Whoever said talk is cheap may have been tipped off by pollsters.
Nearly 80 percent of Berkeley residents feel the economy is stable or improving, 57 percent are doing well or excellently, and 58 percent think the city’s leaders are doing an excellent or good job, according to a 17-minute telephone survey of 430 likely voters conducted between March 14 and 17.
But the survey by Lake Research Partners showed that while voters may be feeling optimistic about the economy, they are not feeling flush enough to finance the improvements they consider important – at least, not yet.
For instance, most voiced support for parcel taxes that would pay for housing and homeless services. And more than the necessary two-thirds majority considers upgrades to both streets and storm drains as extremely or very important. However, an inadequate number is willing to ante up for either repairs or services.
The survey netted interesting contrasts. Only 10 percent of respondents consider homelessness a priority, but when asked whether they favor a $25-per-year parcel tax on homes to pay for $1 million in homeless services, 58 percent said yes.
The total cost of unfunded public works, information technology and parks and waterfrontprojects has been pegged at $523 million.
Residents were asked to weigh in on three bond packages, designed to raise $100 million, $50 million and $25 million, and to consider parcel taxes, which also need a two-thirds vote to pass. However, the purpose of this survey was preliminary -- to gauge voter comfort level with funding possibilities, as well as to get a sense of the public's priorities, said the city's public information officer, Mary Kay.
Highlights from the survey include these:
- Respondents were asked whether they felt the economy in this area is getting better, getting worse, or staying about the same. Forty-five percent said they felt the economy is staying about the same. Of the remaining respondents, 34 percent felt the regional economy is doing better, and 17 percent felt it is doing worse.
- When asked specifically about Berkeley, 51 percent said they thought things in Berkeley are going in the “right direction,” 24 percent said the city is on the “wrong track” and 25 percent said they didn’t know.
- When asked about service delivery, 58 percent said city government is doing either an excellent or good job; 30 percent said the city is doing a fair job, and 7 percent said the city is doing a poor job.
- Asked to name one issue that is most important to them, 32 percent chose schools, 13 percent named job creation and economic development, and 13 percent managing the city budget.
On May 1, the city council will consider whether to conduct a second survey to test ballot measure language.