Drainage Fee Poll (Only of Interest to Houston Wonks)

Last night, my phone rang, with the nebulous caller ID name Texas. I was about to tackle a pile of laundry that needed folding, so answering a few political poll questions seemed like a nice diversion. Here’s a sketch of the call for any local political folks who are interested in such things. Other may not find much of interest here. Even those local political folks might not.

Hell, I was just so glad it wasn’t another call from Citizens United—who called on September 11th, by the way, to ask for my help taking a jack hammer to the UN HQ in New York, which seemed like an entirely inappropriate message for any day, let alone September 11, 2011.

First, the guy conducting the call was as nice as nice could be. Or, the company has a really good script and training, and I was totally suckered. Unclear. I believe he said the company was TDI, or T_ _ – three letters, starting with T. He was somewhere in the northeast, and had been making calls all over the US for various polls.

The questions were about the new drainage fee, the mayoral race, and city council at large races #1 and #2. Some of the questions, not necessarily asked in this order.

  • Did I vote in the last election? Was I likely to vote in this one?
  • Was my impression of Mayor Parker good, somewhat good, neutral, somewhat bad, bad, or did I not know enough? Same question for council member Stephen Costello.
  • Did I think the drainage fee was good and would help our city, or unfair and an unnecessary tax on property owners?
  • Was I familiar with/what was my opinion of the candidates for at-large #1?
  • Did I think that Mayor Parker, Stephen Costello, or both were primarily responsible for passing the drainage fee?
  • Some people say that Stephen Costello, an engineer, just got this fee passed so he and his engineer friends could make money. Did I think that was a fair assessment, or an unfair one?
  • If the mayor’s race were held tomorrow, for whom would I vote?
  • If the race for at-large #1 were held tomorrow, for whom would I vote? Costello was first on the list.
  • If the race for at-large #2 were held tomorrow, for whom would I vote? Kristi Thibaut’s name was first on the list.

I gave him a pointer on how to pronounce Thibaut. He seemed very impressed that I could both pronounce it and remember it, given the long list of names that came after it. In fact, he told me, and this is when I learned he’d been making lots of calls, I was the first person he talked to who could claim to have an opinion on more than 2 of the candidates/elected officials mentioned in the call.

I felt like the lede was really buried in this poll. Usually, after a few questions, you can tell what the pollster is really going after, but I actually wasn’t sure who might or might not have been paying for this or making up the questions. Clearly, someone is trying to figure out how to leverage the drainage fee issue, or whether it is an issue that can be leveraged, but beyond that, I don’t know.

Maybe I was disarmed by how polite the guy making the call was. He called me young lady, which made me giggle, which probably reinforced his whole picture of me as a young lady. He told me he was 56, so I probably was a young lady, even if I was older than his first age category. Which I am. It was a little discouraging that the first range of ages he asked about was 21 to 34, even though the voting age is 18. Hell, it might have been 25 to 35 … I knew I wasn’t in it, so I wasn’t paying close attention.

He really got me laughing when he asked the demographic question about my race/ethnicity. I guess I sounded odd when I said white, because he said “hey, that’s OK, that’s fine, no need to be upset about that,” which got us both laughing. I wanted to ask him what his guess would have been, but I wasn’t thinking quickly enough.

I can’t decide if I’m somewhat discouraged or completely discouraged that I was the most engaged person he had spoken to after a full day of making polling calls. You would think that they’d be calling likely voters, so someone would have a clue.

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