Democrats and Republicans in the Santa Clarita Valley have received official-looking "voter guides" from a business group urging them to oppose local school tax measures on today's ballot as part of their support for party candidates.
The Santa Clarita Residents Against Unfair Taxes, an organization formed by developers and realtors, sent separate red, white and blue guides to Democrats and Republicans--one suggesting votes for Democratic candidates, the other for Republicans. Both versions of the mailer then suggest that the party line is to also vote against the local ballot measures, which would require developers to pay taxes averaging about $6,000 on each new residential unit to finance school construction.
The mailers, part of a last-minute deluge of literature opposing the developer taxes, were criticized as misleading by officials of both political parties, who disavowed any connection to the flyers.
'Guide' for Voters
The mailers for Democrats and Republicans urge each party's voters to "take this card with you to the polls." Democrats are asked to support "our community's Democratic team," headed by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley for governor. The Republican "guide" urges "Vote Your Republican Team" with Gov. George Deukmejian topping that list of candidates.
At the end of the list of candidates on both mailers are recommendations against school tax measures on each voter's ballot.
The mailers report in extremely small type that they were paid for by the Santa Clarita Residents Against Unfair Taxes. There are no other indications that they were not official publications of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Neither political party has taken a position on the Santa Clarita Valley tax proposals.
Andrew Martin of Newhall, who serves on the state Democratic Central Committee, said he plans to contact an attorney to ascertain if "there are grounds for a lawsuit over this."
"I am incensed," said Virginia Bryam of Valencia, a member of the executive board of the state Republican party. "But I didn't know what I could do about it."
Jackie Haines of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee said political mailers that appear to be official voter guides are "definitely getting to be a problem because, unfortunately, they work."
Mailers Not Illegal
Such mailers are not illegal under state law as long as a sponsoring group is listed somewhere on the mailer.
Glenn Rollins, the president of the Santa Clarita Valley Board of Realtors who serves as treasurer of the Santa Clarita Residents Against Unfair Taxes, was unavailable for comment Monday.
Richard Wirth, executive director of the Government Affairs Council, the lobbying arm of the Building Industry Assn. of California, said the anti-tax group is composed of developers, realtors and "some citizens."
Wirth said developers were not trying to harm the five Santa Clarita Valley school districts by opposing the taxes.
"We need the schools to sell houses," he said. For this reason, Wirth said, the "voter guide" for each party recommends a "yes" vote on Proposition 53, a state bond measure that would provide $800 million in construction funds for school districts throughout California.
A spokesman for the five school districts called the developers' mailers "very well done" and said they could have an impact on voting.
"I've been in public education for 30 years and I have never seen any one industry methodically set out to really hurt the public schools like these developers have," said Clyde Smyth, superintendent of the William S. Hart High School District. Smyth also has served as campaign spokesman for the Castaic, Newhall, Sulphur Springs and Saugus elementary districts.
Smyth said the districts "have been trying to run an election with volunteers" while developers "ran a campaign with money."
The Citizens for Adequate School Housing, a group formed to support the taxes, has recruited 700 volunteers but raised only $3,500, its leaders said.
"We're trying to counter the mailers by telephoning every voter," said John Fuller, the group's chairman.
19,000 New Students Expected
School officials said they will have to build 24 schools at a cost of about $200 million to accommodate 19,000 new students expected to be drawn by housing development in the Santa Clarita Valley in the next 15 to 20 years.
There are two tax measures on each voter's ballot--one for the high school district, which serves the entire Santa Clarita Valley and one for the elementary school district in which the voter lives. In Proposition M, the Hart high school district asks for $3,439 per new residential unit in the Newhall, Saugus and Sulphur Springs elementary school district attendance areas. The high school district asks for a lower amount, $2,418, in the Castaic area because it covers fewer grades there.
The elementary school districts propose their taxes in a series of ballot measures, the amounts varying according to the districts' growth projections.
Proposition G asks for a $3,783 tax on new housing in Castaic; Proposition Z, $2,542 in Newhall; Proposition FF, $2,861 in Saugus; and Proposition HH, $2,000 in Sulphur Springs, covering the Canyon Country area.