Public Comment

Commentary: ‘Push Polls’ Not Part of Downtown Association’s Agenda

By Mark McLeod
Friday April 28, 2006

I appreciate the Daily Planet’s interest in the fact that several merchant associations, including the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA), have been discussing the commissioning of a professionally created and administered survey of Berkeley residents to determine their public policy interests and preferences. 

The DBA’s primary motivation for conducting such a resident survey is to determine what public policies our associations can support which will increase the willingness and desire of this city’s residents to do business in our neighborhood commercial centers. 

The charge given the DBA by its members is to protect and nourish the downtown as a place to conduct business. We believe that such a survey could help us understand how to do this by giving us insight into how the residents of Berkeley want to address issues such as: 

• Ability of the xity to retain and attract business, capture a greater portion of Berkeley’s discretionary dollars, and generate sales tax revenue,  

• The future of retail development. 

• Development of multi-modal transportation, including parking, Bus Rapid Transit, and the BART Plaza redesign. 

• Population density along transit corridors. 

• The hospitality industry, including hotels and conference center. 

• Cooperative developmental planning between the city and UC Berkeley. 

• The maintenance of clean and safe streets. 

• The exit of some high revenue generating businesses, such as auto dealerships, from the city.  

The DBA is preparing to hire a professional survey research firm to conduct the survey. Over recent weeks, several of us brainstormed topics and hypothetical questions. We will rely on the professional survey firm to take our list of topic ideas and transform them into a coherent and informative survey. 

We have absolutely no interest in a “push poll.” It would be a completely self-defeating and financially wasteful exercise. At its best, a sophisticated survey is a tool that educates those who commission it. In contrast, a “push poll” is simply a piece of propaganda which accomplishes nothing for anyone who sincerely wants to learn more about their community.  


Mark McLeod is the board president of the Downtown Berkeley Association.