Berkeley voters are more likely to approve a bond measure on the November ballot that supports watershed management and clean stormwater issues, but few would be willing to shell out their hard-earned dollars for a new skate park. And they’d be more willing to add a $50 item to their tax burden than a $150 item.
That’s some of what the City Council learned from a voter survey taken mid-April by David Binder Research of San Francisco. Councilmembers discussed the survey at a workshop on Tuesday.
All the tax measures that would appear on the ballot, because they are designated for specific purposes, would have to receive a two-thirds vote.
Councilmember Darryl Moore, whose Southwest Berkeley district floods when it rains hard, told the Planet Thursday that he was pleased that it looked like people would vote for the watershed bond.
"Water rolls downhill – businesses have been flooded," he said, promising to "fight vigorously" for the measure’s passage.
Shannon Alper of Binder Research said a vigorous campaign could raise the affirmative vote by as much as 10 percent. He added, however, that "in the November election, it’s tough to get the voters’ attention."
When the 600 people surveyed were asked whether they would vote for a measure to increase the city parcel tax by $50 per year to improve flood control and water quality and repair deteriorated storm drainage systems, 59 percent of the respondents said they would and 6 percent said they were undecided, but "leaned" toward "yes."
Jo An Cook of One Warm Pool was less celebratory. The survey revealed that, asked whether they would support a bond to rebuild the therapeutic warm pool and renovate three existing pools at a cost of $30 per year for the average homeowner—one with a 1,900-square-foot home assessed at $300,000—only 43 percent said yes, with another 7 percent leaning toward the affirmative.
"I know that the survey doesn’t look good," she told the Planet on Thursday. On the bright side, however, she pointed to a separate survey question, which asked what people thought about constructing a heated therapy pool: 72 percent said they approved, if one includes the 24 percent that "slightly" agreed, she said.
Cook, 73, further conceded that mounting a vigorous campaign would be a challenge to the elderly and disabled warm-pool users. They would need the help of the advocates for neighborhood pool repair, she said. She said she continues to hope that the council will place the issue on the ballot.
The survey pointed to other issues important to voters: library renovations, improving disaster preparedness, emergency medical services, pedestrian safety, youth workforce training and eliminating rotating fire station closures. The survey showed, however, that two-thirds of the voters polled were not prepared to support any of them.
The council asked staff to come back May 6 with a proposal for a second survey that would give the council more information on what the community would be willing to support. "If we put on two measures, that’s all" the voters will pass, Councilmember Betty Olds said.
Staff had wanted council to be prepared May 6 to vote on which measures they want to place on the ballot, but several councilmembers indicated that they would want more time.
Councilmembers said they fear that if too many issues appear before the voters, the electorate will choose none.
Four years ago, voters shot down bond measures after a vigorous campaign by the anti-tax group BASTA (Berkeleyans Against Soaring Taxes). Barbara Gilbert, who works with BASTA and the Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, told the Planet Thursday that people do not want more taxes.
"I feel the city wastes money," she said, noting a 14 percent salary increase recently given police and fire over the next four-year period.
"There have been terrible land-use decisions," she added. "The city has subsidized developers." Gilbert added that many of the existing taxes include an automatic 2 percent yearly increase.
Alper told the council that the survey further indicated that combining various items into an omnibus measure is not advisable.