RM3 Opposition: Quieter Than it Should Be

Regional Measure 3 on the June 2018 ballot is in the same position as was Regional Measure AA in 2016 -- enjoying the strong support of large businesses in general and of technology giants in Silicon Valley and San Francisco in particular.  From the website of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group,

To assist in carrying out an impactful effort to pass RM3, the coalition has selected a seasoned campaign team, who recently ran the successful nine-county Measure AA campaign. Measure AA was a ballot initiative to restore wetlands throughout the Bay Area generating $500 million over 20 years for critical tidal marsh restoration projects around the Bay Area.

The campaign money being poured into promoting RM3 to ensure its success at the ballot box is as impressive as it was with Measure AA. Here are some figures from a Matier & Ross article in the SF Chronicle.

The Regional Measure 3 campaign — whose backers include Facebook, Salesforce, Google and a number of other businesses — had its informal kickoff the other day, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced her support during a “fireside chat” hosted by the tech-boosting Silicon Valley Leadership Group... So far, the campaign has amassed a $2 million war chest, including $350,000 from Facebook, $250,000 from Kaiser Permanente Health Care, $125,000 from Dignity Health Care and $125,000 from Salesforce.

As with Measure AA, passage of RM3 would greatly benefit Silicon Valley.  Measure AA promised to protect the South Bay perimeter against sea level rise, and RM3 promises to increase transit choices to Silicon Valley (BART to Silicon Valley).  Outlying counties like Solano or Napa might not benefit as much from RM3.  But even if all voters in several counties vote NO, RM3 could still pass, since passage depends on an aggregate simple-majority YES vote from of all counties combined.

So we have a measure that lacks equity, fiscal restraints, and perhaps the legal authority to call itself a user fee rather than a tax or to include an inflation adjustment.  We have big names like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Bay Area Council, and SPUR generating big money and good vibes for the measure, all while the article from Matier & Ross quoted above indicates "there has been no organized opposition."  Well, except there is some opposition.  The article does mention that U.S. Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and State Assembly Member Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) do oppose.

The projects they are talking about are all over the place and are based more on political relationships than on transportation engineering.  Mark deSaulnier

State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, is also opposed, largely because the measure allows for automatic toll increases in the future based on inflation.  “And they can do it without any vote of the people or the Legislature,” Baker said.

We cannot help but wonder why such big "power players" are willing to spend so much time and treasure on ensuring the passage of RM3 -- as they did with Measure AA -- if indeed "there has been no organized opposition." 

Maybe it is because they know other legislators besides Mark deSaulnier and Catharine Baker are questioning the efficacy and transparency of RM3.  This from another Matier & Ross article,

Even with the sweeteners, there was opposition from Contra Costa County, with state Assembly members Jim Frazier, D-Brentwood, Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, all voting “no.”  Frazier, who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee, said that while there was a need for transportation improvements, “adding another tax on commuters is not the answer.” He likened an $8 toll to “highway robbery.”

Or maybe it is because they know there is opposition from small players like smaller businesses that need to truck goods across California's state-owned bridges, or lower-income folks whose realities of life prevent them from taking public transit to and from their workplaces, or people who see through a poorly managed RM3 plan.  These smaller unorganized players are the quiet threat to the big and powerful.