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Survey to question 1,200 homes on city gov’t, quality of life

By Staff | Mar 5, 2009

The 2009 Citizen Survey will be sent to 1,200 randomly selected households in Cape Coral next month, and council members and city staffers are eager to see the results, even though some admit the recession may elicit more negative responses.
Citizens taking the survey will be asked a myriad of questions related to the city’s government and services, including the overall quality of life in the Cape, the government’s responsiveness to citizens, transportation, the quality of police and fire service, parks and other amenities.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini initially questioned spending $9,600 on the survey this year, but said there is no point in stopping it now since $5,600 has already been spent on a down payment to the National Research Center, the group conducting the survey.
“I was asking, ‘Is this the proper time to be doing this type of survey?'” Bertolini said. “You’re much more likely to get the anxiety and frustration out there.”
Yet she and other council members maintain that the survey is useful to them.
“You have to use it as a tool. It’s important for year after year to have a barometer,” Mayor Jim Burch said.
Responses to the survey in recent years have followed the Cape’s economic pattern of boom and bust.
In 2005, 81 percent of respondents rated the city’s overall quality of life as “excellent” or “good.” In 2007 and 2008, those numbers were 60 percent and 61 percent, respectively.
When asked to rate the value of services for the taxes paid to the Cape, 51 percent of respondents replied “excellent” or “good” in 2005. The same question received a 27 percent response rate in 2007 and 29 percent in 2008.
No survey was taken in 2006.
Burch said responses will likely be more negative this year due to the poor economy, but the survey is important to have a historical perspective.
“I’m anticipating not too many happy people now, but I want to compare that to 18 months, two years from now when things are turned around,” he said.
City spokesperson Connie Barron noted that the decrease in positive responses in 2007 was not necessarily due to the economy, which had not begun its downslide in earnest. She pointed out that there was actually an increase from 2007 to 2008.
“In 2007, the numbers were very disappointing. There were several issues in play, there was the Kessler audit and the referendum on the public safety building,” Barron said, referring to the controversial forensic audit of the utility expansion project and failed referendum on the public safety building.
Pre-notifications for the 2009 survey will be sent out in the next two weeks.
“The public wants the opportunity to be heard. This way you’re getting a random sample of the community, you’re hearing from people that have never attended a council meeting,” she said.