Story #82 Measure BB Success Story


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Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) and Measure BB

In 2012’s high-turnout presidential election, the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) failed to pass an extension and augmentation of their local sales tax by less than 1,000 votes. While ACTC could have waited until 2016 for another high-turnout (and more tax-measure-friendly) presidential election, their needs couldn’t wait that long. Instead, they took the ambitious step of returning to the ballot on a low-turnout November 2014 midterm ballot. This meant that ACTC would have an even tougher job achieving two-thirds (66.7%) voter approval because the county’s voter turnout during a gubernatorial election was likely to be more tax-sensitive. 

Brought in shortly after the 2012 loss, CliffordMoss helped local leaders to reach out in all directions and LISTEN to transportation and community stakeholders. Their goal was to learn how the county’s Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) and the ballot measure could be improved. Planning for the new measure engaged over 1,000 stakeholders, including seniors, business and community leaders, environmentalists, transit activists and taxpayer advocates. ACTC committed to the CliffordMoss maxim that people support what they help create. By collaborating with the stakeholders in their community, they were able to modify their TEP into a better plan.

With the new and improved plan placed on the November 2014 ballot as Measure BB, an independent campaign committee was created. They gathered the resources necessary for victory, raising a campaign budget of nearly $1.5 million to carry the message to voters. CliffordMoss helped the campaign stay data-driven, relying on key metrics around polling, messaging, and voting habits. 

With nearly a million registered voters spread across the county from the urban centers of Oakland and Berkeley, various suburbs, and rural areas to the east, different aspects of the TEP would appeal to different groups. Depending on geography and demographics, a message about improved public transit options might be more important to a voter than fixing potholes, or the fiscal accountability measures might be more important to a voter than bicycle safety. CliffordMoss split the county into four geographic regions and created direct mail targeted specifically at each area.

The BB campaign continued this four-region philosophy when it came to mounting an aggressive field campaign. Each region had a local field program, with a dedicated leader and targets for phone calls to make, doors to knock and work to get done. Their goal was to increase the margin over 2012’s failed measure by just a little bit, which could make the difference in another tight election result. Starting the field operation early (before Labor Day) was critical—it meant that in the final days of the campaign, we would have seven field offices capable of utilizing hundreds of volunteers from labor and advocacy groups to put out 115,000 door hangers and make nearly 80,000 phone calls.

With a commitment to starting early, engaging stakeholders, making decisions based on data, and pursuing an aggressive countywide field campaign, ACTC passed Measure BB by a resounding 70.65% of voters, giving Alameda County a reliable source of transportation revenue for decades to come.