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Survey: Trust still an issue with Cape residents

By Staff | Jun 6, 2009

Cape Coral’s 2009 Citizens Survey, which revealed a deepening mistrust of city government, is providing fodder for critics who say city officials need to be more open in dealing with the public.
Fifteen percent of survey respondents said the city did an “excellent” or “good” job of listening to its citizens, and 29 percent gave a similar rating to the city’s overall direction.
Some city council members admitted the numbers were poor, but pointed to a dismal economy that dampened opinions of the city.
“We’re in very bad economic times, people are not happy and they will express themselves that way,” Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said.
But city activist John Sullivan doubts the economy is the sole factor deflating trust in government.
“I am sure the economy had some effect on it as well, but there are some things that are happening there that do not bode well,” Sullivan said.
He pointed to survey results showing the number of respondents rating the quality of life in Cape Coral as “excellent” or “good” was 81 percent in 2005, and fell to 60 percent in 2007. That figure rose to 63 percent in the latest survey.
“There’s an underlying feeling there that even goes beyond (the economy). In ’07 nobody was aware of what was going on (with the economy),” Sullivan said.
Mayor Jim Burch was concerned with the statistics but did not have a specific way of reversing the trend of mistrust.
“I’m not sure how you combat that,” Burch said, pointing to Florida’s extensive public records and Sunshine laws in which virtually all communication among elected officials is public.
The results of the survey, which was conducted by the National Research Center and cost the city $9,600, were not surprising to Bertolini. While she voted for the survey, she said the dour economy would render the results predictable.
“It’s not something I wanted to spend to get the result I expected to get. It becomes just another campaign piece then,” Bertolini said.