.Disclosure Forms Show Backers on Both Sides of Rail Fight

By Drew Penner

At the same time county officials were preparing to announce whether or not the trail-only ballot initiative made it across the certification finish line Monday, the camps for and against were busy submitting their legally-required financial documents.

Greenway indeed secured the needed signatures for their ballot measure. And the disclosures, from both contingents, were revealing.

Of the $91,110.07 that No Way Greenway (the group hellbent on stopping the trail-only approach) received in 2021 for their defensive campaign, $72,000 came from just three sources—two couples and a former Friends of the Rail and Trail (FORT) board chair. If you add in the $3,220.58 kicked in by FORT itself during the calendar year, that $75,220.58 represents 82.56% of the total money contributed towards killing a trail-only plan for the former Union Pacific railroad line from Watsonville to Santa Cruz.

On the other side, a prominent self-driving vehicle proponent, a pioneering tech “evangelist” and the daughter of a Hewlett-Packard founder were unveiled as triumphant backers of the trail-only voters’ initiative—although the amounts average donors contributed tended to be smaller, suggesting theirs was perhaps the more grassroots campaign.

secure document shredding

Sally Arnold, the self-employed education consultant and former FORT chair, gave $12,000 total in 2021 to No Way Greenway. Dan Dion gave $20,000 and Jill Dion gave $10,000 by the end of 2021 to the drive to quash the ballot measure.

Retired civil engineer Mark Mesiti-Miller gave $15,000 total in 2021, while his wife Donna Murphy kicked in $15,000.

Meanwhile, Monterey Bay Aquarium Director Julie Packard, who is the daughter of Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard, gave $10,384.53, toward the $140,375.07 the “Yes Greenway” ballot measure push brought in last year.

James R. Swartz, the co-founder of Palo Alto venture capital company ACCEL Partners, contributed $5,000 to the ballot drive.

Now-retired Santa Cruz resident Patrice Boyle, the former owner of Soif Restaurant, donated $5,000 to the effort.

Aptos resident Jack Brown, a program manager at self-driving car company Waymo—who lists his occupation as the founder of Take Charge and GO, which is “dedicated to the new electric vehicle purchase”—put $2,724.55 into the 2021 campaign.

And Guy Kawasaki, who runs the Remarkable People podcast, and was one of the original Apple marketers in the 1980s (popularizing the term “evangelist” in tech circles in the process), gave $5,000 last year to the trail-only rail corridor idea.

Santa Cruz County Greenway Boardmember Bud Colligan boasted to Press Banner that their filing demonstrates the group has achieved a broader base of support and a greater number of donations in the $100 range.

No Way Greenway’s filing reveals it paid Santa Cruz-based Miller Maxfield, Inc. $7,500 for campaign strategy & website work. And it tapped Props and Measures in San Francisco—to the tune of $6,000—for additional consulting.

Yes Greenway, for its part, paid thousands of dollars to Sutton Law Firm, which is also based in San Francisco.

On Oct. 18, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission opened an investigation into FORT for potentially illegal campaign activity to do with their opposition of Greenway’s ballot initiative after the agency received a sworn complaint. That probe is still pending.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! This is really bad reporting! “the group hellbent on stopping the trail-only approach”?

    On the other side, a prominent self-driving vehicle proponent, a pioneering tech “evangelist” and the daughter of a Hewlett-Packard founder were unveiled as triumphant backers of the trail-only voters’ initiative—

    Come on, your readers would like unbiased news articles – not super biased articles.

  2. It does seem that “group hellbent” might display bias but overall the numbers do not display bias, super or otherwise.

  3. This article shows just a “bit” of bias… hellbent means being stubborn, rash, and reckless and willing to do anything to achieve a goal, no matter what the cost.

    The rail and trail plan has been in the works for over a decade… not really pushing it forward without regard for safety and such.
    The main backers for the No on D are left shrouded in secrecy for some reason, while each main backer for Greenway is given a glowing bio as to why they are outstanding citizens and such.
    A bit confusing in the middle when listing people for one side, then the other, then back again, and then back once more. Intentionally confusing? Could be.
    This article also doesn’t mention the $300,000+ in donations greenway has pulled in back in 2017, 2018, or whatever else was raised in 2019 or 2020.

    Pretty lopsided journalism, and not even discussing the plans, or what each side has accomplished.

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