By Ted AYALA
The hopes of the city of Glendale for putting a tax measure before voters in the special election in June were dimmed earlier this week. Residents, according to a survey, feel “no great need” for more taxes.
That was the result presented to the Glendale City Council on Tuesday night by Cerrell Associates, which was contracted by the city to conduct the survey. The Los Angeles-based political consulting firm surveyed over 500 residents who were deemed most likely to vote in the June special election. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, Armenian, Tagalog and Korean.
The Cerrell survey was in sharp contrast to last year’s survey by the Rose Institute, which polled a far broader swath of residents.
For Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan, who has opposed the ballot measure and survey, the survey’s narrower focus skewed the results, concentrating too much on the city’s Anglo residents to the detriment of its Armenian and Asian population. Councilmember Laura Friedman countered his assertion saying that race wasn’t an issue in the Cerrell survey, but simply figures the likelihood of voting in an election not dominated by a polemical statewide proposition or presidential race.
“I seriously doubt the results would’ve been different [otherwise],” she argued.
Cerrell staff defended the methodology of their survey, saying that its proportionality was based on past voting behavior.
“We did not make up these percentages,” staff added.
The survey showed that Armenians in the city oppose the ballot measure by a wider percentage than residents of other ethnicities. Staff from Cerrell also said that 86% of residents surveyed said Glendale was a “great place to live” and saw no urgency to increase funding for city services. The findings, they explained, were “uncommon” in comparison to other communities in Los Angeles County.
Even with the cuts enacted during the Great Recession, voters are still “overwhelmingly satisfied” with the city and its services.
“There’s not a perception of need … or crisis,” said Cerrell staff.
When asked whether they would vote in favor of the proposed tax measures if they were to vote today, the results fell short of the two-thirds threshold needed to pass new taxes. In the case of the proposed parcel tax for libraries, parks, and community spaces, opposition narrowly beat out support.
Only 44% voted “yes” to a hypothetical $95 parcel tax, with only 19% saying they “definitely” would vote in support. Residents voting “no” edged them out at 46% with 31% saying that such a measure would be a “definite no” for them.
Cerrell staff also suggested that the city improve communication of its needs and infrastructure problems to its residents. According to their results, long time infrastructural challenges need to be communicated in order to have a discussion or dialogue so residents can come to accept revenue measures or cuts.
City Manager Scott Ochoa said that despite the high level of quality that city services have been able to render despite budget cuts, he warned that problems loom below the surface.
“We are operationally balanced,” he said. “But my fear is that if we don’t address some of our structural issues, we could begin to lose footing as a leader among cities.”
He also cautioned against taking an alarmist approach to making the public aware of the need for more revenue sources for the city.
“Shame on us if we did say that the house is burning down because it’s not,” he said.
Councilmember Friedman thanked Cerrell staff for their work while being resigned to their results.
“We’re a victim of our own success,” she concluded.