City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

December 28, 2011
Poll shows support of Mayor Johnson's latest charter proposal

Supporters of Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest effort to revamp the city's governing structure released the findings of a survey today that shows support for both the mayor and the proposal.

A survey of 504 likely city voters by pollster FM3 showed 63 percent favored the "Checks and Balances Act of 2012." A memo summarizing the poll's findings was released to the media and supporters of the proposal, which can be found here: MaslinPoll.doc.

Voters particularly liked giving the mayor the authority to propose the budget, subject to City Council approval (67 percent support); giving the mayor veto authority over budget items, subject to council override (67 percent support); and having the mayor and council jointly appoint the city manager, as they do now (66 percent support).

There wasn't as much support for creating a ninth City Council district (37 percent) or making the mayor "chief executive with ability to align city leadership behind shared vision for the City" (52 percent). That second point seems rather significant, given that it is the fundamental argument many supporters of the plan make for the change.

The campaign behind the proposal sent an email saying, "These findings validate what we know to be true: that Sacramentans are unhappy with the status quo and ready to embrace a new and better way to run our city."

The poll also showed that Johnson remains popular with city voters, even as many voters are frustrated with City Hall as a whole.

The mayor had a 63 percent approval rating, while 21 percent said they disapproved of his performance. Forty-seven percent of voters said the city is on the wrong track and 45 percent said they had an unfavorable view of city government.

I had a couple of questions with the poll itself.

I asked lead pollster Paul Maslin whether the 504 likely voters surveyed were likely November voters or June voters. Proponents of the charter reform measure are pushing for a June vote on the proposal.

Maslin told me the 504 voters polled were likely November voters. However, he said the poll also dug down to June voters, and that 60 percent of those likely to vote in June supported the plan.

I also asked Maslin if the term "strong mayor" was used in the poll, as many city residents still associate any plan by Johnson to revamp the City Charter with his 2008 Strong Mayor Initiative that a judge tossed off the ballot.

Maslin said the term strong mayor was used in the summary leading up to the final question - he said voters were told it was a term that opponents of the plan might use - and that the results still showed 63 percent support of the overall proposal.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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