Residents ask for restuarants, traffic solutions, but …

ThisWeek News – July 12, 2015

… survey reveals ‘sophisticated electorate’ not overly concerned with any one issue, officials say

A majority of Delaware residents who responded to a survey in the spring think economic development should be a top priority for city officials.

Martin Saperstein of the research firm Saperstein Associates presented the results of the survey during Delaware City Council’s meeting Monday, July 6. Researchers polled 405 city residents between May 21 and 27 for the survey, which had a margin of error of about 5 percent.

The firm dialed more than 10,000 numbers for the survey in order to get a representative sample of city residents. The city paid the firm $18,500 for its work.

Six out of 10 residents who responded said they considered Delaware a “better than average” place to live, while just under three out of 10 said the city is “exceptional.” Fewer than 1 percent of respondents said they consider the city a “disappointing” place to live.

About 95 percent of people surveyed said they think the city is “heading in the right direction.”

Asked to comment on what the city of Delaware needed more of over the next three to five years, 18 percent of residents mentioned restaurants — the most popular response.

Saperstein said the opening of a Panera Bread location on West Central Avenue a week before the survey was conducted didn’t sate residents’ appetites.

“Even with that, folks are eager for more restaurants,” he said.

More than 10 percent of people surveyed also want to see more parks, retail stores, traffic improvements and programs for children and teens in the city.

Better downtown parking options — an oft-discussed topic among city officials — was tied for eighth place among responses.

When asked what problems or issues should receive the most attention, 18 percent of respondents mentioned reducing traffic — the most popular response. Reducing traffic was followed closely by supporting city schools, repairing streets and reducing crime and drug use.

Saperstein said it was important to recognize that no problem was cited by more than one-fifth of respondents.

“It’d be hard to argue that there’s a priority out there … that dominates,” he said. “Nothing even close to a majority.”

When residents were asked to choose what city officials’ top priority should be, about 54 percent listed attracting and retaining businesses as their first or second choice. About 35 percent chose making the city’s downtown “more vibrant” as their first or second choice.

Saperstein said he thinks residents supported increased economic-development activity by city officials because they realize revenue from new businesses could be used to improve city services.

“That seems like, to me, a pretty sophisticated electorate,” he said. “(They know) bringing more business, bringing more jobs generates more tax revenue.”

City Manager Tom Homan said the city’s administration and council members would continue to study the survey results in the coming weeks.

“I still think it is going to be important for us to use this to help prioritize where we’re heading in the next several years,” he said.

Homan said the results of the survey — particularly less-than-overwhelming concern about projects to improve parking and traffic conditions — may have surprised some city officials.

“Yeah, it’s important but (Delaware is) not a community that’s only thinking about roads,” Saperstein said. “It’s a more sophisticated electorate than that.”