Council Looks Toward Spring, As Parcel Tax Numbers Look Bad

Community_PoolThe council now knows what it is up against and a public opinion survey that the city commissioned came back showing that the parcel tax fell well short of the two-thirds needed to pass it and, in some cases, support fell below 50 percent.

Councilmember Brett Lee continued to push for a $50 per year parcel tax that he thought could pass this fall. He warned the council not to conflate “need to have” with “nice to have” and asked the swimming community to wait six months and bring back the ballot measure for the pools in the spring.

The overwhelming sentiment by the council, however, was to bring back a discussion on July 1, looking to put a measure on the ballot more toward the spring than fall.

In a June 24 Memorandum to the City, the Godbe Research found overall that “residents have a highly positive opinion of the City of Davis, though satisfaction levels have decreased somewhat since the last Resident Satisfaction Survey in 2007.” They find, “An overwhelming majority of respondents are satisfied with the job the City of Davis is doing to provide city services.”

However, “The survey results also indicate less than 50% support for a parcel tax for the November 2014 election cycle.” They write, “After hearing a summary of a parcel tax measure that replicates the sample language that might be placed on the ballot, 47 percent of the voters surveyed indicated initial support (29% “definitely yes” and 18% “probably yes”) without any information other than the potential ballot question for a $149 parcel tax for 15 years. Furthermore, strong opposition was at the 44 percent level, which is a concern for any measure needing two-thirds (66.7%) to pass.”


Support for the measure increased to 58 percent at the lowest rate tested ($99) and opposition decreased to 34 percent. The 58 percent figure mirrored the support for the sales tax.

Parcel-tax-scenario-1 Parcel-tax-scenario-2 Parcel-tax-scenario-3

The city staff presented three potential funding scenarios which included various options and levels of support. The City’s Financial Advisor Mark Northcross made a critical early point – before we were even presented with the polling data – suggesting that the city’s best approach was to pick a level of funding that the voters will pass at the ballot box and then let the financial team figure out how to bond against it.

Councilmember Lee said that we have a long list of needs in this community, but we are not ready to put together a comprehensive list of needs for November. “I do think that we have talked about the road issue quite substantially, I think we are ready to put a roads parcel tax before the voters in November,” he said. “I think a parcel tax in the neighborhood of $50 a year over 30 years, would generate about $20 million according to Mark Northcross, $20 million allows us to frontload the road repairs and make a very significant investment.”

He argued that, at $50, it is small enough to leave room for further community discussion about a future comprehensive package of “nice to haves” to come before the council in the spring.

“I don’t believe that (discussion) can happen in time for November,” he stated. “And I don’t think we really want to mix the need to have with nice to have.” He added, “I would ask that the swimming community be willing to spend an additional six months… allow us to move forward with a roads bond, a very small, modest one, money only for roads, and then work together with other community groups to bring the nice to have ballot measure in the spring.”

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, “I brought up this idea last time of this Renew Davis concept that we need to think beyond simply our roads into other critical infrastructure that really form the lifeblood of this community.”

He has concerns that the polling shows that even a roads measure will have difficulty getting to two-thirds. “My concern about splitting them is that we’ll have had Measure O, we’ll have this parcel tax measure if we decide to do this roads one in November, then we’d be going back to the community for another revenue measure, conceivably just as large, I worry particularly about the community.”

Rochelle Swanson said, “I wasn’t talking about multiple measures… I think our community is burnt out.” She added, “When I was talking about doing it in early spring, I really mean early spring. So that we can have another polling done when we are more than 24 hours away from another Measure O vote. I do believe that that had an impact on it.”

She added, “I think that people who voted no in that poll after seeing the budget that passed and the commitment from staff that they are going to continue to look for another $750,000 in savings, I think that we need that break.”

Lucas Frerichs would add, “Timing for me, I’m not sure that November is really the best time. I think that a mail ballot in the spring is what I’m leaning towards.”

Council will make their final decision next week on July 1 when Robb Davis joins the council, but right now the passage of a parcel tax is very much in doubt, given the polling. The make up of that tax – whether it is a roads-only or a roads and pools tax – is still up in the air. And the council seems to be leaning away from November and toward Spring 2015.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. SODA

    Why the poor timing for the survey, right after Measure O election??
    And from the 3 scenarios presented, all have pool reconstruction? There isn’t one that is only roads? Their has been so much discussion this past week on the DV about roads VS pools that it would seem a roads only measure may have the best chance of passing..
    Am I missing something? Or misinterpreting the slides?

  2. Michael Harrington

    I am sorry to say, but there is a very deep distrust of the City due to numerous issues, including the water project debacles, rates, failure to cut enough in employee comp and benefits and retirement, favoritism towards certain well-connected employee groups, failure to pay for water and sewer services, mismanagement of road and bike and greenbelt travel surfaces.

    THe parcel tax came in under 50% ? Not surprised. There needs to be one mofe big haircut of city employee costs, and I am not talking about the rank and file who have already borne the brunt of the poor city budgets. Nearly every single business owner in town has taken huge decreases in income (me included) over the past 7 years, but the top tier of city employees have made it through pretty much untouched.

    If the CC handles this appropriately, I think a a spring tax meausre might pass, but the CC is going to have to start right away. Glad they had the discussion last night, and have a July 1 follow up.

      1. South of Davis

        Michael wrote:

        > there is a very deep distrust of the City

        Then David wrote:

        > The Polling didn’t bear that out.

        Did you see a recent poll that asked “do you trust the city?”

        It looks to me like more than half the city did not trust the city enough that they voted for measure P (and I can’t think of anyone who would say “I have absolute trust that the city is acting in the best interest of the people in Davis)…

        P.S. I bet David won’t get invited to the Aquadarts summer party this year with so many anti-pool posts…

        1. David Greenwald

          I haven’t seen the specifics, but the support for the city and approval is quite high. I have requested the poll and hope to get it in the next few days.

          I’m not anti-pool, just think it’s not in the first tier of priorities.

  3. Tia Will


    I for the most part think that your coverage of this portion of the city council meeting was accurate. You did leave out one item that I think should not be neglected. People have a tendency to look at poll numbers and interpret them so as to fit with their preconceived notion of a situation. What was missing from your piece was the public comment made by a gentleman who had participated in the telephone survey and whose essential point was that he felt that the poll questions were long, circuitous, read off by a woman who did not seem to have a from grasp of the intent of the poll itself and felt that the deficiencies of the poll itself were enough to question the validity of the findings.

    I do not think that this in any way means that a parcel tax will not be a tough sell, but rather that I think it is important not to put too much stock in a telephone poll that at least one participant felt was faulty in its execution.

    1. David Greenwald

      Well it is an interesting point T, I do have a different perspective. My wife Cecilia was one of the people called on the poll. I got a chance to sit in the room with her and hear her respond to the mall. She did not have the same problems as the gentleman who came and spoke yesterday at. In fact as I listen to him speak I wondered if he really understood what he was talking about. He talked about the need to have the polls not be on the phone. Almost all bowling is done on the phones and writing is generally frowned upon as it harms the randomness of the sample. Cecilia did not send out the problems that he had. So I wonder how much of that was the pool and how much was subject specific.

  4. Tia Will

    Yes, I also wondered while he was speaking if his problems were isolated or representative. I understand that much polling is done by phone, however, I am wondering if a more realistic sampling might be to do some by phone, and some electronically as the population changes gradually to this as their preferred means of communication.

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