Special Interests Funding Measure EE

Originally posted Oct 24, 2018, Updated Oct 29, 2018, Updated Nov 3, 2018

The Yes on Measure EE committee, which is pushing to build a Bonsall High School for 1,500 in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley, advertises itself as a grassroots campaign when it is actually receiving large contributions from special interest groups including sprawl developer Lilac Hills Ranch. Oddly structured as a 501c4, the Yes on EE campaign does business (attempting to convince voters to vote to tax themselves for 30+ years to pay for a $38M bond measure with a final cost double that) under the name “Safe and Strong Bonsall Schools”. It is estimated that, to build what BUSD has proposed, will actually take three similarly-sized bond measures. You can research its campaign filings via the Public Access Portal.

CalWest Construction ($3,000), Pardee Homes ($2,500) and Lilac Hills Ranch ($10,000contributed late in October 2018. Lilac Hills Ranch (LHR) has been a constant presence in the Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) high school saga. LHR interests contributed $27,000 of the $29,000 in the 2012 campaign for unification (expanding BUSD’s programs from K-8 to K-12). It was back again in 2016, contributing $10,000 for Measure DD and here it is again in 2018. LHR contributed $10,000 this time, with $5,000 of that as a loan. 

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Most of these Special Interests are members of CASH, the Coalition for Adequate School Housing. This is its logo, similar to the one being used by the YES on EE campaign. CASH publishes a newsletter called The CASH Register.

Escondido-based Erickson-Hall Construction, which is in the business of building brick and mortar schools, contributed $15,000 to the campaign. Not surprising, Erickson-Hall also contributed to BUSD’s $58M Bond Measure DD, which failed passage in 2016. DD was Attempt #5 by a school district to build in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley since 1978. The month after Measure DD failed, BUSD approved a construction contract, with Erickson-Hall Construction advancing the funds to build the high school, then leasing the building back to the District (Lease-Leaseback). The interest rate was 14.6% with payments of $300,000/month. After years of deficit spending, such a contract would have bankrupted BUSD. Thankfully, a CalTAN.org lawsuit resulted in the cancellation of this exorbitant contract and Board Members Dick Olson and Sylvia Tuckers started to ask the hard questions. (Amazingly, BUSD Board Member Timothy Coen publicly condemned the lawsuit, essentially defending the terms of this Lease-Leaseback contract.)

Urban Futures, the parent corporation of Isom Advisors, contributed $5,000. BUSD hired Isom Advisors to research talking points and write bond Measure EE. If EE passes, Isom will earn over $100,000 for brokering the bond in the bond markets.

BUSD’s Superintendent David Jones loaned the “Yes on EE” campaign $2,000, due December 1. Some of Jones’ staff have also contributed.

Jeff Johnson, the campaign’s treasurer, loaned $2,000 to the campaign, also due December 1. Johnson is also running a GoFundMe page to build a high school using the photo of the original Bonsall school house built in the 1800s. To clarify, this is an unused historical structure. BUSD’s high school students are housed in a brand new state-of-the-art high school which opened to great fanfare in the Fall of 2016.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians have contributed $5,000 to 2018’s Measure EE. Pala reservation residents are eligible to vote but do not pay property taxes. Pala contributed to 2016’s Measure DD and Pala Tribe Member Eric Ortega is running for a BUSD Board seat in this election. 

BakerNowicki Design Studio (BNDS) contributed $10,000. BUSD paid BNDS $181,000 for a selection of very basic schematic drawings in 2017. In May of 2018, BUSD approved another $242,000 for more BNDS design work, specific to the Gird Road site in Fallbrook.

Mark Dillon, an attorney specializing in environmental law and a member of the Building Industry Association of San Diego County, contributed $2,500 to the pro-development Yes on EE campaign.

BUSD Board Member and contractor Lou Riddle contributed $1,000 with a business check from Lou Riddle Construction. Lou Riddle is also running for the BUSD Board this election. After Dr. Sylvia Tucker refused to support Measure EE and raised concerns in the Village News about BNDS’s dated school designs, Lou Riddle and Timothy Coen, endorsed the candidate running against her.

Oddly we see no contributions reported yet from Timothy Coen but he is making phone calls to District voters.

The Yes on EE campaign reported it has paid out $10,000 to Terris Barnes Walters Boigon Heath (TBWB), a San Francisco-based firm providing strategy, direct mail, videos, robo-calls, websites and digital advertising tailored to passing bond campaigns.

We have heard the “Yes on EE” budget is a substantial $100,000 so we may see additional contributions from building contractors and developers. To date, about $75,000 has been reported (contributions and loans), about double what we saw in 2016 for Measure DD (which included a large contribution from sprawl-developer Lilac Hills Ranch).

Don’t be fooled. Big money interests are sending money in an attempt to pass Bond Measure EE, the sixth attempt to pass a bond to build a high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley. This is clearly not a grassroots campaign. This is big business.

Meanwhile, unable to pay for what the taxpayers have already built it (124 classrooms scattered from Oceanside to Pala), BUSD earned a spot on the State’s Fiscal Red Flag Report, along with two other North County school Districts: Oceanside and San Marcos. The State of California notes people are starting families later in life and having fewer children resulting in public school enrollment moving into a long-term declining trend. Add to this online learning options which are doing to education what online buying did to brick and mortar retail and it’s not a pretty picture.

While all this is going on, NOonMeasureEE.com volunteers are sorting flyers, making phone calls, walking door to door and replacing their stolen “VOTE NO on EE” signs multiple times.

NOonMeasureEE.com has a budget that is less than one tenth of the special interest-funded “Yes on EE “campaign. NOonMeasureEE.com is truly a locally-led grassroots campaign and they need your help. Please donate to them today!

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