EDITOR’S NOTE: The first part of the survey — covering general themes, hotels and minimum wage — is reprinted below, with the second and third parts to be published Sunday and Monday, respectively.
The survey wasn’t expected to generate controversy.
In his 30-year career in public policy, Keith Kaplan has conducted many similar surveys of public opinion without much ado.
“It’s a key tool of the Democratic process,” he said. “You’d be hard pressed to turn on the TV news on any night and not see the results of a survey. They’re done to assess voter opinion on policy direction, legislative job performance, and they’re not uncommon at all.”
The West Hollywood Voter Survey was initiated by Kaplan and his colleagues on the Pandemic Recovery Coalition, a new nonprofit composed of local business leaders concerned about the direction of the city. The results, which were published on Aug. 31, led some city council members and their supporters to speak out against it on their social media, describing it as “right-wing,” “anti-Trans” and “anti-WeHo.”
Tensions have run high between the Council and WeHo’s business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, over the passing of several recent ordinances. Kaplan is a former chairman of the Chamber, but the survey was an independent effort, he said.
The survey — which contacted 300 respondents using live, professional interviewers, speaking Spanish, Russian and English languages, calling both mobile and landlines — polled the public on their satisfaction with city government and asked which issues facing the city were most urgent to them.
No council members are named in the survey, nor does it contain any mention of a recall election.
Homelessness emerged as residents’ top concern by far. The results even surprised Kaplan.
“You never ever, ever, ever see numbers like 85 percent in a survey like this,” he said, referring to the number of respondents who believe homelessness has gotten worse in West Hollywood.
“It is a community shouting that Council should do almost nothing else but resolve this problem. And 60 percent saying it’s much worse? It’s huge.”
He believes it’s a sign that the City Council is not focusing on the problems most pressing to West Hollywood voters.
“We were a city founded on a shared set of social values: LGBT rights, rent control — but we’re now working in the realm of issues that are not just social but they have significant economic impact on our city. Suddenly it becomes a lot cheaper for businesses to go across the street and do business.”
He worries the recent hotel worker and minimum wage increase ordinances will hamper economic growth, resulting in job losses and higher prices for consumers, affecting low-income residents most acutely.
“I’ve watched our city increasingly be used as a platform for vanity legislation,” he said. “Even if you increase the minimum wage by $2, that’s not going to put people in the realm of being able to afford to live in West Hollywood,” he said. “What will? Affordable housing.”
Affordable housing and crime were also at the top of respondents’ minds.
While a slim majority of the respondents were not satisfied with City Council’s job performance, they earned high marks for their pandemic recovery operations, and their efforts to increase minimum wage received broad support.