Monday, June 25, 2007

BAREC Grows Legs

Far from being old news after last week's Council vote, the BAREC story has legs.

Save BAREC appears to be looking to hire the lawyer that represented the groups behind last year's binding arbitration ballot initiative. A blizzard of emails has been flying through cyberspace about the proposed ballot initiative and various lines of attack.

But even more interesting is the survey that's being taken in Santa Clara.

I got called at about 6:30 this evening by some outfit called Parker Consulting out of Tucson, AZ asking me if I would participate in a political survey. After a few general questions about how likely I was to vote in a special election (very, in case you were wondering) we got down to business.

Did I know about the City Council's unanimous vote to develop the former UC Agricultural station, BAREC. (My interviewer had a pleasant German accent and pronounced it to rhyme with the German city of Beyreuth.) I told him that not only did I, but I was a journalist and had written at length about the subject. Further, I suggested that this might disqualify me for purposes of the survey.

It seems no one had any objections. So we forged ahead.

It was a very sophisticated survey. No leading questions like If you knew that Mr. Smith molested children and murdered his mother would you vote for him?

The questions — the appetizer, so to speak — first asked me to rate which information was more or less likely to make me approve or disapprove the development.

Then we got to the main course, which was apparently to market test a variety of angles of persuasion.

First I was asked to rate the amount of trust I would put in the decisions of each Council Member. Then I was asked to rate how persuasive or unpersuasive I found statements made by both the opponents and proponents of the Santa Clara Gardens project.

I tried to be objective — really. But it's kind of hard to evaluate the persuasiveness of something you know to be utterly untrue. I guess you could say it's "extremely unpersuasive."

So who was behind this survey? My interviewer couldn't tell me that. He had his job to do and at this point the lady reporter was keeping him from meeting — or beating — his survey quota. So I didn't learn much.

But I do know a couple of things. Surveys like this don't spring full-blown from the forehead of God. It takes time and very expensive professionals to design them. And it takes even more money to deploy the crew making all those phone calls.

Who has this kind of money and sophisitication? Summerhill Homes comes to mind. Was Summerhill getting ready to fight a ballot initiative all along?

Save BAREC has been talking about a ballot initiative but they appear to be just mobillizing for it. Do they have some deep-pocketed allies that we haven't seen yet?

Stay tuned.

Postscript: BTW, the most persuasive statement in the survey was "Affordable senior housing is good, but why not affordable family housing? Why not indeed? Could it have something to do with the required number of bedrooms and parking spots (fewer) that lets everybody get credit for more affordable housing units on the same footprint?

1 comment:

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    James Rowen