Going into the election for the parcel tax, polling indicated that a $200 parcel tax would be right on the cusp – it got to about 65 percent support, adding in leaners, which would leave it just short.
When we talked to Alan Fernandes a few weeks ago, he noted, given the tight timeline and the race that started polling right at if not a tick below the threshold, the key to the entire race will be the ability to do effective GOTV (Get Out The Vote).
“If we do this better than we’ve ever done any campaign, which I feel like we have a shot at doing, effective GOTV can move an election five to seven points if you’re very precise and targeted,” Mr. Fernandes said.
He explained that polling reflects people’s reaction at the time to questions and issues.
“What polling doesn’t reflect is GOTV and the ability of us to really target our support,” he said.
For him, it matters if they do a good job of identifying their voters and getting them to the polls.
“If we do that well, then I think we’re going to get that extra bump above what the polling reflects,” he said. “The kind of GOTV that I’m hopeful that we run here is akin to what you would see in a more professionally run campaign that Davis traditionally doesn’t have.”
In the absence of additional polling in local races, I look at other signals. The closest a parcel tax for the schools has come to losing since we have covered these was the 2011 Measure A.
That measure was racked with controversy over a letter sent out by the superintendent explaining to seniors how they can apply for a senior tax exemption.
Mr. Dunning wrote a series of very critical articles: “Now, if you’re raising an eyebrow about the appropriateness of a public official spending public money to influence the outcome of an election, you are not alone.”
Even with more opposition than usual and a series of controversies, the parcel tax measure passed – by a scant 67.1 percent of the vote. It would not have taken much more opposition to drop the measure below the two-thirds threshold.
Thus in order to evaluate the possibility that this measure will be defeated we need to look at three factors: is there controversy, is there organized opposition, and what do the letters to the editor look like?
So far, despite the fact that this measure is definitely pushing the envelope – in terms of adding $200 to the parcel tax on top of the $620 already on the books and the fact that it is going expressly for the purpose of raising teacher salaries – we are not seeing controversy in the community, there has been nothing negative to date from Bob Dunning that we have noted, and the opposition is kind of the usual suspects.
The ballot arguments against the measure have Thomas Randall, who has opposed every parcel tax, John Hoover, the President of the Yolo County Taxpayers Association, Katie Kelly, self-described as a farmer and parent, and Mary McDonald, a school psychologist.
The website they link to has ballot arguments against Measure H – the 2016 ballot measure – and articles about Jose Granda, then running for school board, but nowhere to be seen on this issue.
In short, there does not seem to be much in the way of organized opposition.
What about the all-important letters to the editor? Over the last few elections, we have successfully been able to predict outcomes based simply on letters to the editor.
Earlier this week, we noted the op-ed by Gregg Cook opposing Measure G.
There are six letters to the Davis Enterprise currently on their site, all of them in favor of Measure G.
We have a letter from a first-year teacher at Da Vinci: “As a first-year Davis teacher, I am strongly invested in the district I work for and the community I teach in. To me, a great school district means that the people I work for are willing to support me and provide towards my wellbeing. However, in Davis teachers are paid significantly less than the nearby Sacramento school districts.”
A litter from Ray Frank: “A town’s quality of life directly correlates with how well its children are supported. As a senior citizen who has lived here for more than 20 years, I enthusiastically endorse Measure G.”
A letter from another senior: “It’s simple: Our young people need and deserve the best education we can possibly give them. I will be delighted to spend a little extra tax money for proper compensation for the best teachers and staff we can possibly provide. Please, fellow seniors, join me in voting yes on Measure G.”
A letter from Roxanne Deutsch at Birch Lane Elementary: “Measure G will cost homeowners $198/year. The $3 million in revenue that this will generate has already been negotiated. The funds can only be used for staff compensation — teachers, nurses, speech therapists, psychologists, librarians, counselors and paras etc. The top four DJUSD administrators cannot receive any money. Exemptions are available for seniors and teachers, if they choose to apply for the waiver.
“Please vote yes for Measure G to ensure we can continue Davis’ outstanding educational legacy for future generations of children in our beloved community.”
A letter from a fifth grader: “My name is Payton, and I’m a fifth-grader at Pioneer Elementary. I really support what Measure G is trying to accomplish so we can give my peers and me a great education. Teachers are the foundation of education, and we don’t want to lose them.”
And another letter from a teacher at Birch Lane: “I have been a teacher in this town for 12 of my 15 years in education, and I love it. This is my dream job. The parents are invested and supportive, the students come to class fed, rested, and ready to learn, the administration is responsive, and the teachers are the best in the business. I wanted to work here because I knew that to be the best, I had to learn from the best. There are no ‘bare minimum’ teachers at my site.”
How meaningful are these letters? You might argue several are from teachers, one is from a student, maybe not representative of the community.
But that’s more important than you think – one of the reasons letters matter is it shows which side is motivated and which side is mobilized.
There has not been a huge range of difference in the outcomes of the many parcel taxes since 2007. We have seen at the low end 67.1 percent of support and at the high end nearly 75 percent.
That remarkable stability plays in favor of this parcel tax passing, because it shows that consistently between two-thirds and three-quarters of voters support the schools with parcel taxes.
But, as you know, the parcel tax doesn’t have a huge margin for error either, because of the two-thirds requirement. The one that came close was racked with controversy – controversy that we are not seeing this time around nor are we seeing as of yet any indication that there is opposition mobilizing.
There are still six weeks to go, but right now, I would lean toward it passing. Of course, things can and do change rapidly.
—David M. Greenwald reporting