The Mercury News recently reported on poll results purported to show that Berkeleyans would vote down new tax measures to fund infrastructure repairs.
I’d be very curious to see the methodology of the poll. The article doesn’t specify, but assuming this was a phone poll, it is important to note that such polls often leave out or under-represent mobile phones. Households or individuals who still have landlines are more likely to be property owners and typically skew older and more conservative–at least relatively speaking.
Berkeley’s Pool Initiative, Measure C, was up for a vote in the relatively low turnout June election in 2010, when the economy was even worse. Yet even this measure managed to garner 60 percent of the vote. No, this is not enough to pass, but it seems odd to me that a measure for pools (including an exorbitant sum for a warm-water pool) would get 60 percent of the vote, yet this survey projects that a similarly-priced measure for storm drain repair would fall just short of that, at 59 percent. This despite the fact that most people would probably regard storm drain repair as a higher priority than pool maintenance. Perhaps children’s use of pools or some other circumstance served to bolster support for Measure C, but I suspect that there may actually be some sample bias in play.
Additionally, the fact that Obama is up for reelection will probably serve to bring out students and minorities–groups that tend to be more progressive and tax-friendly, even within Berkeley. This is not to say that passing any tax measure will be a cakewalk, but I do think that the City shouldn’t be quite so discouraged. Either way, this is repair work that needs to be done to protect safety and property, and to prevent even greater costs in the future. Unless a viable alternative comes to light or the failure of such a measure seems truly inevitable, the City should arguably still put such a measure on the ballot.