The coalition, which supported Alameda County's Measure B half-cent sales tax for transportation projects, believes that if voters pass Proposition B, the state will incur so much debt that paying it off will starve some of the state's most vital programs.
"If we don't fix our transportation funding system, there's going to be a massive destructive impact on education, health, social services and public safety," said Stuart Cohen, executive director of the coalition. "This (bond measure) means that in tough budget years, $1.4 billion will ... pave roads when we could have simply raised user fees on transportation a little bit to keep up with inflation and kept our schools whole, our health clinics whole and our public safety resources whole."
Proposition 1B has enjoyed overwhelming support from elected officials, from local transportation boards up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Political observers credit his working with Democrats in the legislature, like Senate leader Don Perata of Oakland, with the governor's return to the electorate's good graces this election year.
Other groups elsewhere in the state that advocate for the needs of minorities and the disadvantaged also have come out against Proposition 1B.
The Bus Riders Union of Los Angeles, which claims
500,000 Southern California transit passengers, opposes the bond measure because it would increase rail spending at the expense of bus service and foster increasing cargo shipment from Los Angeles' and Long Beach's sprawling port complexes, which would bring more pollution and congestion to disadvantaged neighborhoods, said its lead organizer, Manuel Criollo.
"L.A. has 8 million cars on the road. We need to discuss alternatives to the automobile," Criollo said, rather than simply building more highway capacity.
Another group, the Environmental Health Coalition, a San Diego group that fights pollution sources that impact poor and minority neighborhoods, also is opposing the measure because it would augment port operations that it says already cause too much pollution, said the group's executive director, Diane Takvorian. Proposition 1B is titled the "Highway safety, traffic reduction, air quality and port security bond act of 2006." If more than 50 percent of voters approve the bond, it would allocate $11.3 billion for highway and public transit project for congestion relief, $4 billion for capital improvments to public transit and intercity rail service, $3.2 billion to improve cargo transport on highways and rails while cutting emissions from goods movement and school buses, and
$1.5 billion for transit system security.
Despite recent polls showing flagging voter support for the transportation bonds, especially in less urbanareas, campaigners for the bond measure say they aren't bothered by the opposition.
"Our polling, and I think if you look closely at the public polling, ... it would all suggest that a majority of Californians support every element of the Rebuild California Plan," which consists of a four propositions aimed at fixing long-neglected infrastructure serving transportation, housing, schools and flood control systems, said Paul Hefner, spokesman for Let's Rebuild California, which is campaigning for passage of all four.
Bay Area transportation officials were somewhat dismayed with the Oakland coalition's opposition to the transportation bond measure.
"These guys are letting the perfect get in the way of the good," said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "There's a lot of good here, which is why the commission supported it. While there are better mechanisms (for transportation funding), that is not what's on the table."