The City's desalination proposal was eventually rejected by voters.
Paul Gratz, one of the leaders of Desal Alternatives, the group that defeated the proposal, recently wrote a letter to the Santa Cruz Sentinel that questions the transparency of Koenig's campaign for Supervisor:
"Manu Koenig claims transparency; however, when carefully reviewing his experience and record, there is a significant omission. He developed a controversial research project for the City of Santa Cruz by Civinomics, a polling and political strategy company co-founded by Koenig and Robert Singleton. In 2011, Civinomics was retained by the city to conduct outreach and marketing related to the proposed construction of a regional desalination plant. At the same time, opponents of the plant mounted a grassroots petition campaign to guarantee the right to vote on desalination. Despite City Council opposition to the campaign, voters overwhelmingly passed Ballot Measure P in 2012. Subsequently, the city decided to shelve desalination. Primetime TV ads, pricey signs and mailers, deceptive social media marketing, and anti-Semitic cartoons — don’t be bamboozled by Koenig and his supporters."
Civinomics/Greenocracy was founded in 2011 by Koenig and his partner Robert Singleton, who is now the Director of the Santa Cruz Business Council. Greenocracy's Twitter account describes the business: "We are a Civic Engagement Platform that crowdsources solutions to political problems through online voting. We believe in digital democracy." In November of 2011, Greenocracy shared a more nuanced definition of their company: "Our platform crowdsources answers to political problems through a user-driven, iterative gaming process that generates rich data for clients."
Greenocracy first advocated on social media for desalination in May of 2011, and Singleton wrote a pro-desalination blog post in December of 2011 (see photos). In September of 2011, Greenocracy was retained by the City of Santa Cruz's "scwd2" Desalination Program to educate the public on the proposed desalination plant. Greenocracy developed an iPad interview tool to conduct the marketing and community outreach campaign. The iPad wasn't just used to poll community members, it also displayed programming to convince individuals a desalination plant was needed.
After the results of the campaign were compiled and submitted to the City, the Desalination Task Force wrote on March 21, 2012 that, "the iPad interview tool has proven to be an effective method of gathering information because it serves the dual purpose of educating and interviewing people at the same time."
Also included in the materials presented to the City was an essay titled "New Ways to Engage the Community: iPad Tablets Encourage Input via Interactive Experience." which was authored by Robert Singleton, Melanie Mow Schumacher of the Soquel Creek Water District, and Mark Millan, of Data Instincts Public Outreach Consultants. The essay included a passage that described the function of the public outreach campaign:
"The City of Santa Cruz Water Department (SCWD) and Soquel Creek Water District (SqCWD), partnering together as scwd2, are considering seawater desalination as a supplemental source to their current water supply portfolios. Historically, the local community is extremely politically active. There is organized and focused opposition against the potential development of desalination as a supplemental water supply. From the agencies’ perspectives, most water conservation measures have been exhausted, surface and groundwater resources have been overtaxed, and reclamation has limited application; leaving few alternatives to the proposed desalination project. This intrepid resistance to a proposed project that has already undergone several years of planning and technical evaluation has sparked a heated debate within the community that is becoming increasingly more emotional."