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SMART tax measure backers outspend opponents 12-1

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  • 10/28 Marin IJ
    Published Saturday, October 28, 2006, by the Marin Independent Journal Rail line s big bankroll By Mark Prado Backers of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2006
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      Published Saturday, October 28, 2006, by the Marin Independent Journal

      Rail line's big bankroll

      By Mark Prado

      Backers of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit rail project have
      spent close to $400,000 to promote the train, compared with roughly
      $33,500 for opponent groups, according to financial documents filed
      with the county elections office and information from the campaigns.

      Measure R, which appears on the Nov. 7 ballot, asks voters if they
      want to OK a quarter-cent hike in the sales tax to fund a 70-mile
      rail line from Cloverdale to Larkspur that would cost an estimated
      $387 million to build. The measure will have to garner a two-thirds
      vote to pass.

      The "Yes on R" campaign had spent $397,585 for the effort as of Oct.
      21, fueled largely by big businesses. Rail opponents Marin Citizens
      for Effective Transportation has spent $27,560 and Citizens Opposed
      to the Smart Train Tax, Cost2, had spent $5,927.

      Fireman's Fund has been the biggest contributor to the SMART effort,
      giving $30,000.

      Jared Huffman, co-chairman of the SMART campaign, said large
      business contributing to rail means it believes in trains as a
      way to improve the commute for their employees.

      "Anyone with a stake in the North Bay economy realizes this may be
      the last shot at this as a transportation solution," said Huffman,
      adding the contributions also demonstrate employers would likely
      help with shuttles to get employees to and from the train.

      Projections show as many as 5,300 people would ride the train,
      although SMART's own numbers indicate only 230 riders taking the
      train into Marin from Sonoma during the peak morning commute.

      "This shows employers think the number of riders will exceed
      projections. The off-the-shelf model used to project numbers
      didn't take into account the conditions here," Huffman said.

      Mike Arnold, co-chairman of Marin Citizens for Effective
      Transportation, said Sonoma developers are pushing the train
      for financial gain.

      "Voters need to ask themselves why are Sonoma's largest real estate
      developers funding the Measure R campaign," he said. "No doubt
      they're trying to buy the election because its in their economic
      interest to do so."

      Huffman countered development in Sonoma will happen anyway, and
      that the train could keep it in the urban corridor, instead of
      having it sprawl countywide.

      Other top contributors to the train campaign include: North Bay
      Corp., a Sonoma garbage company, $25,000; medical supply company
      Medtronic Inc. of Minneapolis, which has employees in Sonoma,
      $25,000; Agilent Technologies Inc. of Santa Rosa, $15,000; the
      Northern California Carpenter Regional Council Issues political
      action committee, $10,000; California Association of Realtors
      political action committee, $10,000; LucasFilm, $10,000; Marin
      General Hospital, $10,000; and North Bay Construction, $5,000.

      The Sonoma County Conservation Action, an environmental activism
      group, gave $34,000 in non-monetary contributions.

      SMART has paid San Francisco-based campaign consultants Barnes
      Mosher Whitehurst Lauter and Partners $75,508 to work on the ballot
      measure. It has $57,282 in unpaid bills to the firm. Overall the
      campaign has a debt of $63,154.

      Among rail opponents, Peter Palmer of San Rafael gave $10,000;
      Marin Audubon Society, $7,000; and the Marin Conservation League,
      $1,000 to Marin Citizens for Effective Transportation.

      The group has paid $9,909 to Graphic Arts Management, $15,758
      to Mail Communications and spent another $1,293 for yard signs.

      Citizens Opposed to the Smart Train Tax, Cost2 has received
      contributions from Basia Crane of the Marin United Taxpayers
      Association, who gave $1,000. MUTA gave $300 and all other
      contributions were from individuals who gave between $100 and
      $200, including environmentalist and former president of the
      Marin Conservation League Priscilla Bull, who gave $100.

      MEASURE R TOP CONTRIBUTORS

      For:

      Fireman's Fund, $30,000
      North Bay Corp., $25,000
      Medtronic Inc., $25,000
      Agilent Technologies Inc., $15,000
      LucasFilm, $10,000
      Marin General Hospital, $10,000
      Northern California Carpenter Regional Council Issues PAC, $10,000
      California Association of Realtors PAC, $10,000

      Against:

      Peter Palmer, San Rafael resident, $10,000
      Marin Audubon Society, $7,000
      Marin Conservation League, $1,000
      Basia Crane, Marin United Taxpayers Association, $1,000


      Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@...
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