Road tax backers dig deep for Measure S

Companies that might benefit from increased road work in Stanislaus County are contributing the lion's share of money to the Measure S campaign.

Businesspeople investing in the county's future also have been generous toward the effort to persuade two-thirds of voters on Nov. 4 to accept a half-cent sales tax increase for road projects.

Yes on Measure S raised $160,600 through Sept. 30, with at least $100,000 coming from road construction and civil engineering firms and related suppliers, according to finance disclosure forms.

The forms also make clear that supporters are relying on a San Francisco political consulting firm, despite strong wishes earlier this year by elected officials to steer the work to a local consultant. There isn't one in these parts with experience in the difficult task of passing a transportation tax, said Yes on S co-chairman Paul Van Konynenburg.

The campaign tapped the California Alliance for Jobs for $50,000. That group is a coalition of heavy construction firms pushing for public infrastructure investment.

Other donors with road-building stakes include George Reed Inc., Modesto ($25,000); road engineering consultant T.Y. Lin International, San Francisco ($7,500); Ross Carroll Construction, Oakdale ($5,000); transportation engineers Rajappan & Meyer Consulting, San Jose, ($5,000); Nexus Engineering, Mo- desto ($2,500); Calaveras Heidelberg Cement Group, Fresno ($2,500); Nolte Associates, Sacramento ($2,000); transportation consultants Gray-Bowen and Co., Walnut Creek ($1,000); and Collins Electrical Co., Stockton ($1,000).

Van Konynenburg and fellow Yes on S co-chairman Kirk Lindsey each donated $5,000 through their companies, Britton-Konynenburg Partners and Brite Transport Systems, respectively. Lindsey also is a member of the California Transportation Commission.

The company of county Supervisor Jeff Grover, Solecon Industrial Contractors, donated $2,500. He is a strong supporter of the campaign, officially named Citizens for Better Roads and Safer Streets.

Fellow Supervisor Jim DeMartini, a longtime Republican Party leader, contributed $5,000.

Additional notable contributions include:

$5,000 from 5.11 clothier Dan Costa, Modesto; Delta Sierra Beverage, Modesto; Pacific Southwest Container, Modesto; and Turlock Dairy and Refrigeration.

The California Association of Realtors' political action committee also gave $5,000. Two years ago, the group donated $25,000 to Measure K, a similar transportation tax that failed to capture the required two-thirds approval.

$2,000 from Jeff Arambel, Patterson; and Atherton and Associates, Modesto.

$1,000 from Bohannon Insurance Group, Modesto; Boyett Petroleum, Modesto; Gianelli and Associates, Modesto; Mark D. Nicholson, Modesto; Prime Shine Inc., Modesto; Storer Transportation, Modesto; V.A. Rodden Inc., Oakdale; and the Bank of Stockton.

Van Konynenburg has said the campaign ultimately could raise as much as $500,000.

Local firm sought for job

In February, some Stanislaus Council of Governments leaders railed on the out-of-town consulting firm that had handled the Measure K campaign. County Supervisors Bill O'Brien, Dick Monteith and DeMartini were particularly critical and demanded that the work this year go to a local company that would be more responsive to local needs.

StanCOG staff kept to that directive to design, print and mail two educational pieces early in the summer.

State law prohibits governments from engaging in campaign advocacy, though leaders may participate as vol- unteers. So Lindsey and Van Konynenburg took on the heavy lifting, such as mak- ing 40 presentations to community groups.

Van Konynenburg said he and Lindsey could find no political consultant in this area with a track record of success in special tax measures. Marian Martino, whose Modesto-based Martino Graphic Design spearheaded the initial education piece, including lining up a Modesto printer and two Modesto mailing houses, confirmed Thursday that she was not interested in the campaign portion.

Yes on S hired TBWB Strategies of San Francisco, which felt more comfortable with a Richmond printer, Van Ko-nynenburg said. The campaign lost a local mailing house just before last week's flier was sent, but went to another in Modesto, he said.

"Our first choice is always to use someone local," Van Konynenburg said, "but it's not the only choice. If cus- tomer service or delivery of a service is of concern, obviously we have to make a de- cision."

The disclosure form shows Yes on S paying TBWB $37,640, of which $16,160 went to Kirk Briggs Signs of Oak- dale for producing campaign signs.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.