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March Survey: Political Affiiation, RDA Don't Matter; Blight Does

More than 200 people responded to Birsan's Pulse of Concord survey.

By Edi Birsan

The March survey on Pulse of Concord drew more than 200 respondents, 91 percent of whom were from Concord. The questions are suggested by a public panel, which is open to everyone, as well as topics that are tossed out during the previous month. To get involved, visit Pulse of Concord: www.PulseOfConcord.com    

1. I think that political party affiliation is important in city politics. Only 25 percent agreed strongly or otherwise, while 30 percent were neutral and 45 percent disagreed. Registration in the city is about 50 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and other and about 20 percent decline to state. However on the City Council there are three Republicans (Leone, Grayson, Helix) and two Democrats (Hoffmeister and Shinn). What is interesting is that in the last election the two Republicans (Leone and Grayson) saw their camps pay for a specific slate listing called “Democratic Voter Guide” to target Democratic voters in a manner designed to pull those party voters over to their side. Furthermore, one Democratic candidate (Hoffmeister) did the same with a “Republican Voter Guide.” Neither of these voter guides are actually part of the respective parties and are strictly political ploys that have been used for decades to confuse party affiliation. The question is that of the 25 percent who agree that party affiliation is important, how many of these here would be confused by the effort?  

2. Would you want to join a Concord political club? A full 64 percent said NO WAY, while 11 percent said Democrat, 9 percent Republican, 7 percent a Free-For-All, 4 percent Libertarian and 3 percent other. (For those interested in the Democratic Party organization, the local club that covers Concord, Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill is the Diablo Valley Democratic Club. For those interested in the Republican Party, there is no real club structure in the area. The best I was able to find is a woman’s Republican group in the Danville area and another in the Orinda area. For those interested in the Libertarian Party, there is a Meet-Up group calling themselves Libertarians that can be reached through that media. I sort of hoped that a Free-For-All or truly Independent club would be interesting but for now, those who want to be politically active are focusing on the existing parties.

3. I feel safer (from violent crime) in Concord today than I did in 2009. Almost 57 percent disagreed with this (30 percent strongly). Some 33 percent neither disagreed nor agreed and some 10 percent agreed that they felt safer. This appears to be fairly consistent with last year’s poll regardless of the fact that the FBI crime stats seem to show a consistent three-to four-year trend in declining crime rates. People just do not feel it. I wonder if the last election, in which there was a determined effort to convince people that violent crime was rising, may have been a small factor. But most likely it is simply that people on the Internet circuit that includes blog readers (see later question) are far more exposed to crime stories (and seem to want more of them). As such, our awareness of crime is higher than it ever has been.

4. There are more visible "homeless" people on the streets today versus in 2009. A full two-thirds agree that there are more homeless, with only 9 percent thinking there are fewer and 24 percent unsure. Interesting is that the non-Concord residents and the residents had almost identical responses.

5. In your neighborhood (as you define it), there is more visible "blight," and I think it's only going to get worse in the next two years. People remain pessimistic, with 53 percent agreeing there is a downward slide while only 24 percent disagree.

6. Any city consultants, their billing rates, and how much they have been paid should be publicly reviewed. This solicited the most lopsided response, 93 percent agreeing (67 percent strongly) 6 percent neutral and then there are the three folks who just don’t want to talk about it. Could they be consultants?  Most of the consultant contracts are run through the City Council on the Consent Calendar and I believe I have never seen one debated in the last five years at the City Council level. There was a list compiled last summer of a citywide summary as a response to my campaign request, but it is not known if the list has been maintained.

7. I would like to see more focus on the following topic in my media sources: A full one-third of the respondents wanted more crime stories (and we wonder why we do not feel safe), 29 percent wanted more on Concord events, 18 percent wanted lifestyle interests, only 14 percent wanted local politics in Concord, and the last was business and store reviews, 5 percent.

8. What sources do you use on a daily basis to obtain your news /stay informed? (Please check all that apply) Almost three-fourths read local blogs, two-thirds read news sites and 61 percent get their news from the television. The newspaper was at 48 percent, followed by radio at 43 percent, then newspaper websites at 37 percent, other Internet was 33 percent, TV websites were only 18 percent, and worldwide blogs 15 percent. Overwhelmingly, the Internet was a source of news. This is a predictable bias for a survey that was taken on the Internet. However, what is interesting is the category split with local blogs blasting past newspapers and their associated sites as news sources. It would appear that the personal touch of blog is a platform that is appealing. I wonder whether the interest is in the news source material or for what is posted in the comments?  

9. I think it's a great idea to eliminate the Redevelopment Agency (RDA). This has been a major story in the newspapers and on radio rather than the blogs of this month. As of this writing, the RDA was saved from being eliminated by a margin of ONE vote in the budget crisis at Sacramento. It still may be changed. The split here shows great potential for continued debate and swaying of the public: 39 percent agree (26 percent strong) in favor of elimination, 23 percent disagree, while 37 percent either do not know enough about it or have no opinion (split 13 and 24 percent). The Concord City Council, like others around the area, has taken strong measures to keep the RDA. The city is fully committed to holding on to the RDA and plans to use it for the development of the Naval Weapon Station’s Reuse Plan. Yet the numbers here indicate that the public needs a lot of convincing to support the city’s view. I wonder if we introduced a bias factor by using the term “great idea” rather than just saying, “We should eliminate…”?  

10. Have you been to a library in the past year? As president of the Friends of the Concord Library, it warmed my heart to read that a clear majority of you, 58 percent, have been to the library. People in these Internet days do not appreciate the flexibility and the services provided at a library. Also, the economic downturn has caused a 30 to 40 percent increase in library use, for saving money on books, computer resources as well as a host of services for people such as the current free tax preparation going on or the Magic of Reading show recently for the kids.

Participate in the April survey here.

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