Tuesday May 15 2012
Mysterious phone calls made in opposition to Measure E
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Political Action Committee made calls, too
Residents in the Placer Hills Fire District are reacting to a mysterious message from a woman encouraging them to vote against Measure E. The tax being proposed by the Placer Hills Fire Protection District would be levied on improved parcels with an assessed value of $10,000 or more. Single-family and mobile homes would pay an additional $79 per parcel, on top of the $116.16 they pay now, with costs for other types of structures ranging up to $158 per structure. Supporters of the tax say no one has taken responsibility for the calls. Members of the political action committee supporting Measure E say they placed phone calls of their own to all of the registered voters in the area hoping to correct what they say was misinformation in the recorded message. Placer County Office of Elections officials said there has been no documented group opposing Measure E, however a group in opposition wouldn?t be required under Fair Political Practices law to file papers with the office unless they spent over $1,000 on campaigning against a measure. Ruth Dalrymple, of Weimar, is a member of the district?s fire auxiliary. She said she thinks she was one of the first people she knows of that got the call the morning of Tuesday, May 8. Despite the pleasant demeanor of the message, Dalrymple said she is concerned it will cause people to vote against Measure E by focusing their attention on a $150 fee that will be assessed by Cal Fire on rural properties. ?It sounded to me like a young woman with a very pleasant speaking voice and her tone was quite charming and she was talking about not wanting to pay more on top of the $150, so she was voting against Measure E and encouraging me to vote against Measure E,? Dalrymple said. While she doesn?t agree with the fee that is being charged to help fund fire prevention services on rural properties, Dalrymple said the fire and paramedic services the local fire protection district offers are badly needed. While the new tax if passed would be a hardship on some people, Dalrymple said she believes the alternative could cost homes and lives. ?I think for some people anything is a hardship. We have got some elderly people who are on a very minimal budget,? Dalrymple said. ?The other side of the coin is they are the ones most likely to need that paramedic quickly.? Placer Hills Fire Protection District Chief Ian Gow said since property tax revenues have dropped, the district has had revenue shortfalls of $100,000 a year. One station may have to go unstaffed if the tax is not passed, he said. Gow said the calls opposed to Measure E came from a private residence in the Weimar-area or just outside of the fire protection district and he wasn?t sure exactly how many calls went out that day. Gow said the political action committee for Measure E went to work making calls, too. ?Our political action committee has called every home in the fire district and they are reporting to me about an 80 percent approval rate. They tempered that with it?s grudging approval,? Gow said. ?Nobody wants to pay an extra $79 a year, but they understand it is necessary to maintain fire services, so far we are hopeful.? When the Journal attempted to contact the number some residents saw on their caller ID when the phone call was received, it went to straight to the voicemail of an unidentified woman. Later, J.B. Stevens, a Meadow Vista resident, called back and said he was told by an anonymous person who paid for the woman to call voters in opposition of Measure E to return the Journal?s request for an interview. Stevens, a former firefighter of the Meadow Vista Fire Department, said the other people opposed to the measure are afraid of retaliation if they identify themselves. Stevens said if the tax passes, he will pay about $500 in fees to the department and is voting ?no? on Measure E. In the past, Stevens said volunteer firefighters with only CPR and first aid training were able to save lives, too, and doesn?t see the necessity of having paramedics on staff with the fire department. ?I will be $10 short, just short of $500 a year. Ian (Gow) wants a paramedic on every truck that goes out and I disagree,? Stevens said. ?Next thing you know they want a full-fledged doctor and take away the hospitals.? Matt Slusher, a station officer and firefighter-paramedic for the district, is chairman of the political action committee. He said he doesn?t know who is behind the phone calls opposing Measure E. The political action committee has sent out mailers to voters. He said voters should be aware that the $150 fee levied by Cal Fire will not help the Placer Hills Fire Protection District at all. He said he invites voters and residents to go to the fire station and check out the budget documents themselves before they decide how they will vote. ?All of those documents are public and they can be viewed anytime,? Slusher said. ?That really paints the picture of where the budget is at and why the need has risen.? Ryan Ronco, assistant recorder-registrar for the Placer County Office of Elections, said he isn?t sure how much it would cost to make automated calls like the one residents received, but if it were suspected that it was over $1,000, the elections office would forward the suspicions to the Fair Political Practices Committee for further investigation. Stevens said he doesn?t know how much the anonymous man who paid for the calls to be made to voters spent. Ronco said it is unusual for a group to take action in opposing a measure without filing with the elections office, but it does happen. It is not illegal unless a group or individual spends over $1,000 in their efforts. ?I would say it?s uncommon,? Ronco said. ?Usually though it is uncommon because the people that are involved have probably guided some type of measure in the community before and are familiar with the rules and regulations.? Reach Sara Seyydin at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.