News Radio 600 KOGO held a petition-signing event on February 5 as part of afternoon talk-show host Carl DeMaio’s Reform California campaign — an attempt to roll back the new 12-cent-per-gallon gas tax and up to $175 in additional auto-registration fees.
To bring people to the petition drive, for the three hours DeMaio was on the air, the Shell station at the corner of Palomar Airport Road and El Camino Real sold regular gas for $1.99 a gallon.
Even before the 16 low-priced pumps opened at 3:00 p.m., cars backed up for over a mile at each entrance to the Lowe’s shopping center — so much traffic that, as the show opened, DeMaio chose to not give out the address. “It’s on our website,” he told the Reader, adding that “angry voters” would find it.
Hundreds of motorists did find it. Halfway through the event, Carlsbad police told DeMaio that the event was backing up traffic at the Palomar Airport Road exit at I-5, four miles away.
“Thirty Reform California volunteers are working the waiting lines with petitions,” said campaign director Robbie Riley. All the motorists I talked with said they were first there to sign the petition. “The two-hour wait for cheap gas was worth it,” said Marie from Vista. “We’ve got to stop this legislature and the abuse of our tax money.
Station owner Les Koure said he’d lose about $6000 in the three hours. “This is important. Twelve cents extra means a lot to people,” he said. “It’s my way of giving back to the community.”
With oil companies controlling their dealers’ gas prices, Koure said he received no blowback from Shell Oil. “They fully support us today,” he said. Fifteen of his station’s employees were on duty to help direct traffic into the station and move cars to available pumps.
DeMaio announced on the air that his campaign was 84,000 valid voter signatures away from qualifying for the state’s November general election ballot. “Of course, we’ll collect much more than that, just to be sure,” he said.
Several of DeMaio’s on-air guests, including gubernatorial candidate John Cox, pointed out that gas taxes have been raided by state agencies. “Only 20 percent of our gas taxes go to roads,” DeMaio reported. “The rest goes to trains, buses, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It’s fraud.”
Governor Brown vowed, in a sound bite played by DeMaio, “to do everything possible to keep this measure off the ballot.”
The massive line of cars coming in from different directions did affect businesses in the center, with some restaurants and service establishments shutting down. The manager of Castrol Premium Lube Express closed his business but said he supported the petition drive. Lowe’s employees were in the parking lot to direct their customers through the crowd to available parking spaces.
“I’m just here for a Slim Jim,” joked Rich from Vista. His wife Karen said they’d save about $20 filling up their two cars. “It will pay for his Slim Jims, she said.