Garcia: Governor polls follow the money 

When Attorney General Jerry Brown appeared on “Dr. Phil” the other day, I hope he got advice on how to cope with the spending spree from his GOP counterpart in the governor’s race. He’s going to need it.

Former eBay chief Meg Whitman already has spent more than $27 million this year — or $249 per minute — to distance herself from Republican primary opponent Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. And she leads Brown in two polls released this week.

The surveys suggest the June 8 primary is now secondary — Whitman’s lead over Poizner has grown to 50 points, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. That’s not a gap, it’s a canyon.

Democratic Party officials are complaining mightily about Whitman’s record campaign spending, and you can see why — it’s working. She spent $21 million on TV airtime and radio ads in the past few months and a quick glance at her finance report tells you why it’s so good to be a friend of Meg’s these days.

Whitman has spent nearly $375,000 on a single charter-jet company, which is twice as much as Brown has spent on his entire campaign so far. She has paid money to more than 70 consultants since she began running, and former eBay aide Henry Gomez is taking in $36,000 a month to serve on her staff.

Brown may have thought that he could coyly slip into the race and run the table, until he realized it was lined with dollar bills. According to the Los Angeles Times, Whitman has spent $358,439 each day, or approximately $14,935 an hour, in her bid for governor.

The eBay billionaire has contributed nearly $40 million of her own money to the campaign and raised $11 million in donations, and already has spent $46 million in the race to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who, by the way, just posted the lowest favorability rating in state history.

So is it money well spent? You don’t even have to ask Poizner, who thought things were bad when he trailed by 30 points in polls a few months ago. He can talk all he wants about her lack of “positive solutions” for the state, but the numbers for him are all negative.

Brown’s camp was banking on the idea of running against a relative unknown this year. Here’s about 500 million pennies for that thought.


Do you support city vehicle fee?

Local transit officials are spinning an inside poll that allegedly says San Francisco voters would support a new vehicle license fee to raise money for city transportation projects. And as someone who pays exorbitant fares for parking meters, garages and the privilege of owning a car in The City, I can tell you that it won’t take much of a campaign to toss that idea under the bus.

Officials with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority say as many as two-thirds of the respondents said they favored a $10 annual vehicle license fee, which would be on top of the one you already pay to the state.

But I’m willing to bet a quarter that support for the tax is about an inch deep and would quickly disappear, especially if the November ballot contains more local tax initiatives designed to wrest you from your money.

And that will almost certainly be the case if some supervisors have their way, since the idea of cutting never seems to get in the way of dealing with a $6.6 billion budget that dwarfs cities three times the size of San Francisco.

Just wait to see if city officials extend parking meter hours.


Salt-ponds development needs proper study

As a columnist, you realize early on that the readers are always right. I can’t tell you how many gifted copy editors I’ve heard from through the years, along with a host of would-be comedians.

But sometimes the true believers band together for a cause and don’t always let the facts get in the way of the story line.

That’s been the case for a number of people involved in the fight to stop a proposed housing development on some former salt ponds in Redwood City that has become a rallying point for a number of public officials who believe the project would be harmful to the Bay.

I’ve been getting a bunch of e-mails about a recent column I did on the housing proposal, which is the subject of an environmental review by the Redwood City City Council. And I do support the idea of studying the plan, but at no point have I ever said I support the project because it’s too early to tell what kind of impact a 10,000-home development might have near San Francisco Bay.

That’s why we need a study, and it’s curious that the main group fighting the project, Save the Bay, is trying to round up public officials throughout the area to try to halt an environmental report.

The salt ponds are not part of the Bay — state conservation officials have said as much — but you couldn’t tell that from the activists who contend it just isn’t so.


Comics event bringing certain air to The City

If your spider sense tells you that there are an unusually large number of geeks in town next week, you’re not bucking the conventional wisdom.

The wizards of Wondercon will be here in force, and by that we mean fans of comic books and action heroes and all that superhuman stuff.

And in keeping with the brave new world of crossover marketing, some of the publicists of the event have stumbled across a new tie-in in which you can not only find your inner nerd, but wear it as well.

Diesel has announced that it’s putting out a new cologne based on the new “Iron Man” movie, a “fragrance that celebrates bravery on the big screen.”

What, watches and action figures are no longer enough? Can we expect an aftershave based on the “The Incredible Hulk”?

Expect to see a few costumes around town next week — not that San Franciscans would somehow find that weird.

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Ken Garcia

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