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Last-Minute Fliers for 3 Campaigns Outrage Foes

ELECTIONS / MAILERS

Materials stirring most anger involve proposed medical center outpatient clinic, Weldon Canyon landfill initiative and 24th Congressional District race.

March 24, 1996|KENNETH R. WEISS and CARLOS V. LOZANO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A flurry of last-minute political mail blanketed Ventura County on Saturday, drawing objections and outrage from opponents who say the fliers make dubious and sometimes erroneous assertions.

Of all the mailers delivered to voters as the election neared, the claims of those from three campaigns were particularly effective in raising the ire of political foes.

County Hospital

At least two new mailers from Community Memorial Hospital arrived Saturday. One claimed that east county residents might have to drive to Ventura to see a doctor if voters approve Ventura County Medical Center's proposed outpatient center.

Another contended that many supporters of the political campaign backing the project would benefit financially from the deal.

"It's a deceptive campaign being run by the big boys in L.A.," said Madge Schaefer, a spokeswoman for a group supporting the county hospital project. "Their attorneys are from Sacramento and their political hacks are from Los Angeles."

Schaefer said the fliers were an attempt to divert voters' attention from the fact that Community Memorial, a nonprofit, tax-exempt hospital, had spent more than $1.3 million on its campaign to derail the county hospital's proposed clinic.

"This is simply another ploy to try and hide their shameless spending," Schaefer said. "Every taxpayer who is sitting down now to write out their bill for property taxes should know that the glossy mailer that they got in the mail today was paid for with tax-free dollars."

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One letter that infuriated project supporters begins, "The truth is finally out on who is behind the effort to build a huge expansion at the county hospital with Measure X.

"We have just learned," the letter continues, that the majority of Measure X's financial contributors are county employees, investment firms and lawyers who would benefit from the proposed project.

Schaefer said the supporters come from a variety of interests who have joined together because they believe in the need for an outpatient center to help care for the poor. "There are doctors who practice at both hospitals who have given us money," she said.

Community Memorial claims in one political brochure that the county's project is not needed because "roughly 40 percent of Ventura's hospital beds are currently unused."

While it's true that local hospitals are not fully occupied, project supporters say the new facility is for outpatient services and would not add to the glut of hospital beds.

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Another Community Memorial mailer targeted eastern Ventura County residents with the question: "Do you want to drive 55 minutes through Ventura County traffic to see a doctor?"

The flier asserts that residents who rely on the public health system would have to drive to Ventura to get medical care at "this new centralized hospital expansion."

Actually, the county hospital operates satellite clinics in Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks that handle most medical needs. Those patients needing a specialist or hospitalization would have to drive to the county's medical center.

Weldon Canyon

Backers of a Weldon Canyon landfill initiative drew protests for distributing campaign fliers to thousands of voters that opponents said were filled with false and misleading statements.

One mailer, for instance, claimed the cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley, Camarillo, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Fillmore and Port Hueneme had all passed resolutions supporting the proposed Weldon Canyon dump.

But the mayors of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura issued a press release Saturday countering this claim.

"No Ventura County city has endorsed the measure," the mayors' joint statement said. Measure T would allow the development of the landfill between Ventura and Ojai.

Their joint statement said Taconic Resources, the San Diego investment firm behind the ballot measure, "made it appear in their campaign flier that several Ventura County cities had endorsed Measure T. That is untrue."

Taconic's mailer also states "it will cost Ventura County at least $3 million per year just to transport trash out of western and central Ventura County."

But, opponents point out, it says nothing about where the trash would be sent or how the $3-million figure was calculated.

"These fliers are filled with a bunch of hateful, mean-spirited pack of lies," said Chris Westphal, a member of Citizens Against Measure T. "They have no credence to them at all. It just makes me furious."

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A separate Taconic mailer distributed this weekend targets "Ojai elitists" for leading the charge against Measure T and scaring voters with claims that the proposed landfill is not environmentally sound. The mailer features a drawing of the tiny west county city with a wooden fence erected around it, with signs warning "keep out."

"Their song is NIMBY, NIMBY . . . Not in my backyard," the mailer says of Measure T opponents.

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