Measure M Attracts $800,000, Mainly From Developers

Times Staff Writer

Major developers and other business people contributed more than $800,000 to promote Measure M, the initiative that would raise the sales tax in Orange County by a half cent to pay for billions of dollars in freeway improvements over the next two decades, campaign disclosure statements filed Friday showed.

Some of the biggest contributors giving $25,000 or more to the campaign for the Nov. 7 ballot measure were Barratt American Inc., Disneyland, The Irvine Co., Buie Corp., Fieldstone Co. of Newport Beach, J.M. Peters Co., Koll Co., Rancho Santa Margarita Joint Venture, Shea Homes, William Lyon Co. and Woodcrest Development Inc.

Most of the contributions were received in September.

The reports showed that Citizens for Yes on M spent $706,936 since January. Much of the money went to direct mail, radio commercials, production of advertisements, phone-bank planning and political consulting.


Those opposed to the measure--No on Measure M--did not file a statement Friday because they have not begun raising money for the Nov. 7 election, a spokesman for the group said.

Russell Burkett, a leading opponent of the ballot measure and chairman of No on Measure M, said he was not surprised by the $813,000 the other group had raised as of Sept. 23. He said it was his understanding that the group planned to raise $1.8 million to promote the half-cent sales-tax increase through direct mail, television and radio advertisements.

“They are great at shaking the tree, using a combination of peer pressure and fear to increase their bank accounts,” Burkett said. “It is a combination of developer and builder muscle combined with their subcontractors, engineers, designers who work on the projects. The subcontractors give to the campaign if they want to do business with the major firms. They are expected to fall into line.”

Reed responded that both large and small businesses were represented in the list of donors.

“It just isn’t the big developers and the big builders,” he said. “Everyone is concerned about Orange County’s economy. Transportation has to be expanded or the economy will suffer dramatically. If people can’t get to work it will be a problem for everyone.”

Under the measure, the sales tax in the county would increase from 6% to 6.5%, raising a projected $3.1 billion to help pay for a far-reaching, $11.6-billion program to speed traffic with wider freeways, more car-pool lanes and more streamlined streets, plus exclusive bus lanes and commuter rail service. The tax increase would cost the average county consumer about $50 to $75 a year.

Earlier this month, proponents of the half-cent sales-tax increase launched a radio advertisement campaign featuring 60-second spots on stations in Los Angeles and Orange County.

The ads urged listeners to return a questionnaire that only a selected few would receive in the mail. The spots did not ask for support of Measure M, but rather whether they would support a sales-tax increase if it was intended for transportation projects. It also asked the listeners what type of transportation projects they would support and how they feel about car-pool lanes.

Dana W. Reed, treasurer of Citizens for Yes on M, said fund-raising for the campaign was on schedule and that the committee has $106,000 cash on hand.

“I think it will be close,” Reed said of the vote, “but it will pass.”

In 1984, many of the same donors contributed to a $1-million-plus campaign on behalf of a 1-cent sales-tax increase for traffic improvements. Although public opinion surveys indicated that it might pass, the measure was defeated by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.

Proponents argue that this time will be different because the proposal involves half a cent and traffic is much worse.

Hoping to attract broader support than the 1984 ballot measure, Measure M includes provisions for a citizens committee to oversee spending of tax money.

To help get the Citizens for Yes on M started in August, the Citizens for Traffic Solutions--the main opposition to last year’s unsuccessful slow-growth initiative--loaned $200,000 to the Yes on M committee. Reed said the loan would be repaid if the committee had money left after Nov. 7.

The Citizens for Traffic Solutions also contributed $35,000 to the Citizens for Yes on M.

Burkett said the campaign for the sales-tax increase will not be won by money alone. He predicted that it would cost big business about $500,000 in advertising and direct mail for each percentage point of voters won. He said there is a 20% “hard-core” group that opposes the tax increase and nothing will change their votes.

Other major contributors to Yes on M were the Building Industry Assn., $25,000; Bechtel Group Inc., San Francisco, $3,000; C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, $10,000; CA Asphalt Pavement, $2,500; Far West Roofing Co., $1,000; Hunsaker & Associates, Irvine, $5,000; John L. Ginger Masonry, $1,000; Kidder, Peabody & Co., $5,000; Orange County Chamber PAC, $5,000; Rockwell International of Anaheim, $10,000; Roxburgh Agency Inc., $2,500; Security Pacific National Bank, $10,000, and Van Dell & Associates, Inc., $1,000.

Arnel Development Co. of Costa Mesa reported giving $10,116 in non-monetary contributions to Citizens for Yes on M. The in-kind contribution represented the time of one employee and office space. The Irvine Co. also contributed $9,000 in non-monetary contributions, representing the time of two employees and breakfasts.

Times staff writer Jeff Perlman contributed to this story.