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Voters OK Increase in Tolls

March 04, 2004|Kevin Pang | Times Staff Writer

Voters in Northern California approved an increase in bridge tolls and split on two landmark measures that had garnered national attention.

Mendocino County became the first in the nation Tuesday to ban genetically altered crops and animals.

Measure H passed 56% to 44% and was a victory for organic farmers in the county, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. Supporters said the victory would be used as a precedent by other counties.

"This is really a revolution that's spreading like wildfire," said Laura Hamburg, a spokeswoman for the Measure H campaign. "It's symbolic of the rebellion against corporate domination of the food we eat and the food we grow."

Biotechnology interests had spent more than $500,000 in opposing the initiative. Groups in nearby Sonoma, Marin and Humboldt counties hope to propose similar measures for their November ballots.

Contra Costa County voters narrowly defeated a referendum that would have banned stores larger than 90,000 square feet that sold groceries from entering unincorporated areas. About 53% of voters rejected Measure L, allowing the Wal-Mart Corp. to proceed with plans to build a "Supercenter" in the county.

The vote was considered a victory for Wal-Mart, which is facing opposition in some cities to "Supercenters." Critics fear that the Wal-Mart centers will hurt smaller businesses.

"It's clear that consumers do not want government restricting their shopping choices," said Peter Kanelos, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

Voters in six Bay Area counties approved Regional Measure 2, which will raise the cost of bridge tolls to fund mass transit improvement projects. The measure won, 57% to 43%.

Beginning July 1, tolls will increase $1 -- to $3 -- on every Bay Area Caltrans bridge except the Golden Gate Bridge.

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