WALNUT CREEK -- Armed with poll results that show a majority of voters supports an increase of a half-cent in the city's sales tax, the City Council voted last week to hold a public hearing on putting such a tax increase on the ballot.
This means the council will soon decide whether voters will get a chance to decide this November on the measure. And while a City Council majority supports that, it will take a supermajority -- four out of five members -- to get a half-cent sales tax increase on an election ballot.
That supermajority seems unlikely, with Mayor Kristina Lawson and Councilman Justin Wedel voting "no" to even have the matter on the council agenda. They have been consistent in their opposition to such a measure.
Nevertheless, the three other council members are pushing forward. Mayor Pro Tem Bob Simmons said the city has many needs, including new parks. The city has built major projects including City Hall, the downtown library and the Lesher Center for the Arts from savings of surpluses, but no such surpluses are projected anytime soon. Simmons supports a ballot measure.
"It gives voters a chance to express what they want for the future," he said.
A poll requested by the City Council and done by EMC Research shows 57 percent of those surveyed said they would support a sales tax increase if it supported police, roads, library services, open space preservation and senior services. The telephone survey of 400 registered voters was done by phone from April 28 through May 6.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
When those polled were told more about what the tax revenue would pay for, or what could be cut if a measure isn't passed, support shot up to 64 percent.
All that's necessary to pass a sales tax measure is a majority.
Support for the tax increase remained even after voters were read potential arguments against a tax, including that it could drive people to shop elsewhere.
Revenue from an increased sales tax would yield an estimated $7 million -- more than necessary to close budget deficits and cover other city needs.
"We can do all the things we need to do," said Councilwoman Cindy Silva.
"This to me is a no-brainer."