Monday, July 16, 2012

Tax Measures Likely to Fail on November Ballot, Pollster Says

Tuesday June 5, 2012
By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group

The Berkeley City Council is planning two tax-raising bond issues on the November ballot at a cost of $52,000 despite polling data showing neither has enough support to get the required 66 percent of the vote.

"All of the city measures fall significantly short of the 66 percent they would need to pass," David Mermin of Lake Research Partners told City Council members at the May 29 meeting after conducting a poll of 400 likely voters in early May. The May poll and an earlier one that got similar results cost the city $40,000.

Despite that bad news from the polls, the council voted 8-0, with Mayor Tom Bates abstaining, to put a $20 million bond question on the ballot that would build one warm water pool and renovate another. It also voted 9-0 to put a $30 million bond question on the ballot for street and storm water system repairs.

The council will make a final decision on the ballot questions at its June 26 meeting.

The poll showed that just 45 percent of Berkeley voters would vote to raise taxes for a bond measure for streets and water system improvements. Researchers calculated that number has the "potential" to go up to 66 percent after respondents were given more "generally positive" information about the question.

"We asked would (the additional positive information) make you more or less likely to vote yes, then we calculated a potential yes vote," Mermin told the council.

Bond measures for the warm water pool and the renovation of Willard Pool fared much worse in telephone polling. A new warm water pool got 39 percent of the vote in the telephone poll while a measure to renovate Willard Pool got 46 percent of the vote. The vote on those climbed to a "potential" of 60 percent for the warm water pool and 58 percent for Willard Pool.

The two bond measures, if passed by voters, would cost average Berkeley homeowners about $95 the first year and $73 in later years for 30 years, according to a city report. Data on how much homeowners would pay to fund an additional tax required for maintenance and labor cost of the pools was not available.

Bates said he doubts either the pools or the streets measure will pass.

"I fought for the pools, I raised money for them, but the numbers are just not there," the mayor said. "There's nothing you can do about it. The overriding problem in this city are the streets and the state of our water system, and I would love to see higher numbers for them too, but they are not there."

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408.

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