Local Politics

Measure X campaigns off to a rough start

jsly@modbee.comSeptember 28, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Judy Sly
    Title: Editor of the Opinions pages
    Coverage areas: Local politics and government
    Bio: Judy Sly joined The Bee staff in 1973 and has worked in a variety of reporting and editing roles since then. She grew up on a farm in Oregon and graduated from the University of Oregon.
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Remember Measure T, the June 2012 ballot proposal to extend the one-eighth-percent sales tax for the library? More than four out of five Stanislaus County voters supported T after a grass-roots campaign led and staffed by volunteers. They started educating and reminding citizens about the value of the library more than a year before the vote. It was a textbook example of how to run a local campaign.

Now we have Measure X, another tax proposal. It proposes to raise the sales tax in Modesto by 1 percentage point to pay for public safety and other city services. Both T and X are tax proposals, but that’s where the similarities end.

The Yes on X people didn’t have a year to prepare their campaign because the council didn’t agree until early July to put it on the Nov. 5 ballot. That’s five months.

And the support for X isn’t coming from a wide cross-section of average citizens. “The Safer Stronger Modesto, Yes on X” campaign is being financed almost entirely by the two public-employee unions with the most to gain if X passes – and much to lose if it fails. According to the required campaign filings at the city clerk’s office, the Modesto Police Officers Association put in first, a $40,000 contribution in late August. The Modesto Fire Fighters Association Local 1289 contributed $53,800 on Sept. 6. Those two unions also are providing their offices for the campaign.

A handful of individuals also had contributed through Sept. 21, the deadline for the contribution report that was due Thursday. The largest was $1,000 from businessman Nicholas Bavaro, who is on the campaign committee. Two of the other contributors are former city employees.

At least the contributors are local, because the vendors that the Safer Stronger Modesto committee used through Sept. 21 were decidedly not local. The addresses were blocked out on the committee reports posted on the city clerk’s website, but The Bee’s senior researcher, Karen Aiello, tracked down the addresses. Here’s a taste of what the committee has paid out:

• Almost $6,500 for direct mailings to Admail Express Inc. in Hayward;

• $7,500 for graphics to Belaire Displays in Richmond;

• Almost $9,400 in printing to Lithograph Reproductions Inc. in Oakland;

• Just under $2,000 to a graphic artist in San Francisco;

• $2,500 to another graphics firm, Sphinx, in Berkeley;

• Just over $4,000 to Political Data Inc. in Norwalk.

• Two payments totaling almost $12,000 to The Lew Edwards Group consulting firm in Oakland. This is the same firm that did the survey that the City Council cited in putting this measure on the ballot, and, my favorite:

• A little over $11,000 to Stones Phones in Rancho Mirage and just under $700 to another firm, PoliticalCalling.com.

That brings me conveniently to the subject of phone calls. At my house, with two registered voters, we’ve gotten seven phone calls so far promoting Measure X. The first was a robocall from former Police Chief Mike Harden, who is heading this campaign effort. The second was a live person talking to my husband. Then last weekend, we had five phone calls from the same 415 number, only the last of which did we answer because we were weary of seeing the number show up. Who was it? A yes on X caller.

Had I taken the call, I would have peppered the woman with questions to confirm that she didn’t know Pelandale Avenue from Dale Road but my husband let her off easy and hung up. We’re not alone. A neighbor reported getting 10 calls last week about Measure X.

Harden told me by email that “The campaign vendors will include local printer, mail houses and others.” I hear that’s because the X supporters, including the mayor, have taken some criticism about using out-of-town firms so heavily.

Meanwhile, there are two small groups opposing Measure X. Former Mayor Carmen Sabatino and former City Councilman Bill Conrad are leading “No on Measure X, Tough Love for Modesto.” Its money report shows $600 in contributions – $100 from Sabatino and $500 from Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini – and $605 in expenditures, all for signs.

The other group opposing X is the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association. The two no groups aren’t working together, my nice way of saying they don’t get along.

Editor Joe Kieta and I met with Mayor Garrad Marsh this week, as we do every month or so, and of course I asked him his prediction for the Measure X vote. He acknowledged that he isn’t as confident as he was earlier, in part because the city has gotten a couple of black eyes over recent issues. Gee, I wonder what those are?

One thing is for sure, Yes on X is nothing like the true grass-roots efforts that succeeded with the library tax. Could X get as much or more than 80 percent of the vote like Measure T did in June 2012? No way. It will be lucky to scratch past the needed 50 percent plus 1.

A gubernatorial candidate from our area?

George Radanovich had a lackluster career as a congressman, serving from 1995 to 2010, when he stepped aside to raise his son as a single father. During that time, he represented the Mother Lode and part of Stanislaus County. On paper, Stanislaus had two representatives in Congress at that time, but county officials only relied on one, and it wasn’t Radanovich. Some referred to him as the “phantom legislator.” To put it politely, he was not perceived as a hard-working or particularly effective representative.

After he left Congress, Radanovich wrote a book and got involved with a conservative group called Restore California. This past week, Radanovich announced, by email, that he is considering running for governor against Jerry Brown next year. There are better known Republican possibilities, notably former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks.

Does Radanovich stand a chance? I won’t couch this prediction: No.

Another political party option

I’ve written previously about some of the young political parties trying to get established in our state of interesting ideas. Here’s another that is seeking to qualify: the Twelve Visions Party of California. I found a website of its founder and will simply provide an excerpt from his explanation:

“Whereas people’s wallets suffer greatly under the rising rule of man in America, the Twelve Visions Party sees a unique opportunity to arrest the rule of man and its suppressive ruling class in order to free the geniuses of society to make everyone prosperous, including the poor! Make All the People Rich, Including the Poor, the premier (and timeless) National Platform of the Twelve Visions Party, opens the mind-space to visualize a Twelve-Visions World.”

Got that?

Opinions Page Editor Judy Sly can be reached at jsly@modbee.com or (209) 578-2317. Follow her on Twitter @JudySly

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