Saturday, April 26, 2008

Eureka's Own Push- Poll?

Speaking of push- polls, as we often do in the Humboldt blogosphere, what do some of my fellow Eureka residents think of the poll that just came in the mail regarding the $100 per parcel fire tax proposal?

It's no surprise that public agencies would send out literature promoting a tax for this or that but, by law, I don't believe they're supposed to advocate one position over another. This poll probably stays on the legit side of the line, if only barely.

Basically, you get a flier entitled City of Eureka Fire Department Official Survey. It has the official City of Eureka emblem to the left of the title and starts off with the Question, Why did you receive this survey?

It then says Enclosed is a questionnaire that will allow property owners to voice their priorities and opinions on a potential property- owner funding measure for improved fire protection and emergency medical services.

The flier then goes on to describe the supposed problem and what the proposed tax would supposedly do to take care of those problems. It ends with some Emergency Response Facts, going on to say how early response can reduce fire damage and save lives. Duh! But I understand everybody has to have a clincher for their argument at the end.

So they've made their pitch and then they go one step further and add what I thought was a push- poll, at first glance. Looking at it closer, though, they can probably wiggle out of that accusation because they only ask questions and give you five possible ways to respond.

It's titled almost the same as the flier: Official Survey, City Of Eureka Fire Department and it starts out with: In order to:
  • improve fire protection services in the City and provide additional professional firefighters,
  • improve medical emergency response services, and
  • reduce response times to save lives and property
would you support an annual assesment for your property in the amount of $100?

Possible answers range from Definitely YES to Definitely NO

The other thirteen questions are below. Interesting that, except for the last two questions, the questions all sound like the original push- poll type sales pitch:

Question #1: This measure would improve year- round fire prevention and suppression services in the city to reduce the damage caused by structure fires.

Question#6: Replace outdated equipment such as fire trucks and safety equipment

It isn't until question 12, of 13, that they ask a nay type question:

Question#12: We shouldn't have to pay more for local fire protection services. The Department should just learn to make do with its current revenues.

Five possible answers are allowed to all those questions ranging from Much More Likely to Much Less Likely to support the measure.

Pretty clever way of promoting the tax and probably even legal. Still, kind of gets my goat that they bother going to that length since it's usually not too hard to scare people enough to pass a tax by threatening to fire all the cops and firefighters in town if the tax doesn't pass. They do it every time Eureka's Utility Tax comes up for renewal.

On the bright side, at least they provide a post paid envelope to mail the survey back in. Oh, and I just noticed: The envelope is addressed to City of Eureka Fire Dept, c/o SCI Consulting in Fairfield, CA. Hmmm???


At 2:54 PM, Blogger ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

I would recommend that you as well as your readers read the entire essay linked in the following quote:
"All governments expand their authority and their exactions from their subjects to the limit of their subjects' endurance. Indeed, in some cases, such as Zimbabwe, the rulers treat the survival of society as unimportant."

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know we are justifiably distrustful of government, Fred, but I think these guys deserve the benefit of the doubt.

They are taking the time to poll property owners as to whether this is something they should even consider before moving ahead with any proposal.

The nature of this fire benefit assessment is such that only property owners would vote, since they are the ones who would pay. And the size of your vote is commensurate with the amount of property you own. Accordingly, even the Humboldt Taxpayer's League has not actively opposed past efforts in other local jurisdictions.

Taxes are nasty, but people tend to be more favorable when they go to particular services instead of filling a black hole like the state, county or city general fund.

Finally, when we did this in the Humboldt #1 Fire Protection District (, the funds went to improved fire protection that resulted in a lower risk rating in our rural properties, which in turn lowered fire insurance premiums.

Sometimes government does work the way it is supposed to.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Pogo said...

This reminds me of the vote on the California lottery that was enacted to "fund the school system". All the revenue originally designated to fund education mandated by state law was subtracted by the amount generated by the lottery and proceeded down the "black hole" of the general fund.

At 12:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. On average, how many calls are responded to each month?
2. What percentage are fire, what percentage are first aid/medical response and what percentage are false alarms?
3. Do we need the fee/tax just to maintain our fire rating or for medical purposes?

At 7:35 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Chris wrote, "They are taking the time to poll property owners as to whether this is something they should even consider before moving ahead with any proposal.".

Pretty much push- polling property owners, which was the main point of my post.

As far as the tax itself, I might well be sympathetic to it if I thought it was the only tax increase we'd be seeing for the next five or ten years. But it wouldn't surprise me, even if this proposal passed, to see something similar on the ballot again 3 to 5 years from now.

Even if the fire department didn't try to float another tax proposal in the near future, there's any number of government entities that probably will, on the city, county or state level. We need to keep in mind this will likely be just one tax increase among many.

At least there's no suggestion that this will be a temporary tax, as was done with Eureka's Utility Tax.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

12:36 wrote, "What percentage are fire, what percentage are first aid/medical response and what percentage are false alarms?".

I can't say for sure, but I suspect the vast majority of their calls are for first aid/ medical response.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred, I just filled out the old questionnaire- a series of Definitely NO's... If the lower middle class keep getting squeezed, we're gonna find ourselves best friends with Jerry Partain.

Oh, and we might actually save money due to lower insurance costs, due to this tax. It all makes perfect sense. How compelling.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

But could you possibly answer Definitely No to (paraphrasing a couple survey questions) "improving year- round fire prevention and reducing damage from structure fires...and something that would better protect the many unique and historical buildings in the city..."?

What a jerk you are!

But see, that's what the survey is all about: Trying to make you feel like a jerk if you don't support the new tax.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's true Fred, it doesn't feel too good saying no to the fire dept. in retrospect. However, at the time I was jacked on coffee and pissed at the thought of MORE TAXES[?!]. So I not only answered the questions, I wrote little "Are you f*cking kidding me?!" type comments next to each one. That'll show em'.

I did notice one thing about their address that struck me as peculiar: Mangels Way? Hmmmm...

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Wow! Good catch. I didn't even notice.

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the sad thing is, is that the eureka city council agreed to give the fire and police employees a raise and at the SAME council meeting authorized the city manager to hire a consultant to pitch the assessment district to pay for the fire dept raises, while the pd raises would be able to be paid out of the general fund.

They talked about this in the times standard. Its a shame nobody really picked up on it, because it stinks to high heaven.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff!

Damon Medic


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