An Information Only City Win
The City of San Leandro’s 2020 Measure VV success story is one that underscores the importance of adapting to real-time conditions and persevering through difficult challenges to get a critical ballot measure passed for a city. It shows the value of staying nimble through what can be a stressful process, and proves that being willing and able to adapt as situations change is absolutely critical to guiding a measure to passage.
With San Leandro facing a significant deficit, city leaders brought CliffordMoss into the fold in early 2019. It was apparent that city services were on the chopping block, and that cuts would be needed if revenues didn’t increase. Immediately, CliffordMoss went to work with the city to determine what kind of measure would raise those revenues and have the best chance to achieve passage at the ballot box.
The city researched the option of a Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT) increase at the right amount. The RPTT is a one-time tax levied upon the transfer of a piece of property. It’s not the most common measure, though, so it would be critical for voters to fully understand this measure should the council place this on the ballot.
Then, March of 2020 brought the winds of change. The COVID-19 pandemic immediately increased the strain on all city governments, including San Leandro’s, hurting the city’s overall bottom line significantly. Suddenly, what was already a vital measure became that much more critical, with even more cuts potentially coming should the measure not pass. What’s more, the “Defund the Police” movement loudly arrived in San Leandro in the spring, with residents adamant NO new funds should be allocated to police. With RPTT funds going into San Leandro’s general fund, this was hard to guarantee.
CliffordMoss was already in progress on a robust public engagement effort, which continued, but we were very careful to ensure all communications were not tone-deaf to the real situation on the ground. We sent a two-way mailer asking for residents’ feedback on the proposed ballot measure, which garnered a massive response from the public. The comments received made clear that this measure would face opposition if it was difficult to understand or unclear where the money would go. Along a parallel track, the city had also been investing in creating a public “budget task force” to evaluate the City’s budget. This transparency regarding complicated budget issues proved vital in helping the community the city was doing everything it could to creatively solve the financial challenges it was facing.
After the council placed Measure VV on the ballot, CliffordMoss worked with the city in an information-only capacity. We developed and sent two information only mailers to further explain the decision community members faced at the ballot. Additionally, CliffordMoss helped the city create informational videos widely distributed via social media and online with city leaders, including the mayor and city manager. This was also supplemented by a robust information only online presence reminding residents to vote.
Thanks to the community engagement and listening through the spring and summer as the city panned, Measure VV was prudent and responsible. It certainly wasn’t an easy effort, but when the final vote came in at 53.28% YES, above the 50% threshold needed for passage, city leaders were thrilled to be able to announce to residents that they would be able to protect the services San Leandrans needed.
BONNIE MOSS (510) 757-9023 [email protected]
TOM CLIFFORD (510) 847-7155 [email protected]
AMANDA CLIFFORD (415) 244-5990 [email protected]
LAURA CROTTY (408) 839-5556 [email protected]