As you may remember, two weeks ago I shared that the City of San Jose contracted with a public opinion organization to conduct a telephone poll of 1,000 residents. These residents were asked survey questions from Jan. 13 to Jan .17. In comparison to my web survey, the City did a “scientific survey” which means they called men and women from all council districts, different age groups, ethnically diverse, homeowners and renters who are likely voters. The company responsible is instructed to get a group that mirrors San Jose.
As I have shared in previous blogs, the surveys that I conduct are not scientific. They can be taken by anyone, and passed on through e-mail, therefore allowing anyone who has access to a computer to take it. The only control is the the survey can only be completed once on a computer. So, for example, if you have one computer in your household and one person completed the survey on that computer, then the survey can not be taken again.
Sharing surveys, especially those that are about budgets and policy, is commonplace. Each week I receive several emails offline by actual residents about my blog. Residents shared they like to see what questions are being asked on the phone survey and to consider the choices themselves.
I edited the survey so that it did not have so much “city speak” in it. I also deleted and added to the format. For example, I omitted a question that I found confusing regarding transferring $1.5 million from municipal water to the general fund. I also modified a word that read “non-profits” and I wrote “charity/non-profits” since I have found people are unclear when they only hear non-profit.
On questions about retirement age, the survey did not offer the current retirement age as an option so I added that. Plus I added the Social Security retirement age. The library tax question did not share the existing parcel tax cost so I added that. On the question of reducing the number of firefighters assigned to “certain” stations—“certain” stations translates to the least calls for service so I swapped in word “slowest.” On ending overtime pay for fire battalion chiefs and police captains, I found most people don’t know what these ranks mean, so I swapped out the titles and put in the word “management” as they are managers. My goal was to make the survey east to understand for residents.
With all this said, can I or you or anyone else for that matter learn anything from the survey? Can we extrapolate anything from it? Well, that will be up to you to judge. Here are some results from the scientific poll:
80 percent support giving raises based on performance rather than seniority.
79 percent support slowing the pace of City employee pay raises.
79 percent support making decision on layoffs based on employee performance
rather than seniority.
73 percent support eliminating the traditional pension plan and replacing it with a 401K.
73 percent support limiting the amount of union business that union leaders can conduct while on City time.
69 percent support lowering the maximum level of annual pension benefits employees can receive.
65 percent support ending the policy of paying employees for a portion of their unused sick leave.
67 percent feel it is acceptable to reduce days and hours of operation at community centers.
61 percent feel it is acceptable to reduce the number of days the libraries are open.
The Mayor held the 5th Annual Neighborhood Association and Youth Commission Priority Session this past Saturday. Great turnout but unfortunately not equal attendance from all parts of San Jose. This year Innovation Games donated their services (free) which consisted of 25 collaborators to facilitate each table into discussing and making choices about the budget.
Participants were given play money and trade offs the Council will have to make. To eliminate a program, 100 percent of the table participants had to agree. To continue funding a program participants had allocate their play money—however it required buy-in from other table participants. City department heads were in attendance to answer specific questions from participants. Nearly all of the comments I heard Saturday were favorable from participants. Congratulations to our Mayor for incorporating more public input on the budget.