A bid by the San Diego Association of Governments, otherwise known as SANDAG, the tax-financed public agency in charge of funding everything from freeway routes to trolleys and buses here, has run into some resistance in its attempt to boost San Diego County sales taxes by a half-cent on the dollar for 40 years.
Unlike previous campaigns for more tax money waged by SANDAG, well-financed opposition has emerged, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 coming up with $75,000 against the measure last month. Not that the pro-tax forces are without their own deep pockets, including the L.A.-based based Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Issues Committee, with $250,000, and $150,000 from Sacramento’s Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Collation.
Now, not wanting to leave any money on the table, SANDAG has tapped one of its biggest bus-service contractors, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Transit, which kicked in $25,000 to Citizens for a Better San Diego (Measure A) on October 18. According to the 2016 annual budget of the SANDAG-run Metropolitan Transit System, “First Transit has been a paratransit provider for MTS since 2000. Their current contract with MTS began on July 1, 2010. This contract, to provide transportation services to the disabled, has an estimated value of $106 million over the full nine-year contract term.”
The company has been in hot water for not paying its Pennsylvania drivers for all the hours they worked, according to a January 2013 account by Law360.com, forking over $1.1 million to settle a class-action case. “The driver alleged, among other things, that he often worked more than 40 hours per week while he was an hourly employee for First Transit, but was not paid time-and-a-half as he should have been for the overtime hours, according to the complaint.”
In May of this year, members of Teamsters Local 542, which represents drivers for First Transit, went on strike, settling a week later. Other recent Yes on A backers include Point Loma real estate mogul Malin Burnham, with $5000 on October 12, and $15,000 from engineering contractor Dick Miller, Inc., of San Marcos. Hawthorne Caterpillar gave $10,000 on October 7. Pulice Construction of Phoenix, Arizona, came up with $15,000 on October 2, and Carlsbad's Granite Construction gave $23,000 the same day. One mysterious Measure A contributor from Rocky River, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, gave $5000. Legally required information regarding the occupation and employer of Margaret Gallagher has been requested, according to an October 8 filing by the Yes on A forces.
Meanwhile, radio talk-show host Carl DeMaio, the Republican former San Diego city councilman who failed in his races for San Diego mayor and the House of Representatives, has been out raising money against Measure A, with mixed results. “Our campaign to stop the massive Measure A tax hike has booked ads to start running Monday, but we have a problem: we are still $6750 short of the funds we need to proceed,” DeMaio emailed October 6. The next day he wrote, “We still have $2825 more to raise to do these ads to defeat Measure A and the tax hike. Can you contribute anything to help us?”
Cash for the commercials is being collected by a committee calling itself Reform California, once known as Reform San Diego with Carl DeMaio. Donations include $500 on September 8 from Bazaar del Mundo, the Old Town shopping complex owned by Diane Powers; $1000 from Mission Valley jeweler Leo Hamel; and $250 from ex–Del Mar Fair board member Jan Anton.