2014 Recent Trends in Community Support for Water Quality in the Post-Tea Party Era; Case Studies in Recent Polling Results in San Mateo and Ventura Counties
Faced with continuing significant funding shortfalls to comply with NPDES permit requirements, many county-wide programs are testing the waters for revenue measures to fill the gap. However, increased skepticism and scrutiny by anti-tax groups during this Post Tea Party political era have increased the need for detailed survey analysis. Both the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program and the Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program have recently conducted public opinion surveys to see how much support they could count on for a balloted measure, and for what funding levels. These very recent survey results testing political support levels, acceptable rate levels, and a wide variety of stormwater messaging approaches will be presented along with a brief summary of mechanisms available for funding NPDES-mandated permit requirements.
In 2012 Contra Costa County presented property owners with a proposed property-related fee ranging from $12 to $22 per year (single family home rate) and were handed a resounding defeat (41% - 59%). Such large-scale funding measures for stormwater quality-related work are few, and results have been mixed. Other counties in California have been watching these efforts, and some are beginning to contemplate their own measures. San Mateo and Ventura counties have recently completed public opinion surveys, and their two cases are summarized in this presentation.
San Mateo County (population approximately 720,000) is in the San Francisco Bay area just south of San Francisco and is comprised of 20 incorporated cities and towns. Two municipalities are on the Pacific Ocean drainage, and the others drain to San Francisco Bay. The County is fairly diverse ranging from San Francisco-style neighborhoods in the north to Silicon Valley in the south. There are vast tracts of open space, but agricultural uses are minimal. Politically speaking it appears to be relatively liberal and is thought to be one of the best-bet counties for this type of balloted measure. The measure they are contemplating would raise between $8 and $12 million annually. However, with a new NPDES Permit just around the corner in 2015, they can only speculate on what their funding need will be in the coming years (currently estimated at $37 million annually county-wide). That size of gap between need and likely funding can cast its own shadow over the political landscape.
Ventura County (population approximately 825,000), is northwest of Los Angeles and is comprised of 10 incorporated cities and towns. The County has diverse demographics, socio-economics and political perspective. Ventura County is home to some of the most popular beaches in the State, urbanized cities, and also has vast amounts of farmland. Stormwater runoff from the County drains to the Pacific Ocean through four primary watersheds. In the past, the County’s population has shown considerable knowledge of water and stormwater pollution issues, and solid support for stormwater investment. The Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program is currently exploring funding options in anticipation of increased NPDES Permits and TMDL compliance costs.