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New Study of Region’s Food System – and Prevailing Gaps – to Launch

SACRAMENTO, CA – MAY 19, 2021: The Sacramento Region Community Foundation (Foundation) and Valley Vision announced today a new research study being jointly launched on the region’s food economy and prevailing gaps in the greater Sacramento region’s food system. The research will inform recommendations for investment strategies to strengthen the region’s food system capacity and resiliency.

“The region’s food system is dynamic and complex,” said Linda Cutler, CEO of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. “While the overall food economy has advanced in recent years through dedicated efforts like new job creation, workforce programs, institutional procurement, and food literacy, disparities persist around food access, security, and system capabilities that have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The study will build upon earlier work highlighted in the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan (FSAP), a seminal study conducted by the Foundation in partnership with Valley Vision in 2015. The FSAP laid the building blocks for a regional roadmap and identified an actionable role for the Foundation that it has worked to implement since.

Valley Vision conducts public opinion polls in partnership with the Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State and will field this new poll in June to collect data on residents’ experiences, perceptions and needs related to accessing food. The Food System poll, in addition to other engagement and data inputs, will provide the Foundation with invaluable information that will be used to update the 2015 FSAP.

“The ultimate goal of this research is to ensure the viability of the food and ag economy at all scales,” said Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt. “This includes increasing the amount of locally grown food distributed within the regional food system, increasing access to fresh, affordable produce, especially in underserved communities, and increasing consumption of healthy foods through access to nutrition education.”

The research findings will support meaningful collaborations among food system partners and improve alignment of system activities and investments. Findings will also help identify compelling short- and longer- term priorities and establish a baseline for future progress.

“This is incredibly important work for our region,” said Kate Stille, Sacramento Region Community Foundation Board Chair and Chief Impact Officer for Nugget Markets, Inc. “We can point to real and tangible results born out of the 2015 FSAP, which has dramatically improved food security in underserved communities by strengthening the emergency food distribution network.” The 2015 FSAP inspired a partnership between the Foundation and Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services to form the Neighborhood Food Access Networks, which today serve hundreds of thousands of people by networking together more than 200 emergency food distributors across Sacramento neighborhoods.

The work to strengthen the food system is all-the-more critical given the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly impacted health and economic disparities in the local community. High unemployment has increased the level of need for food. Local food banks, schools, restaurants, and many others have created new distribution mechanisms to respond to the crisis. The FSAP is a blueprint for action that will help shape these types of strategic initiatives, as well as to inform local leaders and the community on how to engage in meaningful solutions and catalyze investments in our vital food system.

“A systems approach centered on equity is needed,” said Schmidt. “Understanding food access and security issues is paramount to ensuring a health-promoting and accessible food system that can serve the needs of those who live in the region as well as those who benefit from our rich agricultural valley nationally and globally.”

The public opinion poll will go into the field in June and findings are expected to be published in September.


About the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan (FSAP): FSAP was a seminal study conducted by the Foundation in partnership with Valley Vision in 2015 and provided a common framework along with integrated goals, strategic priorities, and recommended actions to strengthen the food system for the region. Intended to serve as a roadmap for food system development, function, and investment, the FSAP identified several disconnects in the food system, including the gaps between great food abundance and a vibrant economic sector, high levels of food insecurity, poor food-related health outcomes, and missed opportunities for local food sourcing and markets.

About the Sacramento Region Community Foundation: For over 35 years, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation has been the capital area’s trusted steward of charitable assets and champion for impactful philanthropy. The Foundation’s mission is to transform the capital area through focused leadership and advocacy that inspire partnerships and expand giving.

About Valley Vision: For more than 25 years Valley Vision has used research to help governments, businesses, foundations and community groups better understand the issues facing our region. We believe that knowing and understanding the facts is the best way to establish a common working foundation for collaborative problem-solving. That’s why Valley Vision conducts, produces and interprets research including scientific public opinion polls, focus groups, community needs assessments, best practice studies and other research tools to bring to light the information local leaders need to improve our communities.

COVID-19 Imposed Inequitable Hardships on People of Color and Younger Adults, Latest Public Opinion Poll Reveals

Sacramento, CA – May 10, 2021:  Three public opinion polls fielded through a year of the COVID-19 pandemic from May 2020 to March 2021 revealed that the health crisis had a significant impact on the financial and emotional well-being for many. Communities of color, those earning less, and those who are younger, have been more severely impacted than others, experiencing greater income loss, more difficulty affording basic necessities, and deeper fears and concerns about financial security and mental health.

Valley Vision and CapRadio released today the third and final COVID-19 Resilience Poll, which was fielded by the Institute of Social Research (ISR) at Sacramento State between March 12-29, 2021. The research is demographically representative of the Capital region, encompassing Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties, with a margin of error of +/- three percent.

“The latest report highlights clear themes that emerged from polling over a year of the pandemic.” said Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt. “The impact is expected to be felt for years to come and will likely signify historic shifts in our social, political, and economic landscape. The findings point to the unique challenges our region now faces and where we most need to focus system change to build an equitable recovery.”

The research findings show the greatest hardships were felt by vulnerable communities. In the most recent poll, 41% of respondents overall reported a loss of income during the pandemic. For Black, Hispanic, and Asian/NHPI respondents, that number is much higher.

“The three surveys in the past year make it clear that vulnerable communities feel even more vulnerable because of the pandemic,” said Nick Miller, managing editor of news and information at CapRadio. “Our journalists will be looking deeply at these issues on CapRadio this week.”

These findings are consistent with what is taking place across the United States. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in April 2020 found that 26% of middle-income adults and 53% of lower income adults could not pay their bills in full that month. Only 23% of lower income adults and 48% of middle-income adults reported having “rainy day funds” that would cover expenses for three months in case of an emergency, compared to 75% of higher income adults.

“In addition to the toll taken on lives, overall well-being, and jobs, one constant throughout the pandemic has been the rapid-response system transformation,” Schmidt said. “Valley Vision and CapRadio publicize these findings to help local leaders shape future social, civic, and economic structures to help make all of our communities inclusive, supported, safe, and equitable.”


Financial hardship: Communities of color, those earning less, and those who are younger experienced greater income loss, more difficulty affording basic necessities, and deeper fears and concerns about financial security.

  • 54 to 61%of those with significantly reduced income couldn’t afford an adequate food supply throughout the year.
  • 59 to 68% said they couldn’t afford rent or mortgage.
  • 39 to 47% of 18- to 39-year-olds said they couldn’t afford to pay down debt.

Workplace: The circumstances of the pandemic spurred a seemingly ten-year acceleration of new workplace trends toward remote work, automation, and e-commerce.

  • The percent of people who work from home either part or full time shot up from 38% prior to the pandemic to 70% during the pandemic.
  • 78% said they want to work at home at least one day a week; 28% said that they want to work at home full time.
  • By larger margins, 18- to 38-year-olds believe the pandemic has made them less employable due to concerns over availability of jobs, changes in their industry, and their skillset.

Mental and Emotional: The pandemic created significant increases in depression, anxiety and stress, concerns about substance use, and concerns about physical and emotional violence at home.

  • The likelihood of experiencing stress or anxiety, or depression or hopelessness decreased as income level increased.
  • 92% of Hispanic respondents reported feelings of stress or anxiety at least one day in the last seven days, followed by 85% of Asian/NHPI respondents, and 82% of Black respondents.
  • Respondents who are white were least likely to have experienced these feelings (52%).

Education: A year of educating from home has been difficult on parents, students and teachers, with more than two-thirds of parents reporting concerns about their children falling behind academically.

  • In May 2021, 79% of those with children said they were doing some kind of remote learning.
  • 54% of parents were more likely to have lost income, compared to 34% of non-parents.
  • 71% of parents reported being concerned about their ability to handle other responsibilities.
  • 69% of parents said having children in school partly or fully remotely was negatively affected their ability to do their job.

Beyond COVID-19: The last poll found that vaccination skepticism is likely to impact our region, with 39% of respondents stating that they would probably not or definitely not get a COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available to them.

  • Black respondents were significantly more skeptical than other race/ethnicities, with 65% reporting they probably or definitely would not get a vaccine, compared to 44% of white, 29% of Hispanic, and 15% of Asian/NHPI respondents. 
  • 71% of respondents reported knowing someone who had COVID-19.


About the Polling Series Valley Vision and CapRadio, in partnership with the Institute of Social Research (ISR) at Sacramento State, conduct research via scientifically administered surveys of area resident attitudes.  The survey data inform policy-makers and stakeholders on key regional issues by providing on-the-ground public engagement data. The approach used is highly effective and unique by establishing a scientifically valid and demographically representative panel of regional residents that reflects a microcosm of the region as a whole. The panel size is consistently about 2,000 people from six counties – Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer, Yuba, and Sutter. The panel is weighted to demographically represent the region and each survey achieves a statistical valid margin of error of not more than +/- 3%.

About Valley Vision For more than 25 years Valley Vision has used research to help governments, businesses, foundations and community groups better understand the issues facing our region. We believe that knowing and understanding the facts is the best way to establish a common working foundation for collaborative problem-solving. That’s why Valley Vision conducts, produces and interprets research including scientific public opinion polls, focus groups, community needs assessments, best practice studies and other research tools to bring to light the information local leaders need to improve our communities.  

About Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research ISR supports community partners in improving programs and policies in the region and throughout the state. Located at the university’s downtown location, the Institute offers a broad range of expertise conducting surveys and applied research. Since 1989, our collaborations with government agencies and nonprofit organizations have contributed to public accountability, program fidelity, and the strengthening of communities.

About CapRadio CapRadioserves California’s Capital Region, Central Valley and Sierra Nevada as the public-supported alternative to for-profit media. As the NPR-member station based in Sacramento, CapRadio connects with communities through seven broadcast stations, live streaming, podcasts, digital communities, live experiences and more. Known for its award-winning newsroom, CapRadio is recognized as a leader in community-engaged journalism and state government reporting, and CapRadio Music is the exclusive broadcast source of classical and jazz in the region. With more than 500,000 weekly listeners on-air and online, CapRadio provides a trusted and indispensable source of information, music and events.

Connecting Community and Data: COVID-19 Resilience Poll and Empower Yolo

This piece was adapted from an article co-written by Evan Schmidt and Natalia Baltazar, Empower Yolo, published in the Davis Enterprise and the Empower Yolo website on March 6, 2021.

The pandemic has impacted every facet of life over the last year. With people increasingly at home and more isolated, domestic violence and substance use, as well as depression and anxiety are peaking in communities across the nation and our region.

To understand how COVID-19 has impacted our region over the last year, Valley Vision and Capital Public Radio in partnership with the Institute of Social Research at Sacramento State, have conducted The COVID-19 Resilience Poll. This is a public opinion poll that tracks experiences and perspectives on the impacts of COVID-19 in the Capital region, including Yolo, Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Yuba and Sutter counties, and is both demographically representative and statistically significant. The poll shows that physical safety at home and mental health effects of COVID-19 are significant and impact people of color, younger people, and women most significantly.

In Yolo County Empower Yolo continues to support an influx of clients with increased domestic violence cases; clients needing help with basic necessities as well as emergency relief support to help pay rent, utilities and childcare. Over the past year, Empower Yolo’s restraining order clinic has been busier than ever.  Many clients are struggling to provide basic needs for their families such as food, clothing and the ability to pay their rent and utilities. The need for childcare so that clients can go back to work is a real problem for working parents.  We continue to work with community partners like the Yolo Food Bank to meet the huge rise in food distribution for vulnerable families, seniors, and the immigrant community,” says Lynnette Irlmeier, Executive Director, Empower Yolo.

Overall, a quarter of respondents (25%) from the poll are concerned about being physically or emotionally harmed by other members of their household. About a third of respondents are concerned about alcohol or substance abuse (34%) and the well being of children in the household (32%). As many as 63% of respondents reported feeling depressed at least once in the last seven days, and 82% of respondents reported feeling anxious at least once in the last seven days. These health impacts also continue to reflect different experiences in different communities.

Communities that were already on the margins and struggling due to systemic racism and oppression are hit the hardest due to increased daily stressors like a loss of job, homeschooling, or the inability to provide basic needs like food, clothing or paying rent.

Most of the clients I work with every day are strong individuals,” says Josie Enriquez, Program Manager, Empower Yolo. “One of our clients was working in a restaurant and was laid off due to COVID. She spent all of her savings, but refused to get help because she is undocumented. Her brother has been helping her pay rent. She is also a survivor of domestic violence,” says Enriquez.

Some families have to rely on older children to help out with childcare when they have to work. “Low-income children are the ones suffering the most; many of the older children need to attend school, but they are also taking care of their siblings,” says, Enriquez.

Families that become sick need extra support to get back on their feet. “One of my clients had COVID and he had to quarantine. The entire family had COVID except for their 5-year-old daughter who was asymptomatic. His daughter was not able to participate in distance learning until we connected him with the local school district for support. He ended up staying home for about two months because the symptoms were severe. He had heart problems and anxiety on top of the regular COVID symptoms. Because he was home during this time to recover, he was able to support his daughter in virtual learning and she made progress. Empower Yolo also referred the family to STEAC, and is assisting the family in completing their tax return,” says Enriquez.

Women and younger respondents experienced more anxiety, depression, and hopelessness compared to other respondents. Eighty-nine percent of women and 93% of respondents aged 18-39 reported anxiety in the last seven days compared to 81% of overall respondents. Seventy-one percent of women and 82% of respondents aged 18-39 reported experiencing depression or hopelessness in the prior seven days compared to 65% of respondents overall.

Empower Yolo’s counseling department has been very busy throughout the pandemic trying to support clients’ various mental health needs.  “Therapists are reporting seeing more clients than ever before; we are seeing a much higher rate of clients being depressed or anxious as a result of the pandemic,” says Amy Groven, Director of Clinical Programs, Empower Yolo. Depression and anxiety seem to impede many clients on things like getting a job so they can escape abuse. Because of quarantine clients are more isolated. “Clients are not reaching out to the support they do have as much, and many are experiencing feelings of being helpless or very lonely as they go through the pandemic trying to navigate a new life for themselves,” says Groven.

Respondents’ answers to open-ended questions further demonstrate the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll. When asked how it is impacting them the most, 49% of respondents felt it most acutely in their routines, including a loss of social connection with community or church, followed by travel cancellations, loss of entertainment, and loss of normal services.

We have seen younger people coming in with depression and anxiety, which is nothing new. Most of our clients have those diagnoses because of what they have endured. The pandemic has only compounded these issues, making it difficult for youths to socialize and build self esteem because there aren’t those normal things to do that are regularly built into their lives (like school, sports, scouts, etc.) that they gain mastery through. Now we are seeing youths who have endured trauma and have lost those things to cling to that inspire hope and resiliency,” says Groven.

Empower Yolo provides comprehensive services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and child abuse.  Core services include a 24-hour crisis line, emergency shelter, legal advocacy, and counseling. Legal services include restraining order clinics throughout Yolo County, family legal clinic, and child support appointments. The emergency safe house continues to support survivors of abuse and their families and pets including running two virtual classrooms for the children residing at the shelter.  Throughout the pandemic shelter staff have worked through the challenges of keeping clients and their families safe and healthy while living in a communal living situation. The work of Empower Yolo, and other social services across the region, is critical to meet community needs during this difficult time.

Valley Vision is proud to partner with Empower Yolo to shed light on the challenges and the resilience in our communities and tell the stories behind the number of the COVID-19 Resilience Poll. You can support Empower Yolo and learn more about their services here. Working together, we can rebuild our community to be safer, healthier and more resilient.

Last year, Valley Vision partnered with Capital Public Radio and Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research to launch the COVID-19 Resilience Poll series consisting of three Polls. These polls are helping us understand and navigate the challenges ahead as we aim to not just understand the impacts and recover from the setbacks of COVID-19, but also reimagine a more equitable, sustainable, and just future.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.

Regional COVID-19 Resilience Poll Reveals Local Community Stresses, Responses

July 15, 2020 – Valley Vision has published the COVID-19 Resilience Poll this week in partnership with Capital Public Radio. This polling report is focused on understanding experiences, impacts, and attitudes about COVID-19 from residents in our region. The COVID-19 Resilience Poll is a demographically representative survey of the eight-county region (Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer, Yuba,Sutter, Solano, and San Joaquin) and reported a margin of error of +/-3%. You can find the full COVID-19 Resilience Poll here.

“This survey, and the two more to come in this series, will help us understand and navigate the challenges ahead as we aim to not just recover from the setbacks of COVID-19, but also reimagine a more equitable, sustainable, and just future,” noted Evan Schmidt, CEO of Valley Vision. “Having an in-depth understanding of how the coronavirus impacts the people and communities we serve is vitally important to our public service mission,” said Jun Reina, newly appointed executive vice president and general manager of CapRadio, of the partnership with Valley Vision.

The poll results identify the severe impacts on people in our communities – including their mental, physical, and emotional health; their daily life and routines; and their economic security. For example, nearly half of respondents said they had lost income because of fallout from the virus, which since March has shuttered many businesses and forced most people to stay at home.

Further, different communities are experiencing markedly different realities, with deep disparities in the intensity of concern and impact across different racial and ethnic lines. “We’re all in this together but we are experiencing it differently,” said Shannon Williams, director of the Institute for Social Research, pointing out that many “essential” and front-line workers are people of color and workers with lower incomes who cannot perform their jobs virtually and have higher risks of virus exposure. “Often in this country, people of color don’t have the same opportunities and resources as others,” Williams continued. “This data shows how that is playing out with regard to the pandemic.”

There is also a significant element of political polarization within the region, with many respondents critical of leadership at various levels – whether it is because they think that leadership has failed to deliver an effective response or because they think the response is over blown and creating more harm.

The detailed poll results are accessible in several ways:

Additionally, Valley Vision’s polling partners have each issued their own press releases.

About Valley Vision: For 25 years Valley Vision has helped governments, businesses, foundations and community groups better understand our region and its people through high quality research. By uncovering common ground facts using scientific opinion polls, focus groups, community needs assessments, best practice reports and other research tools, Valley Vision is a trusted interpreter, commentator, forecaster and work partner for community inspired solutions.

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Building a Future-Ready Education System

People in our region are eager to learn new job skills – how will our region create the right opportunities?

Valley Vision, partnered with the Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State, recently had a new poll in the field – this time on education and workforce. This demographically representative poll across the six county region (Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer, Yuba, and Sutter) surveyed residents on the future of work, the future of education, perceptions of and experiences with current education and workforce systems, and priorities for investments. We found that 58% of respondents said that they are ready to learn new skills to remain employable in the future and 57% would like more education and training. How will we, as a region, engage residents who are eager to gain skills and training to prepare for a changing world?

According to a recent article from the Brookings Institution, “Free college won’t be enough to prepare Americans for the future of work,” we will need a multi-pronged approach to be able to meet the needs of our future workforce. Pathway programs, career technical education, workplace training and more will be needed in addition to four-year college to create equitable opportunity and support a talented workforce in a changing world.

What are some of the challenges within the educational system?

Four-year college doesn’t work for everyone. Tuition costs, the high opportunity cost of not working,  high housing costs, and other expenses make college a difficult proposition for many. Here in Sacramento, students are struggling to afford housing and dropping out or, in some cases, attending school while homeless according to an October 3rd Sacramento Bee article, “The new face of California’s housing crisis: College students forced to drop out.”

In a society that is focused on a four-year degree, a lack of a college degree, including those who start a degree but don’t finish, is a challenge for many. Uncompleted degrees contribute to social disparities, limited ability to access opportunity, and economic hardship.  In California, 60% of adults aged 25-64 do not have a college degree. Of these, 33% have college credits without a degree and about half of them are people of color. These incompletions have serious financial consequences – an average 45-year-old who has started but not completed college has lost up to $450,000 in wages. (Back to College, Part One: California’s Imperative to Re-Engage Adults)

What are some approaches that can help?

The pace of technology and the changing needs of industry will require adult re-skilling, flexible entry- and exit- points, and more agile education and workplace systems for learning. Not all skills can be taught in the classroom. Utilizing a blend of on-the-job training, certificate programs, apprenticeships, academic classroom time, and other models creates an effective ecosystem of educational systems ready to educate and train all.

Career Technical Education (CTE) and the blended pathway approach: regional educational systems in K-12, community college, and four-year college have created pathway systems that creates a flexible learning environment with entry and exit points throughout a connected system. Valley Vision is supported by the Los Rios Community College District to connect these programs to employers in the region to ensure that educational systems are aligned with the industry needs – including job skills and anticipating emerging trends. The CTE and blended pathway approach needs to be amplified by increasing awareness and communicating its value.

According to Project Attain!, 62,000 people in the Sacramento region are within 15 units of degree completion.

Helping people complete their degree at any level: Degree or educational program completion is a critical need. Degree completion is needed in various settings, including high school, community college, accreditation or certification, or four-year college. According to Project Attain!, a program dedicated to reaching 60% degree attainment by 2025 in the Sacramento region, 62,000 people in our region are within 15 units of degree completion. Helping create and communicate a flexible educational environment helps get people who have left back on track for degrees across a spectrum of educational programming. Adult learning and retraining needs to be a strong focus in our workforce education ecosystem.

Leaders both at the local and national level must acknowledge that the changing nature of work will necessitate a sophisticated vision for creating an equitable and flexible talent ecosystem that supports learning across a lifetime. This will require new thinking and system changes to become more adaptable and relevant to today’s workers. In our region, people are eager and ready to learn – let’s make sure we have systems and programs in place to provide that opportunity.

Stay tuned…Valley Vision will be releasing our first installment of the Education and Workforce poll early next year – learn more about what our region has to say about the future of work, the future of our education systems, and perceptions on our current education and talent systems.

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce impact areas.

Age Matters Across the Issues

From the Research Unit: What are the core issues across age demographics in the Capital Region?

Age matters when it comes to our day-to-day experiences and the perspectives that we hold. Valley Vision’s Research Unit is developing a series of research briefs profiling the unique views of different age demographics by drawing from our public opinion polling series.  We have been conducting public opinion polls, in partnership with Sacramento State, Institute for Social Research (ISR) since 2017 – looking at Capital Region residents’ priorities, values, experiences, and preferences on Civic Amenities, Transportation, Quality of Life, and the Environment. For our upcoming research profiles, we’ve pulled out data points from each age demographic to dive deeper and look at how our polling data relates to other research for each generation. We will be exploring the generations, defined as: Gen Z and Millennials (aged 18-38); Gen X (aged 39-54); and Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (aged 55+). Here are some samplings of age-related issues that we will analyze with our upcoming research profiles.

According to our Livability Poll, Gen Z and Millennials are oriented towards housing affordability and access to opportunity when determining where they want to live. When asked their top considerations in their choice of residence, Gen Z and Millennials cited “it is an affordable place to live” (54%), “access to high quality jobs” (50%) as the most important factors. Additionally, Gen Z and Millennials are the most mobile, saying that they are most likely to have moved within the last three years and are most likely to move within the next three years when compared with other generations. A recent study by The National Association of Realtors looked at where Millennials want to live across the nation. They found that the most popular city for Millennials in California is not Sacramento, not San Francisco, not LA, but… (wait for it)….Bakersfield. Why? Because Bakersfield is the most affordable metro in the state. What can Sacramento learn? We will have to earn Millennial and Gen Z’s residency (and prevent their flight to Bakersfield) by providing affordable neighborhoods and employment opportunities. 

Photo credit: The Katchet Life. Mural by Tysan Throbe

Our polls show that Gen X, now in their late 30s to early 50s, are oriented towards family amenities – like high quality and nearby public schools, parks, and youth programs. Gen Xers in the Capital Region prefers suburban communities more strongly than other age demographics and are more likely to participate in local community activities like art shows and youth sports. In our expert roundtables about housing and livability, participants agreed that meeting the needs of families downtown is key to keeping our downtowns vibrant. This is consistent with other research findings. Designing for children translates to designing people-friendly spaces that are walkable, safe, and attractive, according to CityLab. With the City of Sacramento Unified School District in financial crisis, can we ensure that downtown remains a viable location for families now and in the future?

Those 55 and over are also a significant portion of the population with their own unique perspectives and needs. As featured in a recent Sacramento Bee article, by 2030, the 60-and-over population will be 40 percent larger in California than it is now, according to the California Department of Aging. Seniors will be a larger share of the population than kids under the age of 18 by 2036, the state projects. Additionally, a recent homeless count found that one in five homeless individuals in Sacramento county are 55 or over. This is highly concerning and heartbreaking, especially with the unique health care and other needs of the elderly. Our polls show that those 55+ are more likely than other generations to move because they are looking for cheaper rent (15% vs. less than 10% for other generations), and are looking for a variety of housing choices (41% want a greater variety compared to 27% or less of other generations). How do we ensure that our communities are properly caring for the unique needs of our growing senior population?

In order to build equitable, prosperous, and sustainable communities now and in the future, we must take into account the unique needs across generations. These issues and more will be further explored in the coming months as we dive deeper into the age demographics of our four public opinion polls to date. Stay tuned!

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce strategy areas.


Introducing Monthly Reports from Our Research Unit

Valley Vision has always been known as a research provider as well as a catalyst for and driver of action for the region. In the last couple years, we have been adding capacity to our research capabilities.

One of the main ways is through our public opinion polling. Since 2017, in partnership with Sac State’s Institute for Social Research, we’ve released three polls: civic amenities, transportation, and our benchmark livability poll. These polls have enabled us to access direct information from regional residents about their priorities, values, and experiences on pressing topics within the region.

Valley Vision’s public opinion surveys are driving action across the region.

We’ve used these data to help inform regional decision-making – like advancing transportation investment priorities at a time when the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) is planning for the next 25 years through the Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy planning process, or highlighting the divisions across the region when it comes to having a vision on how we should grow and house our residents. Using polling data to guide conversations and inform policy-making and investments is a core element of Valley Vision’s value proposition to the region – we unite the region by using research and action to deliver on triple bottom line values like environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, and social equity.

That is why we are excited about our next poll, due for public release on May 16th on the environment. How important are environmental values to regional residents? Do residents support an increased role for government in protecting the environment? Do residents believe the effects of climate change are already happening? Find out by tuning in to our next poll. In addition to the data itself, we are excited about the communications campaign, created by 3fold Communications, who also created our Livability Poll campaign. These communications campaigns help get the word out about the data and ensure that community groups, decision-makers, and community members learn about the insights that are being uncovered.

Our Environmental Poll findings will be released on Thursday, May 16.

Public opinion polling isn’t the only research coming out of our Research Unit. For Valley Vision, supporting a talented workforce for the region is mission critical. To achieve this, we are advancing the Capital Region Workforce Action Plan – through which we conduct continuous research on the changing economy and the region’s high growth economic sectors, like construction or manufacturing. Working with the California Community Colleges Center of Excellence, we use research to identify where there are gaps between the skills that businesses need and the skills that workers can access in educational or workforce training. We are on the verge of releasing a new report on the Hospitality and Tourism sector. In addition to the research itself, we bring together business, education, workforce, and community partners to interpret the data, compare it to on-the-ground experiences, and identify key actions to meet the needs of the sector. Our Hospitality and Tourism Cluster meeting is coming up on April 26th at Raley Field to present the data and explore next actions. We are excited about sharing critical data on this sector and exploring with the community how we can create the talent that we need to support a thriving hospitality and tourism sector in this region. I hope you can join us!

Highlighting our research is an important way to stay on top of the pulse of the region. As the Director of Research at Valley Vision, I’m excited to start regular monthly blog reports from our Research Unit. I’ll highlight research that is coming out and dive into ours and others’ research every month to make those critical connections between data and action. Coming up next: I can’t wait to share the environmental poll data with you next month – stay tuned!

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce strategy areas.

Why Election Results and Facts Matter to the Future of This Region

Last week’s election was another defining moment for California.  While electoral votes are not fully counted, we now have a new Governor-elect with an expansion agenda intended to grow social, economic and environmental programs. In addition, new investment commitments were made to increase affordable housing and voters agreed that paying for mobility and road improvements is worth higher gas taxes at the pump.

Closer to home, the election results showed once more that the four-county Sacramento Metro Area is a region divided – a microcosm for the state and nation at large.  Two indicators:  the vote for governor, and the vote for Proposition 6, the statewide measure to repeal the gas tax.

If the election for governor was up to just Placer and El Dorado County voters, John Cox would have won by a landslide, prevailing over Lt. Gov. Newsom with 59% of the vote in both counties. Yet in Sacramento County voters supported Newsome 55% over 44% for Cox, and in Yolo County, the margin was wider: 66% for Newsom and 34% for Cox.

The vote for Proposition 6 tells a similar story. The gas tax repeal was backed strongly by Placer and El Dorado County voters, with 57% in favor.  Yet in Sacramento County voters said “no” to the repeal by a 53% to 46% margin.  Yolo County voters were more emphatic, voting 65% against repeal, with just 35% in favor.

Results like these should remind us all that California’s Capital region is diverse; its voters politically distinct in outlook; and that the political divide is not just across the US but, for us, is just a 45-minute drive in any direction.  This is important to know for political, government, business, or civic leadership agencies like Valley Vision as we conduct our daily business to make this region more prosperous, just and sustainable.

How do you govern in times of sharp disagreement?  You start with facts.  For you cannot facilitate understanding or agreement among varied interests if there’s not agreement first upon the nature of the problems that you collectively face.

In the week following Thanksgiving, Valley Vision will release the results of our latest scientific opinion poll that reveals resident attitudes about what they value (and not) about our quality of life in the Greater Sacramento area.  Working with the Institute of Social Research at Sacramento State, we asked nearly 1,000 local residents how they feel about homelessness, poverty, their chances at upward mobility, education, health care access, and more.  We also asked tough questions about whether they feel included in their community or not, and whether we should embrace the present boom in this region, or preserve the lifestyle we have come to value.

We trust that these scientifically-derived results that reflect the voices of local residents – rich and poor, urban and rural, old and young, White, Black, Latino, Asian and more – will arm the elected officials lucky enough to lead us with the knowledge and insights to bring us together to focus on the issues that residents prioritize as most important to their lives and wellbeing.

It’s part of the value proposition that Valley Vision brings to you, and to those governing.  We appreciate your support, and all our thoughts and prayers at Valley Vision are with the families confronting the Camp Fire and other catastrophes across California.

Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

Traffic Congestion, Road Conditions Top Residents’ List of Most Pressing Transportation Concerns

New research shows 69% of respondents drive alone all or most of the time

SACRAMENTO, CA — Valley Vision and Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) released findings today from a public opinion survey that captured regional attitudes on transportation. Respondents overwhelmingly say that reducing traffic congestion is the region’s most serious transportation issue and the main reason to invest in transportation improvements.

When asked how important transportation infrastructure is to the region’s job and business growth, 93 percent of respondents reported it being ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important. At the same time, 28 percent cited traffic congestion as a major barrier to obtaining or getting to work and another 20 percent said it was ‘somewhat’ of a barrier. From a jobs perspective, a long commute was seen as a ‘major’ (22 percent) or ‘somewhat’ of a barrier (19 percent) to obtaining employment.

This public opinion survey is the second in an ongoing series of studies conducted by Valley Vision and ISR that gathers insights into residents’ views about a variety of regional issues affecting quality of life and livability. The polls provide independent opinion research on matters important to the region’s future health and prosperity.

“The findings of this transportation poll offer valuable information to local policy makers on investments and priorities for advancing transportation and mobility infrastructure for our communities at a time when improvements are of increasing importance,” said Valley Vision chief executive Bill Mueller. “Valley Vision believes that having a greater understanding of residents’ transportation uses, needs and challenges will serve to better direct regional planning and goal-setting.”

Top-level findings from the transportation poll include:

  • Respondents feel transportation is critically important to the region’s business and job growth.
  • The majority of respondents view transportation as a problem in the region and feel worse about conditions today than they did in 2014.
  • Traffic congestion and conditions on roads and freeways were cited as today’s most notable problems, while 69 percent of respondents said they drive alone all or most of the time.
  • For those who do not use public transportation options, the main reasons are that it takes too long, stops are too far from home or destination, or people have safety concerns.

“Considering that two-thirds of respondents cited they drive alone all or most of the time, focusing on road improvements alone is an incomplete solution,” Mueller noted. “Residents, transportation planners, and decision-makers must look at a broad suite of solutions capable of reducing congestion as the region plans for transportation improvements and investments.”

Findings suggest a willingness to increase use of public transportation if service frequency was improved and if there was more service near their home or end destination, two leading factors respondents named as barriers to public transportation use.

“Capitalizing on residents’ willingness to increase use of public transit is imperative to congestion relief strategies,” said Henry Li, Sacramento Regional Transit District General Manager/CEO. “As the region’s population continues to grow, our ability to coordinate planning, inject new investment, and assert needed policy actions are all vital to delivering public transit that serves residents’ needs today and in the future.”

“This research provides high-value information that will be helpful in framing the next Metropolitan Transportation Plan—supporting regional leadership to proactively address these expressed public priorities, values, and trends,” said SACOG CEO James Corless.

The transportation survey is the second in a series of studies being conducted by Valley Vision and ISR, a unique public opinion research program being fielded at a regional level. The first poll on civic amenities was released in June 2017. The next poll will gauge resident attitudes and preferences on livability factors and community values, scheduled for release in the spring.

The transportation survey respondent group consisted of 788 residents in Sacramento County and specific zip codes in Yolo, Placer and El Dorado, San Joaquin, Solano, Sutter, and Yuba counties, with a margin of error of +/-4.7.

“Understanding local perspectives is critical to building responsive solutions,” said ISR Executive Director Shannon Williams. “Utilizing our state-of-the-art CalSPEAKS survey methodology allows ISR to serve the public interest by informing policy and catalyzing community conversation.”


Study Finds Workforce Shortage in Construction Sector

New research shows projected shortage of more than 7,000 workers annually over next five years

SACRAMENTO, CA — Valley Vision and the Center of Excellence at Los Rios Community College District released research findings today assessing the needs of the construction industry cluster, including a comprehensive workforce assessment.

“The impact of the recession that began in the late 2000s has cast a long shadow on the construction industry in California and its regions,” said Aaron Wilcher, Director of the Center of Excellence. “Unlike other sectors, overall construction value has not returned to pre-recession levels when residential construction was especially hard hit.”

Top-level findings from the research include:

  • The construction cluster contributes about $34.8 billion in industry output, 221,300 jobs and $17.4 billion in labor income to the Sacramento region.
  • For every job created in the construction cluster, 1.2 jobs are created elsewhere in the economy.
  • The region is woefully undersupplied in terms of the number of skilled workers available.
  • Workforce shortages pose a critical concern for the region and the industry.
  • Occupations with the largest shortages include carpenters, construction managers, electricians, real estate professionals, and heavy equipment operators, engineers, and plumbers and pipefitters.
  • Other occupational pain points include estimators, sheet metal workers, HVAC installers and mechanics, and welders.
  • The construction industry provides numerous career opportunities in well-jobs; career awareness is one challenge industry faces in attracting workers.

These and other findings were revealed today to more than one hundred attendees at a forum in Rocklin where Valley Vision facilitated discussion with education, workforce and industry partners around critical skills gaps, projected employment needs, education and training resources, and supply gaps. An employer panel discussion included participants from the Associated Building Contractors of NorCal, the North State Building Industry Foundation, Otto Construction, the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 104, Teichert Construction, and Villara Building Solutions. The event was also a forum for gathering input on how to align and coordinate a regional workforce system that betters supports the construction industry cluster and to explore how system leaders can partner in ways that best address industry challenges.

“As part of our mission to support a 21st-century talent pipeline for the Capital Region, we partnered with the Los Rios Center of Excellence on this groundbreaking analysis of the construction industry,” explained Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller. “The forum that followed gave industry leaders an opportunity to weigh key findings and to identify priorities for education and workforce programs, Strong Workforce investments, and new partnerships to better meet industry needs for this important sector of our economy.”

Valley Vision’s interest is to better understand the occupational gap impacts on construction and its sub-clusters and to provide a starting point for engaging employers around workforce development strategy and joint action planning. This research provides vital information to educational institutions, construction industry employers, and regional workforce stakeholders, who are now better positioned to work together in planning investments, coordinating training and recruitment, and addressing short and long-term employment challenges.

The research was made possible by the generous support of JPMorgan Chase & Co, the Los Rios Community College District, the Sacramento Employment & Training Agency, Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, North Central Counties Consortium, and Yolo Workforce Innovation Board.


For 25 years and with offices in Sacramento and Stockton, Valley Vision has brought people together from across a political and geographic spectrum to design solutions to big regional problems. Valley Vision is a trusted interpreter, commentator, forecaster and work partner for community inspired solutions and widely recognized as a leading research, civic planning and action agency that takes an independent and systemic approach to economic, social, and environmental issues.