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THE SPECIAL ELECTION

O.C. Voters Reject B, C, D and E

The measures, all on allocating public safety funds, failed. Firefighters sought a slice in one initiative; supervisors countered.

November 09, 2005|Jean O. Pasco and David Reyes | Times Staff Writers

Orange County voters clobbered four countywide measures Tuesday on how to allocate sales tax revenue for public safety.

But those in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa approved a school bond issue for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, with just barely the 55% needed to pass.

At issue for countywide voters were four measures that would instruct county supervisors how to spend the annual proceeds of a 1993 sales tax for public safety. The county now spends its share of the tax money on law enforcement.

Orange County firefighters wanted part of the money spent for fire protection, and they collected enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot as Measure D.

It would have diverted $7 million next year and grown to $43 million by 2016.

Supervisors quickly declared their opposition to the measure, saying it would force them to cut other county programs.

And they came up with three alternatives: Measure B to support the status quo with money going to the budget of the sheriff and district attorney; Measure C to give $10 million a year to homeland security needs; and Measure E to free up 5% of the tax for the probation department.

By election day, supervisors had distanced themselves from all four measures. The Orange County Republican Party opposed Measure D and urged voters in phone calls before the election to reject all of them. County Democrats stayed neutral.

The contention that cutting from the sheriff and district attorney budgets would harm other programs "was a compelling argument to us," county GOP Chairman Scott Baugh said Tuesday night from election headquarters in Orange. "Apparently, that also was a compelling argument for the voters of Orange County."

Orange County firefighters said they could not rally back from early absentee balloting that ran 2 to 1 against Measure D.

"Toward the end of the campaign we knew it was going to lose," said Dan Young, vice president of the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn. "This was about public safety but our measure got sandwiched between several others and the opposition politicized the issues."

There were only a couple of other local issues on the ballot.

The school bond measure to raise $282 million for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa passed with 55.3%, according to final, unofficials results released just before midnight. The money would be spent on rebuilding projects at several campuses.

Several thousand provisional and absentee ballots countywide remain to be counted.

In San Clemente, voters had six candidates from which to choose to fill the seat held by Councilwoman Stephanie Dorey, who stepped down in July for medical reasons. Businessman Steve Knoblock won. He will serve out the term, which ends in November 2008.

In La Habra, voters rejected a measure that would lower utility taxes in the city but also make those taxes permanent. The existing tax is 4.5% on electricity but 6% for all other utilities; the measure would have dropped the higher rate to 4.5% effective July 1.

City officials argued that they need approval of Measure G to continue collecting about $5 million a year in tax revenue, or 15% of the city's general fund. The taxes are now set to expire in December 2007.

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