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.A Sea Change Regarding Covid: Power Poll shows strong support remains for government action, but not for business closures

Government intervention to combat Covid-19 remains heavily popular among respondents in the latest Oakland Power Poll, but panelists believe that the widespread availability of vaccines precludes the need for another wave of mandatory lockdowns.

On other topics, panelists are highly critical of Oakland’s public school district and broadly support state intervention to help it cope with its latest budget crisis—even though more than 40% also have little faith in the agency assigned to oversee OUSD.

Respondents broadly support additional state policies to help legal cannabis claim a larger share of the market from illegal pot, but are fairly unsupportive of calls to lower the industry’s tax burden.

Most respondents support the notion of a temporary tax to help Bay Area transit agencies make it through the financial effects of the pandemic. And voters are split on the concept of enacting laws to require property owners to give their tenants first dibs on purchasing their homes in the event that they choose to put them on the market.

Here are the specific questions and responses to our poll:

Question 1

In the month since Omicron emerged from South Africa, it has become the dominant U.S. variant of Covid-19, with infection levels surging toward new highs. Case rates in cities, and among athletes, students and health workers, demonstrate just how alarmingly transmissible it is. How should governments be thinking about this latest outbreak? (Select all the answers you agree with, with 1 being your highest priority.)

Government intervention has helped the Bay Area remain relatively healthy — Score 4.1818

Lockdowns made sense before we had vaccines, but not now — 3.3636

Vaccines and testing should be required to participate in society — 2.7273

Mask mandates should remain in place and less-effective cloth masks should be banned — 2.4091

It’s time to accept that we’re all going to get Covid-19 — 1.8182

Everyone except infants can get vaccinated. Now we’re all on our own — 1.3182

It’s time to ban public assembly again — 1.3182

Question 2

Oakland schools face an annual budget deficit of $40–50 million related to enrollment declines during the pandemic. County schools Superintendent L.K. Monroe recently asked the state to review OUSD’s teacher-hiring practices, calling to mind the same agency’s $100 million bailout of the district in 2003. Should Oakland welcome the state’s assistance?

Yes. OUSD has repeatedly proven that it is unable to govern itself — 59%

A plague on both their houses. That’s why private schools flourish in Oakland — 23%

No. The state’s prior oversight set the district on a downward path — 18%

No opinion/don’t care — 0%

Question 3

A coalition of cannabis executives recently warned that California’s legal “industry is collapsing” due to excessive taxation and ongoing prohibitions against recreational sales in most cities. As a result, illegal and untested marijuana still flourishes. What should the state do? (Select all the answers you agree with, with 1 being your highest priority.)

State policies need to grow the legal market and discourage illegal weed — 3.6957

Sales should be legal statewide — 2.6087

We can’t just give out tax breaks every time an industry complains — 2.2609

The state should find a way to make legal weed cheaper than the illegal stuff — 2

Localities must retain the right to set their own policies — 1.5652

Cannabis is overtaxed in California — 1.5217

Pot should be heavily taxed, to compensate for its adverse effects — 1.3043

The state should crack down on illegal sales — 1.2609

Question 4

Bay Area transit agencies are in perilous financial health due to the effects of Covid-19. Would you support additional taxes to help them survive until ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels?

Yes — 57%

No — 39%

No opinion/don’t care — 4%

Question 5

Bay Area cities, including San Jose and Oakland, are considering ordinances designed to give tenants, cities and housing groups priority when homes come up for sale. Proposals differ, but generally would require landlords to notify such groups if they wish to sell their homes. Landlords could still hold out for the price they desire, but would have to give such buyers priority over other bidders.

That sounds like a reasonable way to help reduce gentrification — 48%

That’s certain to cost homeowners money and make home sales take months — 48%

No opinion/don’t care — 4%

Analysis of Question 1

The Oakland Power Poll debuted in the very same month as the first U.S. lockdowns to combat Covid-19, which happened here in Alameda County and in five of our neighboring Bay Area counties. Throughout that time, panelists have overwhelmingly supported governmental action designed to make us all safer.

So the broad lack of support for a new wave of lockdowns in the midst of the surge in infections from the Omicron variant represents a sea change in our attitudes about the pandemic. Some 78% of respondents agreed with the proposition that lockdowns made sense before we had vaccines, but not now.

And that’s the case even as respondents continue to support other governmental actions, with 65% agreeing that vaccines and testing should be required to “participate in society,” and 60% agreeing that mask mandates should remain in place, with cloth masks banned. Almost half of participants believe it’s inevitable that everyone will eventually get Covid.

Analysis of Question 2

When it comes to the ever-beleaguered Oakland Unified School District, less than one in five respondents appears to be sympathetic to those local gripes about the state once again assuming financial oversight of OUSD. Almost 60% support state intervention, with almost one in four lacking faith in either the district or its on-again, off-again state overseer.

Analysis of Question 3

Panelists would like the state to do more to help legal weed overcome the contraband stuff, but neither tax breaks nor a crackdown on illegal operations appear to be among their preferred list of remedies. Top of the list of voters’ potential solutions is opening up the rest of the state to legal sales, which would clearly have the effect of driving out some of the illegal weed in the roughly two-thirds of California cities that still don’t permit its legal sale.

Analysis of Question 4

East Bay residents like their transit, and appear broadly supportive of stepping up to help our transit agencies withstand the devastating fiscal impacts of the pandemic.

Analysis of Question 5

No clear preference emerged regarding the question of an ordinance designed to give tenants, cities and housing groups priority when homes come up for sale. Although homeowners are likely more common on our panel than in Oakland itself, it appears safe to say that a majority of property owners oppose the notion while a majority of tenants support it.

Oakland Power Poll is not a scientific poll. Rather, we ask questions of influential people with a wide range of viewpoints to help advance informed dialogue about the city. Power Poll is studiously non-partisan.


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