Starting this week, pollsters will call Santa Clara County voters to see if they’re open to a new sales tax to help the region’s homeless population.
The Board of Supervisors agreed earlier this month to pay $50,000 for the survey, which will measure whether there’s enough support to place a tax measure on the June or November ballot. Come Tuesday, supervisors will decide what questions to include in the survey so they can start collecting feedback before the end of the month.
There’s a tight deadline for the June election. Ballot items are due March 11, which means supervisors will have to make a final decision within the next five weeks.
The poll—offered in English, Vietnamese, Spanish and Chinese—will evaluate support for three potential tax measures. The first, a general tax measure, would direct services to transportation, housing, public safety and healthcare. A second general tax measure would direct funds to transportation projects, including BART, pothole repair, Caltrain upgrades and bike and pedestrian safety and expressway improvements. Third would be a special sales tax specifically for transportation improvements.
Pollsters will call 1,500 residents likely to vote in November and June and compare results from each electorate. Voters will be asked whether they support a half-cent or quarter-cent sales tax for homeless programs.
Here’s a link to the draft survey, which includes 49 questions—some multiple choice and some open-ended. The survey starts with warm-up and screening questions and continues into baseline tests of potential revenue measures. Later in the survey, the questions aim to measure voter attitudes as well as their reaction to potential opposition messaging.
Earlier this month, supervisors approved a $64 million spending plan to tackle homeless issues. That money—which comes in addition to $100 million the county already pegged for homeless services—will pay for housing, case management, treatment programs and counseling for the chronically homeless.
Other local agencies plan to place sales tax measures on the summer or fall ballots. The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) may ask voters to approve a half-cent tax to fix roads and finish BART’s South Bay extension.
Voters approved a countywide eighth-cent sales tax in 2012. Measure A, which promised to raise $450 million in its 10-year life, upped the county's sales tax rate to 8.75 percent.
- The VTA’s 22 bus runs nonstop from Palo Alto to San Jose, a route that cuts through one of the richest parts of the world. Because it’s the only bus line that runs 24 hours a day, the 22 becomes a de facto homeless shelter at night—especially during the colder winter months. Locals call it “Hotel 22.” Under an agreement up for consideration, the VTA would pay $125,000 to the county’s Office of Supportive Housing to connect some of those homeless passengers with supportive housing and other services. A condition of the contract requires the county to place 20 chronically homeless VTA passengers in supportive housing.
- Supervisors will hear an update about the fairgrounds master plan, which was the subject of a well-attended community meeting earlier this month. Some 200 people showed up to the Jan. 7 hearing to weigh in on the fairgrounds’ future. Members of 4-H and the Future Farmers of American stressed the importance of continuing to host the annual county fair at the San Jose property. They also asked the county to keep the fairgrounds as a resource for agricultural purposes, possibly converting 30 acres of the site into a “Heritage Farm” and fairgrounds and dividing up the rest among other recreational uses.
- Hoping to reduce the number of mentally ill people cycling in and out of local jails, the county will join other jurisdictions in a national campaign led by the American Psychiatric Foundation. The “Stepping Up” initiative asks counties to develop a plan with measurable outcomes to help people stay out of jail by offering treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Here’s a link to the resolution.
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001