Record Gazette: Sun Lakes switches, other measures fail

 

“A new anti-tax group formed by local water commissioner Chris Mann may have helped to tip the balance against the Banning bond issue.

“We were a small factor, but that is all we needed to be,” Mann said. “The measure failed by only 55 votes.”

 

Mann said his group, the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association, consists of “about 20 members; we started with a small group of six and grew in size after some stories and running an ad in the Record Gazette.”

 

“Some of us are a little surprised by the margin of defeat,” said Bill Marchese, director of public information for Mt. San Jacinto Community College, which services the Hemet Valley and Pass Area. “We were expecting a victory.”

 

Record Gazette Logo

Sun Lakes switches, other measures fail

By Larry Rand
Record Gazette

June 9, 2006

Measure B, a proposal to switch the Sun Lakes Country Club retirement community from the Beaumont to the Banning unified school districts passed with a 62 percent majority in the June 6 election, seven percent more than it needed.
The vote was the final product of a Byzantine plot that had included Sun Lakes voters spearheading the defeat of a Beaumont Unified bond proposal; Banning’s unsuccessful attempt to take over all of the Beaumont school district between Highland Springs Avenue and Highland Home Road, worth $25 million in development fees over 30 years; ugly aspersions cast by both school district administrations at each other, and misinformation campaigns.

In the end, the residents of Sun Lakes repeated their record of getting what they wanted – out of Beaumont Unified, where they’re now outnumbered by families with children, and into the Banning Unified district that the retirement community may be able to dominate for years with its strong voter turnout.

Banning Unified could not muster one vote per student in non-Sun Lakes Banning to support its own bond proposal, which failed by not quite three percent – only 55 votes, due to extremely low turnout.

A new anti-tax group formed by local water commissioner Chris Mann may have helped to tip the balance against the Banning bond issue.

“We were a small factor, but that is all we needed to be,” Mann said. “The measure failed by only 55 votes.”

Mann said his group, the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association, consists of “about 20 members; we started with a small group of six and grew in size after some stories and running an ad in the Record Gazette.”

The apathy that engulfed non-Sun Lakes Banning in recent elections spread county-wide in the June 6 contest, with only 21 percent of registered voters in Riverside County getting to the polls. With a population of more than two million, the county has only 749,000 registered voters. The result of the Tuesday turnout was that eight percent of the county – about 165,000 voters – has determined the immediate political future of two million.

Two school bond issues and a library bond proposal failed to resonate with voters. The Mt. San Jacinto College district wanted to borrow $720 million for new construction, including a new campus in Banning; a majority of the district’s voters said no.

Some of us are a little surprised by the margin of defeat,” said Bill Marchese, director of public information for Mt. San Jacinto Community College, which services the Hemet Valley and Pass Area. “We were expecting a victory.”

The college was looking to construct a new campus on Sunset Avenue in Banning with some of the $720 million in the bond proposal.

“It will slow down our plans, but to what extent I don’t know,” Marchese said. “We could have started on it much sooner if the bond passed, but we’ll find a way.”

A majority of Banning voters favored the Banning Unified bond proposal, which was marketed as an effort to keep up with growth that so far has failed to materialize in Banning, where actual construction is almost nil. But the 52.5 percent majority fell just short of the 55 percent required for passage.

“I think locally that the hospital bond was a factor in defeating the school bond,” said Mann, referring to a $120 million bond to expand San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital that passed this spring. “Every election cycle we’re faced with more and more bonds; people are saying, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Pelton Teague, a Banning Unified board member, also wondered if voters are feeling overwhelmed by the number of bond proposals.

“It could be that people are getting overwhelmed by bond issues,” he said in a telephone interview on June 7. “Most bond issues on the ballot seemed to fail, so it could be an anti-bond movement. The hospital bond passed, but it was a special ballot. When you put a bond proposal on the regular ballot, it seems like a bad deal.”

Banning Unified board members were adamant that the district will try for another bond to improve antiquated and crowded schools. Only two of eight Banning schools are air conditioned, and many students attend class in portable classrooms.

“This wasn’t something we wanted,” said Banning Unified board member Amy Herr, “It was something we needed.”

Herr said she was saddened by the anemic turnout, less than half as many voters as the district has students, and that the campaign for the bond lacked some key facets.

“The key issue was that we didn’t have enough personal contact with people – face to face contact,” she said. We weren’t walking the precincts.”

School bond issues were successful in the NuView and Murrieta school districts, and Herr said she would explore how they convinced voters to pass the proposals.

The statewide push for bond money to construct new libraries also failed, both locally and statewide, where 1,865,583 voters favored the bond issue, but 2,104,230 opposed it.

Contact Larry Rand at lrandatrecordgazettedotnet  (lrandatrecordgazettedotnet)   or 849-4586, ext. 26.