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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign?

Submitted by on 1, March 20, 2008 – 7:40 amNo Comment

As most of you probably already know, supporters of Measure H, which would increase the temporary parcel tax we pay for schools, kicked off their campaign Tuesday afternoon by putting teachers, parents and students in garbage cans along Park and Webster streets. In the runup to Tuesday’s event, they handed out lawn signs and garbage can decals to Alameda residents. And the Island wondered: Could their placement (or lack thereof) give clues as to what areas of town support the tax, and whether it will pass in June?

One thing our crack analysis shows is that in the places where elementary schools are rumored to be closing, support for the tax seems to be running pretty high. In the heart of the Gold Coast, which is home to several key tax supporters and Franklin School, the signs are ubiquitous. Ditto for the neighborhood surrounding Paden.

But in other parts of town, the signs are much harder to find. The Island couldn’t find a single sign around South Shore, home to underenrolled Lum. Only one sign was visible in the swath of Bayport we visited (maybe they’re banned by the HOA?), and they just opened the school there. There were a smattering of signs across the parts of the East End that we visited, even around Edison School, which may have some of the most involved parents in town.

So does this mean that proponents of Measure H have the same uphill battle that folks who supported a parcel tax increase in 2005 (which barely passed) face? Or does it reflect the ambivalence that some people who will ultimately vote for it feel about what they see as an imperfect solution to our school funding problems?

“I don’t think the signs are going to tell you that,” says Robert Brem, chair of the political science department at the College of Alameda.

Brem estimates that only about a quarter of registered voters will turn out for the June 3 election, and they’ll be the people who really want to see the tax pass and those who really want to see it fail. These people are unlikely to be swayed by anything. But he says a mass of signs could help draw those in the middle or those whose awareness of the ballot measure is limited. (In-person canvassing efforts have “a much higher impact,” he says.)

Still, Andy Currid, who is on the organizing committee for Measure H proponent Keep Alameda Schools Excellent, sees some hope in the findings because they show some unexpected support in places he didn’t expect.

“Maybe this issue with the schools is big enough this year to actually force a significant change in people’s voting habits,” he says. “Maybe some people who have typically not voted before will be motivated to vote this time.”

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