SMART tax measure backers outspend opponents 12-1
- 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,
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
Fireman's Fund, $30,000
North Bay Corp., $25,000
Medtronic Inc., $25,000
Agilent Technologies Inc., $15,000
Marin General Hospital, $10,000
Northern California Carpenter Regional Council Issues PAC, $10,000
California Association of Realtors PAC, $10,000
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@...