People living in Stanislaus County have begun receiving publicly funded fliers on Measure L, a transportation tax appearing on the Nov. 8 ballot that needs two-thirds’ voter approval to pass.
Supporters, meanwhile, are making the rounds, pitching expected benefits – better roads, new highways and less traffic – to clubs and organizations.
On Wednesday, transportation leaders assured that outreach will continue by unanimously agreeing to pay a consultant an extra $200,000, on top of $150,000 already spent to get the word out.
If approved in November, the half-percent hike in sales tax would raise about $38 million a year for 25 years, or nearly a billion dollars in all. Thousands of projects promised by supporters can be viewed on The Modesto Bee’s comprehensive interactive map, which does not take a position, or individually at a Measure L website.
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Public presentations typically feature a short video clip saying the average driver pays $139 per year in gas taxes – assuming he or she travels 12,000 miles at 25 miles per gallon – but less than 7 cents of that stays here for local needs; the rest goes to projects elsewhere in California. Supporters say all proceeds of a locally approved transportation tax would stay here and could not be raided by higher government.
The new flier contains lots more data, such as $480 million to be raised for neighborhood street repair, $96 million for intersection upgrades and bridge replacements, and $48 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
The flier and video, by law, are supposed to be educational without swaying people to vote one way or another.
Whether you agree or disagree, you need to be educated.
Vito Chiesa, Stanislaus county supervisor
Vito Chiesa, a county supervisor and chairman of the Stanislaus Council of Governments, spent an hour discussing Measure L on the radio before Wednesday’s StanCOG meeting, and was headed out after the meeting to make another community presentation.
“We keep trying to send people back to the website to learn. Whether you agree or disagree, you need to be educated,” he said.
Scott Calkins, speaking during a public comment period, said, “Certain people in the community resent the fact that what’s being passed off as education really is advocacy.” An ardent opponent of plans for a Highway 132 bypass west of downtown Modesto, near his home, Calkins – who ran unsuccessfully for county supervisor in 2014 – said the tax would “transform land use” throughout the county.
Former Modesto Councilman Bruce Frohman also opposes Measure L, saying it would be fairer if government charged more tax on gas or vehicles.
“Whenever that much money is involved, corruption is sure to pop up,” he said in an email to The Bee.
In supporters’ corner are most elected officials throughout the county and its nine cities. They include county Supervisor Jim DeMartini – a noted conservative and local Republican Party leader who will host a Measure L fundraising event Thursday. For details, call 209-765-5851 or email former Modesto Councilwoman Janice Keating – also a staunch conservative – at email@example.com. Proceeds will go to a private effort headed mostly by local businesses called Citizens for Better Roads & Safer Streets – Yes on Measure L.
$38 million Yearly proceeds, if Measure L passes in November
Similar drives fell short in 2006 and 2008, the last by a sliver. This time, a larger percentage of money would be spent on local roads as opposed to new highways.
If Measure L passes, sales tax would go up 5 cents for something priced at $10, 50 cents for a $100 item, and so on.
StanCOG’s policy board on Wednesday also learned that putting Measure L before voters could cost up to $230,000. But they won’t have to pay an estimated $250,000 – as they once thought – on environmental studies, because documents approved in 2014 for StanCOG’s regional transportation plan will cover Measure L, StanCOG Executive Director Rosa Park said.
Public money spent on Measure L comes from the county and its nine cities.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390