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Anti-Measure R Forces Say No to Recall Strategy : Politics: The grass-roots Committees of Correspondence votes to mount an effort to roll back the county sales tax to 6.5% in 1997 and eventually to 5%.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Instead of targeting elected officials for recall, a coalition of Measure R opponents voted Wednesday to try to lower the county sales tax to 5%.

The year-old Committees of Correspondence, a grass-roots group of 15 organizations from 77 cities and communities in the county, said merely defeating Measure R was not enough.

“If we can lower the sales tax, if it’s feasible, we ought to do it,” said Bill Mello of Huntington Beach, one of the leaders of the group. “The only way we are going to correct government is obviously to cut off the money it gets.”

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The group also voted to survey the wages and benefits paid to local and county government workers and compare them with private sector wages and benefits.

Wednesday’s vote at Orange City Hall came during the first meeting of the Committees since last month’s resounding defeat of Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase aimed at helping the county recover from bankruptcy.

The Committees helped lead the fight against the tax and peppered its campaign with threats that those elected officials who supported it could find themselves the target of a recall after the vote.

The group on Wednesday night temporarily abandoned its idea of recalling those elected officials who supported Measure R. Some of those often mentioned as potential targets included Sheriff Brad Gates, who served as the leader of the Measure R forces; Supervisor Marian Bergeson, county Auditor-Controller Steve E. Lewis, and any of the approximately 45 elected officials on city councils and school boards who voted to borrow money to invest in the failed county pool.

Mello said before the meeting that he would try to defuse any recall effort. There are more important things the group should be doing then focusing on the recall of powerful political figures who will face reelection in the future, Mello said.

Recalls are not only time-consuming, but costly, said Mello, alluding to the fact that the Lincoln Club, a powerful Republican fund-raising group, had recently donated $50,000 to the recall of Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), who has been targeted for allegedly conspiring with Democrats to become speaker of the state’s lower house.

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“That’s a heck of a lot of money for a grass-roots group that consists mostly of citizens who are struggling to get by,” Mello said. “If we had $50,000, we could put it to much better use than that. These politicians will be up for reelection and we will get them then.”

Along with campaign costs, a recall election costs the community--either city, county or state--an estimated $1 to $1.25 for each registered voter, said a spokeswoman for the county Registrar of Voters.

The group’s plan for reducing the sales tax would be to cut it to 6.5% in 1997 and then reduce it gradually to 5%.

“We think if the sales tax goes down, we would lure more new businesses to Orange County. The higher it is, the more people shop someplace else,” said anti-tax activist Carole Walters of Orange.

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