Tuesday, November 09, 2004


POA spent $20,000 on "O", asks for donations

It looks like Santa Rosa voters passed Measure O last week. The ballots aren't all counted, but 34,970 out of 49,926 so far voted "Yes". The measure needed a 2/3 majority to pass, and that's 70% in favor.

So as many as seven out of ten Santa Rosa voters may be in favor of paying an extra 1/4 cent sales tax to support police and fire services. The rate is 7 1/2% now. If County Measure M also passes--which calls for borrowing against a second 1/4-cent sales tax surcharge for 20 years--Santa Rosans will pay another 1/2 cent. Everyone who buys taxable goods will pay $8 in tax on every $100 they spend.

A week after the election, I received a piece of junk mail from the Santa Rosa Police Officers' Association. It was signed by Ofc. James Camara, President, and addressed to "Current Resident". If they didn't send you one too, you can read their solicitation at this website: http://www.policedonation.com/santarosa/ .

The letter said, "Today we urgently seek YOUR generous support with our annual fund raising drive", and "Please HELP us TODAY!" It explained that "For over 30 years we have supported such groups as: Rincon Valley & Santa Rosa Little Leagues, SR Junior College Administration of Justice Scholarship Fund, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Arthritis Foundation, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America, Santa Rosa Human Race for Hope, Carol Sund Victim Relief Fund, Sonoma County 4H Club, Sonoma County SCORE, Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few."

The solicitation concluded, "Our community depends on your involvement." The letter offered a variety of premiums for contributions over $100, beginning with a badge-like lapel pin, and going to an "Angel Plaque" for $365.

The fine print on the return form says "This gift is not considered tax-deductible as a charitable contribution for Federal Income Tax purposes." So it struck me as a little fishy that the local cops were asking me to send my non-deductible donation to them, so they could give it to charity. I also found it suspicious that they claimed to contribute to the "Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce", because so far as I know, no countywide Chamber exists.

The letter also promised, "We are still fighting to abolish fraudulent TELEMARKETERS who misrepresent our association. Your support with this direct mail approach has been a tremendous help to our cause. Once again, please accept the enclosed support decal FREE, for being one of our valued friends. Be assured that all funds raised will be used solely to benefit the Santa Rosa Police Officers’ Association membership and further its purposes."

Well, that made me even more suspicious. I know that the real SRPOA belongs to the Sonoma County Alliance, so I went to their website here: http://www.sonomacountyalliance.com/members.asp?cat=5 , and got POA representative Eric Goldschlag's email address at the City of Santa Rosa. I sent Detective Goldschlag an email, and asked him to verify that the real SRPOA had sent the letter. He replied the next morning, saying they did:

"I appreciate you taking the time to verify our solicitation for donations. The mailer you received is from the Santa Rosa Police Officers' Association. Due to time limitations of our members, we outsource the mailers to a private company. This company made an error when they wrote Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce. The letter should have read Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

The donations we receive helps our Association. Not only do we help our members, but provide services and funds for our community. For many years we have actively funded a Boy Scout Troop, two Little Leagues and provided a Law Enforcement Scholarship program at the Santa Rosa Junior College. These are just a few organizations we annually support."

The mailer is pretty tacky, so I was a little disappointed to learn that the local Police Officers Association really did send it. But what bothered me more, was that the Press Democrat had reported before the election (10/30, "Sales tax measure gets final push"),

"Santa Rosa's police and fire unions have pumped another $15,000 into the campaign to pass Measure O, the quarter-cent sales tax measure that would generate $7 million annually and funnel most of the money into the two public safety departments. The Santa Rosa Police Officer's Association contributed $10,000 and Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 gave $5,000 over the past 12 days, according to campaign finance statements filed Friday.

The contributions bring the total donated by the two unions to the Rescue Santa Rosa campaign to $40,000, or $20,000 each. The unions, along with Christopherson Homes, which also gave $5,000, were the largest contributors in the latest round of donations received between Oct. 17 and Thursday."

I voted against Measure O, because the City Council refused to budget for police and fire services, and then had the gall to ask me to tax myself to pay for them. The SRPOA contributed $20,000 to support the measure--and just a week later, they send me junk mail asking for money!

(to be continued)

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