While homelessness and affordable housing are the two most important issues listed by Sonoma County voters at the moment, climate and the environment have long been important political issues in Sonoma County.
And according to pollster Jessica Polsky-Sanchez, that still holds true.
"Majorities say that issues like climate change, wildfires, these are very serious issues facing Sonoma County according to voters," Polsky-Sanchez said.
Sonoma County’s local governments were even named as White House climate champions in 2014, and the county’s Regional Climate Protection Authority - RCPA - has marked 2030 as their target to reduce county-wide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels - similar to statewide goals.
RCPA’s preferred method to fund emission reduction work in the next 7 years: a special tax.
But Polsky-Sanchez, who works for the political consultancy group EMC Research, said opinion looks to be souring on a potential measure.
"While climate change and wildfires and local issues, a around climate are very serious issues to voters in the county," Polsky-Sanchez said. "Um, and also that the climate impacts that could be mitigated by a measure are important to the vast majority. Uh, despite those things, there appears to be a disconnect between caring about these issues, unwillingness to support a new tax measure to address them."
EMC surveyed 800 likely voters in Sonoma County about two potential climate funding tax measures - half were asked about a $52 parcel tax, the other half a quarter cent sales tax. Though they polled at 51 and 54 percent respectfully, both fell far short of the two-thirds approval needed to pass a special tax.
Santa Rosa councilmember and RCPA board member Chris Rogers said the polling results are not a complete surprise.
"When we talked about Measure DD two years ago, we did see the canary in the coal mine where people were starting to vote against bond measures for schools," Rogers said. "And so when you start to see people vote against schools, they're really starting to push back feeling overtaxed, particularly with high inflation, and that it oftentimes is more about the level of taxation than it is even about the importance or the seriousness of the cause that we're trying to trying to solve."
Polsky-Sanchez noted the growing tax hesitancy isn’t isolated either.
"We do see this sort of anti-tax sentiment going up over time, and that's consistent with what we've seen in other communities across the state as well," Polsky-Sanchez said.
With the calendar edging closer to 2030, Polsky-Sanchez said a special tax measure put forth by RCPA, which would need a 2/3rds approval, looks unlikely to pass; but Cloverdale councilmember and RCPA board member Melanie Bagby said county leaders should turn to the community.
"I see us going to a community-based initiative and going for 50% because I think that more than 50% of voters in Sonoma County know that we need to take action on climate change and we need to do it yesterday," Bagby said.
Over 52 billion dollars in this year’s state budget have been pledged to fight climate change and help California reach carbon neutrality by 2045.