Environmentalists didn’t kill Measure S

Analysis Updated

By on Wed, July 26, 2006

Source: San Mateo County Elections Office, Chart by Barry Parr
Precinct-level voting for Measure S and LCP candidates. LCP column shows percentage of votes cast for any of three LCP-endorsed candidates. Green boxes are the highest totals on Coastside and HMB. Red boxes are the lowest.

CORRECTION: These numbers are different as of 9am Thursday. The previous version understated the extent to which LCP voters voted in favor of Measure S.

Everyone has an opinion about why Measure S, the school parcel tax, failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote despite widespread support from all sides of the community. Although there was virtually no public opposition to the parcel tax, it received only 62.6% of the votes cast.

Some Coastsiders are blaming those we’ll call—for want of a better word—environmental voters. After all, environmentalists had been engaged in a bitter battle with the school district over Wavecrest for ten years.

This attitude was expressed most stridently in a letter to the editor of the Half Moon Bay Review: "the interests of our children have been the losers here—while the wetlands, the red-legged frogs and those who have their own ‘habitat’ and don’t want anyone else to have theirs, continue to build a moat around this community with the hidden message: ‘Children not welcome here!’"

So, who are these heartless monsters? Looking at the latest results from the county Elections Office, which includes absentee ballots, we found some surprising answers.

It’s conventional wisdom that as you go north on the Coastside, the population gets greener.  Yet Measure S won just 61.5% of Half Moon Bay, 63.2% of El Granada, and 63.7% of Montara/Moss Beach. The only two precincts that gave two-thirds of the votes to Measure S were in El Granada and Montara/Moss Beach. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect if you believed that Measure S was killed by some sort of green backlash.

It’s even more instructive to look at precincts in Half Moon Bay, because we can compare the vote for Measure S to the percentage of the vote in each precinct for candidates endorsed by the environmentalist League for Coastside Protection (LCP)—Grady, Ferreira, and Skinner. If the environmentalists were out in force against the school district and in support of their candidates for city council, you’d expect to see Measure S do poorly where the LCP did well.

Measure S did worse in two Half Moon Bay precincts than anywhere else on the Coastside.  It received a miserable 55.6% in Precinct 3322 (Grandview, Terrace/Silver/Highland, Hilltop, Pilarcitos Park, Chesterfield/Grand/Belleville) and 55.9% in 3321 (Casa Del Mar/Seahaven).  In the city council election, only 44% of the votes in 3322 were cast for the LCP candidates, the second-smallest percentage of any precinct in the city. The LCP received only 45% of the votes in 3321.

More significantly, Measure S did well where the LCP did well. The strongest supporters of Measure S in Half Moon Bay—with 65.9% each— were Precinct 3327 (Cañada Cove/Ocean Corners) and Precinct 3320 (Frenchman’s Creek/Naples/Miramar). These were the LCP’s two strongest precincts. They received a whopping 57% of the votes in Precinct 3327 and 53% of the votes in 3320.

It appears that what you’re being told ("Environmentalists hate the school board and therefore hate our children", or even more simplistically "Environmentalists care more about frogs than they do about children") is false.  And that the Coastside is a place like any other, where the environmentalists are ordinary liberals who would love to spend money on the schools and kids if only Proposition 13 would let them.  And the people who vote against money for schools on the Coastside are just like the people who vote against money for schools everywhere else.