News

Council delays vote on library, police bonds

Election now set for November 2008 to allow more time to build public awareness, support

With public support “somewhat lower than we’d like to see (it),” consultant David Metz advised the council to push back an election to finance library improvements and a new police headquarters to Nov. 2008.

The five-month delay would give the city extra time to garner support for the projects, Metz said. The higher voter turnout would also bode well for the $95 million combined effort, he said.

Metz said the telephone poll results reflect “a community that’s relatively contented.”

“A survey really is just a snapshot. This is how local voters feel in February of this year,” Metz said. “There is certainly every possibility that these numbers can change.”

The poll, which surveyed 600 Palo Alto residents between Feb. 21 and 26, shows support for the measures averages just below 60 percent, with the library building consistently more popular than the police building. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percent, Metz said.

The bond measure would need two-thirds voter support.

Nonetheless, “there’s obviously a lot of good news in these numbers,” Metz, a senior vice president with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, told the council.

The city would like to reconstruct Mitchell Park library and community center and improve other library branches.

The police department outgrew its City Hall quarters decades ago and, in accordance with the recommendations of a community committee, city leaders are pushing for the construction of a new building on the 2700 block of Park Boulevard just south of Oregon Expressway.

The city sponsored the poll to gauge initial community support and develop strategies to inform the public about its needs.

The polls suggest the two issues stand a greater chance when grouped together. Between 55 and 59 percent of respondents indicated support for a combined $95 million bond.

Separate, the $45 million library project garnered 63 percent support and the $50 million police-building project was favored by 57 percent.

But if both bond measures were on the same ballot separately, and not combined into one measure, only 38 percent of voters said they would support both of them. About 18 percent of respondents said they would vote for only the library issue, while 14 percent would support only the public-safety.

The bonds would be financed by adding an assessment onto property tax bills, according to Senior Assistant City Attorney Cara Silver.

Metz said delaying a vote would add time for the city to educate voters about the Police Department’s current facilities. The numbers “suggest the voters aren’t aware of these inadequacies or don’t see them as particularly pressing,” he said.

Former Mayor Vic Ojakian spoke in favor of a strong campaign to rally support for the public safety building. He called the current situation in the police headquarters behind City Hall “a disaster waiting to happen.”

The council will discuss the poll results again on April 3, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto said. A $50 million library bond failed in 2002 when it received only 61 percent approval.

(Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at btrout@paweekly.com.)

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