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  Voters Pan City Council and City Management Support Tax Increase
July 1, 2004

In preparation for consideration of potential ballot issues to raise additional revenue, the Richmond City Council authorized retention of Evans/McDonough Company, Incorporated, to poll a random sample of 403 likely Richmond voters.


The Evans of Evans/McDonough is Alex Evans, former Richmond City Councilman. Evans is a highly regarded and experienced professional in the opinion research and strategic services consulting field. I didnít always agree with him when we were on the Council together, but I both respected and liked him. We worked on a number of projects together, including the successful Lobbyist Ordinance and the unsuccessful Measure H that would have funded, among other things, rehabilitation of the Plunge.


The results of the poll, presented to the City Council in executive session on June 8, were noteworthy and especially useful since they provided comparative data for polls taken and paid for by others in 1995 and 2002. In 1995, 40% of voters believed Richmond was on the wrong track. This deceased to 35% in 2002, but shot up to a whopping 69% in June, 2004.


In the June 2004 poll, 85% of voters rated the financial management of the City as fair to poor. Eighty-one percent rated the overall job the City Council is doing as fair to poor. Seventy-seven percent rated overall quality of city services as fair to poor, up from 63% about one year ago.


Despite the low rating given to the City Council and City management, the top concern of Richmond voters in 2004 is not the budget debacle and its outcome. It is education, with 24% listing it as the top concern. Following is the budget and reckless spending at 16%, the economy at 13%, corrupt and ineffective City government at 12% and crime at 12%, with unemployment, poverty/homelessness, ineffective police force, other, donít know and environment/pollution in the low single digits.


In 2002, the top concern was crime at 36% followed by education at 16%. In 1996, the top concern was also crime at 46% followed by unemployment at 15%.


Contrasted with the disappointment and pessimism about City government, voters appeared to be ready to get out their checkbooks to make things better. Two-thirds would support a tax increase to improve police and fire services, and 64% said that maintaining Richmondís libraries and parks and recreation programs should be a top priority even if it means raising taxes.


Although the results of the poll were inexplicably presented in executive session, I understand the report is a public document and can be obtained from the city clerk.


With an election coming up in slightly over four months, one wonders of an electorate that overwhelmingly rates the job the City Council is doing as fair to poor will return any of us incumbents to office. There are plenty of challengers, and this year should see an interesting race.