The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) is a countywide agency based in San Jose, California, responsible for oversight and maintenance of most water-based issues in Santa Clara County. TBWB worked with SCVWD to prepare and pass a unique countywide parcel tax in 2000. The District asked TBWB to work with its voter research team in 2011 to renew this vital funding, several years before the measure was set to expire.
SCVWD faced public perception issues, voiced in the Mercury News in recent years, which posed a challenged to the renewal. Additionally, anti-tax opponents tried to obstruct the measure with frivolous, distracting lawsuits immediately following the Board’s action to place the measure on the ballot. These issues created a very challenging environment.
What We Did
Our firm worked with SCVWD and its pollsters for more than a year to analyze various election dates, spending priorities and ballot language. We also worked closely with agency staff to create and execute a unique social media outreach program, backed up by direct canvassing of voters and residents in certain areas.
The outreach program captured opinions from 14,000 local voters – an unprecedented program of systematic pre-election voter outreach. The results from this effort helped guide the Board and staff to create a spending plan and program that was strongly preferred by voters throughout the County – and helped confirm that the upcoming Presidential election, with maximum voter participation, would be beneficial to the Agency.
Despite the anti-tax lawsuits and the Agency’s contentious local Board elections, which both attracted negative media attention and delayed the campaign’s ability to mobilize its expected supporters and donors, the campaign used all available vehicles to get the word out about how vital this funding was to the region for clean water. The positive message of the campaign helped its key supporters win a resounding endorsement from the Mercury News editorial board, which had seemed very unlikely to many observers.
Measure B passed with more than 71% of the vote, generating nearly $540 million for critical projects.