Right before the June election, the campaign folks for Nishi started to get nervous – really nervous. The students weren’t coming out to vote early. As a big part of their strategy, student voters were expected to push the student housing project over the top.
As it turned out, students really didn’t vote in high numbers, but it didn’t matter. Nishi won overwhelmingly and, while people never knew if Davis would actually support a Measure R project, it was hard to imagine – given how close the last election had been and the changes to this project – that it could lose. But in those last weeks uncertainty crept in.
Flash forward now to Measure L. We have no past election baseline. We can’t measure early voting by students as a leading indicator and so there really is no good way to measure this stuff.
One of our commenters wrote this yesterday: “There will be a few seniors who vote for this that are looking to cash out and downsize, there will be 150 low income seniors who are high on the list who will vote for this, other than that I can’t imagine too many more people seeing this as a good project for the needs of Davis. I stick to my prediction of Measure L losing 57% to 43%.”
There is also the Pancakes and Politics straw poll, 2 for it, 10 against, and 2 undecided.
They conclude: “We weren’t sure if we should be suspicious or not of the developer’s true intentions, so we erred on the side of caution and mostly voted NO – if the developers really want this project to go through, they’ll try again next ballot season. Maybe with less sprawl, no Davis-only requirement and no age discrimination!”
Is that indicative of anything? Hard to know. It’s a 12-person, non-random, straw poll.
Every other objective measure I have at my fingertips says that Measure L should pass. Like I said in the title, if I’m going to be wrong, I might as well be very wrong.
I’ve been wrong before. I thought Hillary Clinton would be president. I thought Nishi was going to pass in 2016 (it was really close). I didn’t expect Gloria Partida or Brett Lee to finish first. But most of the time, my instincts have been right – even when I didn’t want them to be. (Don’t ask me about Tuesday if you’re a Democrat, or even about 2020 – not an invitation to talk about national politics, just an aside.)
The truth is – if there is a huge no vote out there, it’s just hanging out there and not passionate about things.
Let’s start with the money. The $145,000 spent by the developers here is actually not a huge amount by standards set by previous campaigns. And we expect the developers, with a huge investment and huge stakes, to have the resources to bury the opposition in terms of sheer money.
But what I look at – where is the opposition money coming from? All but $750 came in the form of loans. Alan Pryor, Pam Nieberg, Don and Nancy Price. The rest of the money came from contributions from five individuals: Kathryn Heien, Rodney Robinson, William and Kristine Hornoff and Richard Entriken.
Past campaigns have shown that money spent is not a determining factor, but the narrowness of the contribution base for the No side is still stark.
I then looked at letters to the editor. That’s free, right. Just type a letter and email it to the newspaper or the Vanguard. Since September 1, I hand counted 28 yes, 6 no. I might have missed a few but that is overwhelming. I don’t have past figures to compare it, but I can never remember such a lopsided differential.
Social media tells us a similar story. The Facebook page for Measure L has 309 likes and 329 followers. Not a great number to be sure. But the No on WDAAC side has 37 Likes and 42 followers. Given how many sponsored ads they’ve put out, you would think the page would have more likes.
On the other hand, the No on Nishi folks had 558 Likes and 565 followers. Granted, I think those were collected over the course of two elections, but it is still pretty stark.
And not much has changed. In May when the council approved the project, there were many people in favor of WDAAC who came to speak, with very few if any speaking in opposition.
At council meetings, we have seen Alan Pryor and Rik Keller a few times, we saw Nancy Price and Juliette Beck once, but no one else coming to speak out.
I noted that the forum by CivEnergy had moderate attendance, but most of them were in favor of the project.
Could I be misreading all this? Absolutely. It could be that there is simply no passion either way and that the default vote will be no except for a few seniors, as the commenter suggested. But, based on what I see, that’s not how I see this going.
I’ll be happy to come back on Wednesday with a column about how I was wrong.
—David M. Greenwald reporting