The ballot measure that went as expected was Measure Q—in fact, overwhelmingly so. Measure Q kept the current one percent sales tax in place, and made it so that the tax did not expire. The measure that only required 50 percent plus one of the vote passed with nearly 80 percent support.
Given how large a margin the measure won by, our question has been was it a mistake to not ask for an increase?
“I don’t think so,” Councilmember Dan Carson, who helped spearhead the effort to pass the sales tax renewal. He noted the early polls showing 70 percent support for the renewal, but said that consultants warned him “that any poll was a point in time measurement,” and that polling didn’t take into account that there would be three other tax and bond measures on the same ballot.
He added, “We didn’t know what the condition of the economy was going to be in March.” They never thought it would be a recession, but they thought that it was entirely possible there would be fear of recession.
“This was a classic case where the stakes were so high, so incredibly high, for us to secure our base funding,” he said. He acknowledged a long-term funding problem, but argued that gave them time to address the other financial matters with smart budgeting and economic development. “If we blew this one, and had $9 million in budget cuts to make, that would have been an absolute disaster for the city.”
Dan Carson also said that they put forth a tremendous effort to get this passed and the vote margin, in his view, reflects it.
“We took this extremely seriously,” he said. “It was completely different than some people argued would happen in 2018.”
He said that he knew, whatever happened, he would be criticized. “If we lost, we would be criticized for running a bad campaign.” On the other hand, if they under-performed the original poll margin, “We would be criticized for that.”
And he said if they over-performed the original 70 percent poll margin, “We would be criticized because, we should have asked for more money.”
Around town, Dan Carson said he heard mostly positivity as reflected in the EMC poll from 2019.
“If you looked at the EMC poll, it showed that you were in the real world,” he said. People were affected by the downtown parking issue and the problems stemming from the Mace traffic situation.
“What you also saw was that the vast majority of the folks were happy with the quality of the city services that they’re getting and they’re happy with the quality of life here,” he said. “That’s why people signed up. We made it a quality of life argument.”
He said the campaign strategy was to emphasize a positive approach. “If you want all these nice things.. we have to keep this tax going,” he said. From what he saw, “That message was well-received by Davis residents.”
There were also folks unhappy with roads and commentary about that issue.
Looking at the bigger picture, what does Dan Carson see as the solution? He said it was what we’ve been talking about for years.
“The two big things really are, pursuit of economic development that can generate economic revenues that don’t have to come out of tax rate increase, and really smart budgeting,” Dan Carson said.
He said there will be a big announcement coming up on one of the new tenants at one of the other Nugget Market sites. “We’ve landed other big AgTech firms,” he said. “The two hotels. We’re doing real stuff. He said the spigot will be on soon for the new Residence Inn up by Mace. Within a year Hyatt House will be up and going. Cannabis is going to provide double the general fund benefit, $1 million per year. “This is real scorable stuff. It’s not rhetoric.”
He also mentioned the Downtown Plan, which is more than halfway done.
“We are seeing all the signs that people are waiting for us to do the hard work… that could really accelerate what can happen there in terms of investment,” he said. The key, he said, is eliminate the uncertainty of zoning. “We’re hearing a lot swirling around… First we need to (present) the plan.
“That’s how we’re going to get the money,” he said.