MEASURE M

By 2005, Orange County’s Measure M, a local ½ cent sales tax to fund transportation projects, was nearing the end of its authorized 20-year life. It was FSB Core Strategies’ responsibility to help develop the Measure M Renewal Plan and design and manage a public education campaign that ultimately resulted in the plan being placed on the ballot. The project entailed public opinion research including surveys and focus groups, earned media, coalition development, paid media and grassroots components on behalf of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

Working with the OCTA, FSB needed to design a renewal plan that would have broad public support. The Measure M Renewal Plan represented nearly two years of collaborative efforts by the OCTA Board, the 20/20 and Citizen’s Oversight Committees, the private sector and the Orange County community at large. The Plan emerged as balanced, inclusive, effective in delivering traffic relief and devoid of controversial projects that could have caused contention among voters.

During the Plan development phase, FSB conducted public opinion research to identify potential assets and liabilities. Research showed voters overwhelmingly approved of the way OCTA managed funds generated as a result of the original Measure M. Research also showed that voters, especially conservative voters, were not opposed to a tax extension. Because the Measure M Renewal Plan was not seeking a sales tax increase, but merely an extension, voters were potentially very supportive. In fact, focus groups continually revealed voters did not see the ½ cent sales tax as prohibitively expensive when compared to the tangible benefits derived from traffic improvements found throughout the county.

Once the Plan was developed, FSB moved into Phase II of the project which entailed a comprehensive and aggressive public education component. In order for the Measure M Renewal Plan to go before voters, a majority of Orange County’s individual city councils needed to vote to place it on the ballot. FSB had to communicate with both opinion leaders and the public at large about the contents of the Plan and the need for funding. This phase was extremely critical as FSB could not appear to be advocating for the renewal of Measure M, but needed to advocate for the placement of the Plan on the ballot.

The public education phase included meetings with elected officials from every city in the county, town hall meetings, presentations to community leaders, environmental groups and labor unions as well as earned and paid media activities. FSB educated the public about nearly 50 transportation improvement projects that resulted from the original Measure M funding, as well as educated them about the projects included in the renewal Plan.

Notably, FSB led the effort to incorporate and educate the public about the transit component of Renewed Measure M Plan. This included a significant expansion of the operation of Metrolink, and the “Go Local” program to provide much improved local connections to Metrolink stations. 

At the conclusion of this phase FSB had garnered a list of over 200 groups, companies, associations, unions, elected officials, environmental groups and community leaders that pledged their support for the Plan to go before voters.  All 34 cities voted to place the Measure M Renewal Plan on the November 2006 ballot.

And, while not directly relevant to FSB's public contract with OCTA, it should be noted that after the Measure M Renewal Plan was on the ballot, FSB was retained by the private committee overseeing the advocacy campaign for the ballot measure itself. FSB served as the lead campaign strategists and managers. In November 2006, Measure M was renewed by nearly 70 percent of Orange County voters.