Voters offer mixed feelings on Measure C

Voters offer mixed feelings on Measure C

Michele Ellson

Gary the elevator mechanic voted no on the proposed Measure C sales tax increase because he didn’t think the city needed the money, and because he was concerned the increase would drive businesses off the Island.

The police just bought a number of new Dodge Chargers a few years back, said Gary, who assured me I didn’t need his last name as we chatted on the sun-dappled sidewalk outside the polls at Edison School on Tuesday evening. And he’s still frustrated about the millions in losses the city incurred when Alameda Municipal Power decided to get into the cable business, along with bait-and-switch ballot measures, U.S. foreign policy and poor parenting.

“And people are unaware about what goes on,” he said.

Nearly half of the voters whose ballots in Tuesday’s election have been counted said no thanks to the 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure, which was to fund police, fire and other city vehicles; a new, mid-Island fire station and emergency operations center; a training center; a new pool and lighted field; and renovations to the Carnegie Library, which city leaders hoped could become a new home for the Alameda Museum. The measure needed the assent of two-thirds of voters to pass.

Some voters offered clear reasons for turning down the tax proposal: A pair of voters who responded to questions and election stories posted online said they believed the tax would disproportionately affect lower-income people. But several other voters The Alamedan spoke with Tuesday who voted both for and against the tax increase had trouble articulating why they voted the way they did – or in some cases, what they had cast a ballot on moments earlier.

The spokesman for one of two anti-C campaigns claimed the results were a rebuke to city leaders who, he said, were seeking to use it as a “slot machine” to pay back campaign contributions from the local firefighters’ union. But none of dozen voters The Alamedan interviewed at three polling places across the Island articulated that as a reason for their vote.

While the interviews likely don’t provide a conclusive portrait of voters’ reasoning, they do offer a window on voters’ thoughts on the measure.

“I’m not for it,” said one woman as she dashed away from a reporter and into her car, outside the First Congregational Church of Alameda. “There’s a lot of reasons. Not just one.”

Voters who favored the measure said they wanted to see the city’s assets and quality of life maintained, and that they didn’t think it was a big deal to pay an extra half percent on local goods and services.

“What is it, a half cent or something? And it’s going to a good cause,” said Michelle Kwan, who said she wanted to see the Carnegie restored and the Alameda Museum in a “little more official-looking” home.

But even some yes voters said they had mixed feelings about Measure C. Kathy Lantz said she thinks people have concerns about city employee salaries and pensions, particularly those earned by public safety workers and particularly as workers in other sectors are struggling.

“Nobody I know in the private sector makes as much,” she said.

Other voters struggled to identify which measure was C when a reporter asked about their vote. A voter who cast her ballot at Ruby Bridges School confused Measure C with Proposition 29, which will raise the cigarette tax to fund cancer research, for example.

But even some no voters were torn about how to cast their ballots. Jerry Randle said concerns about how the measure was written and whether money would be spent as advertised by city leaders and the Preserving Alameda campaign guided her decision.

“I would rather see money spent on schools,” she said.

City leaders will be discussing the impact of the measure's failure to pass at a budget hearing scheduled for June 12 at City Hall.


Donna Eyestone's picture
Submitted by Donna Eyestone on Wed, Jun 6, 2012

Thanks for all your hard work on this Michele. I don't mean to be giving you yet more work to do -- but anyone have any idea how much this cost? From the initial phone survey, the company hired to conduct that survey, to all the other expenses of getting it on the ballot and counted, etc. And I know this figure won't include staff hours, but that also would be interesting to know.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Jun 7, 2012

Hey Donna: Just getting to this. Not sure how much the poll cost (I went back a bunch of agendas before the polling was done but didn't see a contract - I think the city manager has purchasing authority up to 75k), but the election cost estimate was between $123,798 and $206,330 according to a staff report issued for the meeting when C was put on the ballot.