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By Brian Hews
Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that opponents of the Pomona Measure Y Message Center Initiative, an initiative that would generate $250,000 annually to fund essential City services, including police and fire protection, street and park maintenance, library and recreation services, and other vital City programs, are sending out what amounts to outright lies to Pomona residents in an attempt to block the measure from passing, and there are strong indications that Pomona Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa is behind the movement.
8,500 Pomona residents, who read the initiative and saw its merits, signed a petition recently, placing Measure Y on the June 7 ballot.
If passed, Measure Y, which will allow billboards in non-residential areas only, would bring a total of $10 million to City coffers over the life of the agreement, with $500,000 paid upfront.
Sources are telling HMG-CN that Pomona Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa, who apparently supports an agreement that has expired under the law and generates zero dollars for the City, is behind the movement.
Those same sources are saying other outdoor advertising firms are behind Carrizosa and her attempt to defeat the measure.
Carrizosa has filed two Argument and Rebuttal forms with the Pomona City Clerk against the measure – the first volley of lies and falsehoods – all inexplicably aimed at defeating the measure. Two copies are below.
Calling the Measure a Tax
One of the most egregious lies claim that Measure Y is “a tax that will be imposed on Pomona residents.”
Measure Y is clearly not a tax, the advertising company, Bulletin Displays (Bulletin) entered into an agreement with the City voluntarily; an agreement that Pomona residents will vote on June 7.
If approved, Bulletin, at its own expense, will build 10 Message Centers in non-residential areas only, at a cost of $5 million.
Bulletin will pay the City $500,000 up front and a total of $10 million over the life of the agreement.
In addition, the Measure does not call for the City to spend any money.
Further, the agreement stipulates that local charities and nonprofit associations will get free advertising on the new Digital Message Centers.
The City of Pomona will also get free advertising for events and, in the case of any emergencies, Bulletin will post informative alerts for Pomona residents on the Digital Message Centers within minutes of the emergency, similar to the “Amber Alerts” seen on Caltrans’ message centers on Southern California highways.
Finally, Bulletin will also extend a 10% advertising discount to all local businesses, bringing more value added benefits to the City. The City will be able to attract new businesses with discounted advertising, adding even more tax revenue to the General Fund above what Bulletin is paying.
Yet Carrizosa continues to fight, and lie.
No Control of Content
Carrizosa and company are also falsely telling residents that the City has no way to control the content of the Message Centers.
The initiative specifically outlines strict content restrictions on the Message Centers and levies severe monetary penalties for non-compliance, as seen below.
The ballot measure states, “No advertisement on any new structure built under this agreement shall be displayed which would be indecent or obscene. The City may serve written notice and developer (Bulletin) shall remove all such advertising deemed offensive within three days or be fined $500 each day after that.”
False Claim of Overall Revenue
Another egregious statement claims that Bulletin will make “billions off the billboards.”
Bulletin’s CEO Mark Kudler told HMG-CN that the signs will generate about $3.4 million per year. “Those are the going rates in a very crowded marketplace,” said Kudler, “with the addition of our Message Centers, the likelihood of a rate increase is very small, and actually rates will probably remain the same for years.”
Kudler has pledged $250,000 to the City each year for a total of $10 million. That amounts to 7% of the gross revenues of the Message Centers, and does not take into account the free advertising that Kudler will give the City, local charities and nonprofits.
Lying About Message Center Aesthetics
Lastly, and playing on residents emotions and fear, Carrizosa and company are telling residents that the Message Centers will be “ugly” and cause traffic accidents.
“Not true,” said Kudler. “Bulletin intends to involve the community and art students to help them design message centers for the City. The Marketing Plan submitted by Bulletin outlines designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching but also extremely energy-efficient, utilizing state-of-the-art digital technology.”
Further, HMG-CN researched and obtained a September 2012 US Department of Transportation study that “indicated that there was no consistent evidence that electronic billboards present a safety or distraction effect.”
The study said that “drivers directed the majority of their visual attention to areas of the roadway that were valid relevant to the task at hand. When billboards were present the drivers in the study sometimes looked at them but not such that the overall attention to the roadway decreased.
HMG-CN spoke to Carrizosa last week who said, “She stood behind her statements, but did not want to elaborate.”
When pressed further on the statements Carrizosa indicated she “would call back with more answers,” but at the time of this article’s posting, she has not retuned the call.
Carrizosa Has History of Questionable Ethics
This is not the first time Carrizosa has twisted facts or circumstances to attain certain goals.
According to a report in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in June 2010, in a deal to maximize the benefits of Carrizosa’s pensions from the city of Pomona and the Pomona Unified School District, she convinced her colleagues on the Pomona council to let her resign her seat on the council on the same day she retired from the school district.
Two days later, the council appointed her back to her council position.
The purpose of the maneuvering was to allow Carrizosa to maximize her pension and, according to the web site PublicCEO, boost her salary from the city of Pomona.
Carrizosa was now due a much larger pension from her council service after her maneuver.
The article indicated she would receive more than $20,000 per year up from the $2,688 she was due, an increase of 735%.
Carrizosa acknowledged that her pension from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, will be higher because of her brief retirement.
“It will be a higher amount, but I have no idea what it is,” Carrizosa said. “I have not received any response at all. All I know is that they received my application.”
The Daily Bulletin contacted an “official,” who asked not to be named, who was in a similar position to Carrizosa’s upon retiring from a school district.
By retiring from both jobs on the same day, the higher salary of the two jobs will be used by both pension systems even if, in Carrizosa’s case, the day job pays in the neighborhood of $80,000 and the elected job pays $9,600.
“She’s very sneaky,” the official said. “I could have done the same thing.
But it’s not ethical.”
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