Wednesday, July 30, 2008

VTA should conduct its own polls for new taxes

Unlike most government entities, VTA does not conduct its own polls when the board makes major decisions like tax increases. Instead, VTA has relied on private polls conducted by SVLG, or more accurately, SVLG's interpretation of it own polls, given that SVLG has consistently refused to release polling results to the public and even to some of the key VTA Board members.

SVLG may think taxpayer sponsored polls a waste of money, but it is the only kind of poll that can engage the public in the decision making process. In reality, SVLG's polls are a part of the tax campaign, especially when the polls were funded by entities like the Santa Clara Building-Trades Council that have vested interests in the BART extension. If VTA actually conducts the poll, VTA could provide likely voters more details about alternatives and trade-offs, rather than testing campaign messages that provide the most positive responses.

The full VTA Board, as well as the rest of the public (riders in particular), should have complete access to polling information when the board considers tax increases. VTA Boardmembers also should not feel threatened by private lobbying groups like SVLG because of their interpretation of their own polls. The only way to accomplish these is for VTA to conduct its own polling.

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