a measure on the November ballot, which the campaign is denying. 

The campaign is a billionaire-backed push to create a new city on Solano County farmland near Travis Air Force Base. 

The Solano County government put out an alert warning voters that it had, "...received multiple reports of voters being misinformed by circulators collecting signatures either with incorrect information or for a petition to stop the East Solano Homes, Jobs and Clean Energy Initiative," which is also known as the California Forever campaign. 

Fairfield resident Claudia Wilde says she was almost tricked at a petition table outside Target last week. She says a man first asked her if she was registered to vote in Solano County, to which she replied 'yes.' 

"He said, 'Oh, well do you want to sign these petitions?' I said, 'Well what are they?' 'Oh, it's for better roads.' I said, 'Better roads?' And he said, 'Yeah, better roads,'" said Wilde. 

Wilde says she asked to read the petition and it became clear it was actually part of the California Forever campaign. 

"You said, 'Is this California Forever' and he said 'No?'" asked CBS13 reporter Ashley Sharp. 

"Basically. Yes he did, he did not say, 'this is California Forever,'" said Wilde. "I said, 'This isn't right' and he said, 'Well, I love you anyway.'"

Wilde says she left the conversation feeling annoyed -- and she's not the only one reporting a similar encounter. 

"It's alarming," said Catherine Moy, mayor of Fairfield. 

Moy says she has fielded a dozen calls in three days by those who say they were deceived.   

"They didn't mean for that to be what they were signing. They were misled," said Moy. 

Solano County's Registrar of Voters says if anyone feels they recently signed a petition they did not intend to they can have their signature removed by filling out a form and mailing it to their office. 

"The way they came here so secretively, the way they changed their stories over time and now this? This? They are being disingenuous or flat-out lying to voters," said Moy. 

The California Forever campaign responded to the allegations by calling them 'misinformation' Friday night. 

"Opponents of the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative have been spreading misinformation regarding the petition currently in circulation that would qualify the measure for this November's election. This is an attempt by the opponents to prevent Solano County voters from deciding what future they want for themselves and their children," said the campaign in a statement to CBS13. 

The campaign says this is an example of the petition and this fact sheet spells out more details about the project. 

"The petition that Solano County residents are signing clearly displays the title and summary of the measure, as written by the Solano County Counsel's Office, as well as the proposed language in its entirety. The title and summary are displayed on every signature page, just above where any voter signs. The page clearly identifies California Forever as the funder of the initiative," the campaign stated. 

Sample petition to voters Source: California Forever

The community has been outspoken in its mistrust of the project for months. 

In a series of community meetings, California Forever has tried to change that.

"Telling the truth is not in your nature," one Vacaville community member hurled at California Forever CEO Jan Sramek in a crowded room filled with mostly opposition and some support for the project on Dec. 7, 2023. 

Billionaires bought up thousands of acres of land near Travis Air Force Base in secret over six years before ultimately revealing they want to build a new city there.

Now, they need more than 13,000 signatures from Solano County residents to bypass local rezoning red tape and get the issue right to voters in the November general election. 

"They need to ensure that their people working for them are doing things legally," said Moy. 

It is a crime to misrepresent the true contents of a measure while gathering signatures. 

California Forever claims people speaking out about this are politically motivated. 

"A small but vocal group of opponents are attempting to create confusion and prevent Solano County voters from deciding what future they want for themselves and their children. They will not succeed. We encourage everyone considering whether or not to sign our petition to read the fine print, ask questions, and keep an open mind -- and let the voters decide," said Matthew Rodriguez, Campaign Manager for the initiative.

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