Measure T foes regrouping as election nears Tunnel initiative opponents report $31,500 in campaign debts

Half Moon Bay Review, Oct. 16, 1996

By Eric Rice

With one political action committee $31,500 in debt, opponents of Measure T, the Devil's Slide tunnel initiative, have formed a new PAC and are trying to re-energize flagging fund-raising efforts.

Ed Stoehr, spokesman for the new Coastsiders for a Solution - Not Roadblocks, said the group has raised about $12,000 in the past week, most of it from businesses and building-related associations.

"Our goals remain the same," Stoehr stated. "We'll continue to educate voters about this misleading initiative to ensure that they read the fine print. . . . Unfortunately, the only thing Measure T does is guarantee endless delays and disaster for Coastside residents and business.

"We're going to fight the issue as best we can," he added.

But John Barbour, head of the now-defunct Citizens for Solutions - Not Roadblocks, said he quit the campaign out of frustration over an inability to raise more money. He said he now doubts Measure T can be defeated.

"It's very difficult for me to see how the no on Measure T side can win," said Barbour, owner of the Moss Beach Distillery.

Zoe Kersteen-Tucker, spokeswoman for Save Our Coast and Citizens Alliance for the Tunnel Solution, Highway 1, said she still takes any opposition seriously.

"I feel very strongly that we need to continue our efforts through to the end of the campaign to win this," she said.

She noted that Stoehr's group has "dropped the ruse" of supporting any permanent repair of Highway 1 as long as it is funded and has "started advocating the bypass. . . . Their true colors are showing."

Measure T would designate a tunnel through San Pedro Mountain as the preferred permanent repair of Highway 1 at Devil's Slide instead of the overland Martini Creek Bypass.

In a campaign spending report filed last week for the period of July 1 to Sept. 30, Barbour's group recorded $89,476.52 in contributions and $101,058.63 in expenditures. It also reported $31,519.58 in outstanding debts.

Barbour said that at the beginning of the campaign it was decided that $500,000 - $2 per registered voter - would be needed by the group to adequately communicate its position.

In anticipation of raising that money, the group began incurring heavy expenses. It solicited legal fees to determine whether Measure T could be struck down in the courts and were told the measure is legal, and that it would likely hold up in court if challenged. They also spent thousands on "research to find out what's on the voters' minds."

"We did focus groups," Barbour said. "We went at it very professionally. When the money was not forthcoming, that left us high and dry.

"Small business people are not giving, and then they (will) pay the price 10 times later," he added.

"I think we were unsuccessful in convincing people the danger is as serious as we see it."

The bulk of contributions came from business and development interests. The Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, Local 467, owners of the Half Moon Bay Golf Links and the South Wavecrest golf and residential development, gave $25,000. Ocean Colony Partners, a limited partnership that includes the plumbers union, contributed $10,000.

Other contributors included Barbour's own Moss Beach Distillery ($10,000), the Miramar Beach Restaurant ($5,000), and Seaview Development Co., builders of the controversial Conservatory condominium/hotel project ($10,000). Several out-of-town development groups also contributed. The Pipe Trades Association of Vallejo gave $10,000, and the California Alliance for Jobs, based in Oakland, contributed $10,326.52 worth of printing and advertising production services.

Among committee payments Barbour listed was $7,888.50 to his restaurant. He said that money went to restaurant employees who had worked on the campaign in various capacities and that he received none of it. The committee's unpaid bills are to three San Francisco consulting firms - $11,139.58 to Bagatelos & Fadem, $6,036 to GLS Research, and $13,032 to The PBN Company _ and $1,312 to Los Angeles resident Taylor Fleming.

The committee headed by Stoehr is focusing on recruiting San Mateo County residents for the last three weeks before the election. Coastsiders for a Solution _ Not Roadblocks is comprised of about 30 individuals, about half of whom devote four or five hours a week on the campaign, Stoehr said.

"We're not going to have a debt when we're done," said Stoehr, an unsuccessful candidate for Half Moon Bay City Council last fall. "Nobody's spending full time on this issue."

Barbour has dropped out of the no on T campaign, but he said recent information on the cost of a bypass vs. a tunnel has not changed his mind because the issue of funding for a tunnel remains unresolved. He does, however, see "hope that a tunnel is possible" because the two estimates are close.

Stoehr remains unconvinced, and believes the emphasis by environmentalists on a tunnel is merely a stalling tactic.

He pointed out that no opposition was raised last week to news that the tunnel would destroy wetlands on Shamrock Ranch where the red-legged frog lives. New wetlands would be created nearby.

"These are not environmentalists," Stoehr said. "They are no-growth. They want to take away property rights."

Half Moon Bay Review