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Residents Angered by SunCal Push-Poll Telephone Survey

About three weeks ago, Alameda residents started receiving telephone calls from a firm conducting a survey about Alameda issues. Although the survey firm denied it, it was clearly sponsored by SunCal or their allies, gearing up for their Alameda Point ballot measure in 2009, and the “survey” was clearly in fact a “push-poll” intended to influence Alameda public opinion, not sample it.

Benjamin Lundholm, an Alameda resident who works as a high school librarian on the Peninsula says that roughly three weeks ago, he received a telephone call from a woman who said they were conducting a poll in Alameda. “I could tell right away,” said Lundholm, “this was not your average survey, they were trying to feed me information. I could tell by the way they phrased the questions.”

Mr. Lundholm said that the questions were “loaded with information and facts to make you think that growth at Alameda Point was a good thing” and that the questions suggested that development there would not impact traffic. Mr. Lundholm got angry at the nature of the “survey” and twice asked to speak to a manager, and demanded to know who was behind the survey and who was funding it. Everybody he spoke with asserted that the survey was being conducted by an independent organization “to help Alameda” and “they spun it as a community service.” But, said, Lundholm, “It was clear that it was being paid for and supported by SunCal. I was angry because I felt like I was being lied to. I told them that what they are doing is being shady and dis-honest and un-ethical, and that there is big money behind this and they don’t care about our town or our issues.”

Sharyn Loshakoff, a retired teacher also received a call. She said that “I was asked pointed and leading questions. And there was a question about Measure A which was veiled – if I didn’t know anything about Measure A I would have not recognized the point of the question. The question was something like ‘Do you favor housing of no more than 2000 sq ft per parcel.’ ” Ms. Loshakoff also said that there were a couple of questions about SunCal, and that many of the questions were asked using different wording over and over again. She also said “When I asked the surveyor about where she was, she said she was in New York City, working for the company EMC, and that this survey was commissioned by Alameda.”

It’s clear that this was no “survey” at all, but a form of a “push-poll” – an attempt to sway public opinion under the guise of a survey, using leading questions and selectively disclosing information to the respondents. (For example, we have no evidence that the pollsters disclosed to residents that SunCal is seeking a $700 million bailout in the form of City of Alameda redevelopment bonds to finance infrastructure replacement.) It’s obvious that it was either funded by SunCal or someone friendly to their proposal for Alameda Point. But what’s actually more frightening is the thought that it really was “commissioned by Alameda” – is the City of Alameda Planning Department paying for these polls to sway public opinion about development at Alameda Point?

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